Discover how Chris Winfield's crazy idea can help special needs families succeed! via jennyherman.com

How Chris Winfield’s Crazy Idea of “Stupid Small” Can Help With Special Needs Success

If you’re a special needs parent, I’m guessing you’ve been there. Your child needs to grow or stretch in a specific area. Together, you’ve got this, you tell yourself! The day comes. You’re mentally geared up to coach and prompt and assist. Your child is fed, rested, and in comfortable clothing. The time has come to try something new or face a fear. And it flops. Meltdown city. Maybe it’s even meltdown city for both of you. Hang in there. Help is on the way! (more…)

Join the discussion! Tell us how YOU provide therapy at home for your child with special needs! via jennyherman.com

Join the Discussion: How Do You Do Special Needs Therapy at Home?

The other day I published a post titled 7 Reasons I Homeschool My Child with Special Needs Instead of Sending Him to School. In five days it had over 2,600 views. Wow!

One of the roadblocks for people who want to homeschool their special needs child is school services. Many parents doubt their ability to provide the needed therapy for their child.

So, here’s my question for you today, and really you don’t have to be a homeschooler to answer it.

What therapy do you do at home for your child with special needs? There are all kinds of therapies out there–percolate and ponder for a minute. You may be doing therapy and not even realize it!

I’d love to start a discussion in the comments. I am going to be writing a blog post about this later on. I’d love to hear what therapies you do, how you do them, what your favorite resources are, etc.

Thanks for joining the discussion! Your answers will help others. I know it.

I’ve got a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents! I’ll send it to you FOR FREE! Just click the button below.

in the loop button

Get 5 tips for being a friend to an autism parent! via jennyherman.com

How to Be a Friend to an Autism Parent During a Child’s Meltdown

Years ago, a friend did something for me as an autism mom that I’ll never forget. Following a meeting, she took me to pick up my boys from a sitter. My son with autism was not ready to leave. He was young then and transitions were still hard for him. Things fell apart. I could barely get him into her van. Throughout the meltdown, she remained calm and quiet. She didn’t yell at him to sit down. She didn’t try to tell me what to do. She just calmly put the van in drive and drove the less than a quarter mile to get us home.

My son still in meltdown mode, she grabbed backpacks and my youngest. Still calm, she took stuff to the door of our apartment building. She never made me feel badly about the situation. Her calm enabled me to stress less. I knew I didn’t have to worry what she was thinking. It was a gift.

How can you be a good friend to an autism parent during a meltdown?

  • Just like my friend, remain calm during meltdowns or other intense situations. Almost every child, special needs or not, has a meltdown at one time or another. It’s just part of life. Your composed demeanor allows your friend to focus on what needs to be done.
  • Help. If it is a situation like an all-out falling apart, do what you know would help–pick up items that need to go home, hold the hand of a younger sibling and walk them wherever they need to go, get a child’s comfort item, etc. If you don’t know what would help and it is possible, just ask, “How can I help?” Sometimes you might not be able to ask, but a simple face gesture or mouthing of words could work. Note: If your friend says there’s nothing for you to do, be okay with that.
  • Don’t tell your friend how to handle a situation. Unless you’ve experienced something similar and you have a good rapport with your friend, don’t say anything. Definitely don’t say anything in the middle of a challenge.
  • Don’t try to take over a situation. The more people and voices added to a situation, the more the child with autism spirals into fight or flight mode. If a bunch of people are talking, he cannot hear his parent’s voice. He needs less noise, not more. Of course, if you are part of a pre-established exit plan, that is a different story.
  • Offer encouragement. A smile, a hug, a “you’re doing great” strengthens your friend while she works through the challenging moments. Bringing a cup of coffee or sending a quick text encourages her when she wants to cry.

Do you know that those five suggestions have in common? They’re not hard. They’re not expensive. With these simple tips, you , too, can be a good friend to an autism parent when their child has a meltdown.

Are you an autism parent? How has someone helped you, during a meltdown or otherwise? Tell me in the comments!

I’ve got a super-duper ebook of 75 survival tips for special needs parents! Get it…FOR FREE! Just click the button below.

in the loop button

Click to read this autism mom's story! via jennyherman.com

The Day My Son with Autism Broke My Heart

This post may contain affiliate links.Click for more details.

Communication represents a big challenge for most people on the autism spectrum. For some, they seem quite capable of communicating, but it is extremely difficult for them. Others are considered non-verbal, and some folks fall somewhere in between. So when my son with autism opens up for a few minutes, I stop and pay attention.

Two or three weeks ago I thought I’d go sit next to my son while he played Minecraft. I don’t remember exactly now, but I think I asked him to tell me about what he was doing. He started talking and then he said the words that both broke my heart and made me excited.

“I might be better at video game life than real life.”

Oh, my heart. Now here’s the catch. I can jump all over that and get in his space and he’ll shut down (which I’ve learned from many mistakes). Or, I could go the casual route and see if I could get him to say anything else.

For once I was able to control myself and say something like, “Yeah? What makes you say that?”

And what made me excited was that he actually answered me! Lately he’s been afraid to answer questions because he doesn’t want to give a wrong answer, even when we tell him there’s no wrong answer. It can be a little taxing to say the least.

He told me how in real life he can’t communicate well and that he deals with bullies.

I was so proud of him for being able to get that out. I pointed out that sometimes what seems like bullying is an energetic child who can’t stay out of someone else’s space (something we deal with around here). That’s as far as I got. He wouldn’t tell me about other bullying other than it isn’t physical.

And that’s ok. I told my hubby because sometimes he can get stuff out that I can’t. We’ll keep an eye on things and patiently wait for the day when he can say more.

So in one sentence my son broke my heart and made me want to cheer. I understand video games are so much easier to deal with than people. I know it wears him out to try to explain himself. Even though my son has made tremendous progress and “doesn’t look autistic”, his challenges are very real.

I know I’m not the only parent in this situation, a parent who has a verbal child who can’t talk. Hang in there. You are not alone.

It’s really hard to coax and coach our verbal kids who have communication challenges. Do you have something that helps you? Tell me about it!

I’m putting together a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents! My newsletters subscribers will be the first to get it…FOR FREE! Just click the button below to sign up and you’ll be in the know.

in the loop button

Click over to discover why one autism mom homeschools her child! via jennyherman.com

7 Reasons I Homeschool My Child with Special Needs Instead of Sending Him to School

This post may contain affiliate links.Click for more details.

When my son was three-and-a-half, I took him for an evaluation through the local school district. The social worker said to me, “I understand why you’re concerned, but I can’t check off enough boxes for autism. His coping skills are good enough for now. My recommendation is to put him in a regular preschool room. Either they’ll never know he’s in the building, or his world will fall apart.”

His world fell apart.

It was probably the worst six weeks of our lives. Too much noise and too many kids overwhelmed my son’s system, turning him into someone else. I made the tough decision to put him into the developmental delay prechool room in the district.

It worked. A smaller class with a higher adult-to-child ratio provided my son with a better setting. BUT

But as is common with many kids on the autism spectrum, the teacher got the great kid and I dealt with the fallout. The second year was rough. Getting him onto the bus–a one-hour ride for a few miles–and dealing with him after school challenged me. I basically had to leave him alone for an hour after school to let him decompress. He eventually started bring home regressive behaviors.

I never intended to homeschool my children, despite my experience as an elementary classroom teacher. That year, when the regressive behaviors became too much, we pulled my son.

This is why I homeschool my son with special needs… (more…)

How do you decide when to intervene in playground squabbles? via jennyherman.com

Special Needs Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting: When Do You Get Involved?

It’s time for a little advocating for those in the trenches of special needs parenting. But first, a story.

Once upon a time there was a child. This fifth grader enjoyed playing at the pool with other children. One day a first grader decided to follow him around the pool. Nothing wrong with that, just a younger child wanting to play with an older child.

But the older child asked him to stop. And the older child swam away. The younger child followed, and so the fifth grader kept swimming away and saying, “Please stop.” Eventually after asking multiple times, he started yelling and splashing the other child. (more…)

What can you do when special needs siblings have opposite sensory needs? Click to get ideas at jennyherman.com.

Special Needs Siblings: When Opposite Sensory Needs React

A little while ago, Shawna of Not the Former Things wrote a post for my readers about special needs siblings. Many parents stopped by. I think they felt that she understood what they were going through. I sure did. Which brings me to another episode of As the Special Needs Siblings Turn.

I know I’m supposed to stretch my child and push him to deal with sensory issues. But here’s the rub. When another child is involved, how far do you push? How often? At what expense?

This came up again the other day when I tried to teach spelling together. My youngest is a good speller and has reached the point he can be at the same point in All About Spelling as his brother. I thought this would save me some time.

Nope.

The first day we tried it was a lesson day, where you walk through a new spelling rule, practice on the board, etc. Their sensory needs and personalities clashed and I needed a chocolate IV.

So, I thought surely I could do the spelling practice days together. All it requires is telling them a word, phrase, or sentence, they repeat, and then write it. Once again the sensory needs clashed. Youngest is a mover, a shaker, a music maker. He’s tapping his pencil while he writes. “Please stop it.” Tap. “PLEASE stop it.” Tap, tap. “I SAID PLEASE STOP IT!” To put it nicely, it went downhill from there.

Of course, trying to talk it out didn’t work. I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say sometimes I feel like my life could be titled Clash of the Titans.

I know I’m not the only special needs parent dealing with this. How do you deal with the differing needs of special needs siblings? HOW?

Sigh. The next day in The Loving Push, Drs. Grandin and Moore tell me, “You need to know your child’s rhythms so that you can plan ahead. The worst time to try to push your child out of their comfort zone is when they are already annoyed or distressed. Find a time they are rested, not hungry, and not overwhelmed by sensory input.” (p. 71) Yeah, so trying on a full moon Monday is probably not my best bet. (You can learn more about  The Loving Push here. That’s an affiliate link, so if you choose to purchase anything, I make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.).

Sometimes special needs siblings have opposing sensory needsI still don’t have all the answers. Life with special needs siblings is a roller coaster and there’s nothing I can do about that. It always will be. But, I do have some ideas. I chatted with my husband and some other special needs parents. Here’s what they had to say.

Me: I still have to stretch him. Currently the rule is you can’t shush if you’re not willing to put your headphones on. And for little brother, you don’t always have to stop, but you do need to turn it down. Additionally, I’ve decided to move the location of our spelling lessons. I used to do my All About Spelling lessons in the bedroom because I could shut the door to minimize distractions. Now I’ll do it at the dining room table to make it a little more formal and hopefully cut down on the need to use silly voices and maybe reduce some tapping.

Hubby: “The other day I had him leave the room to calm down, and it worked. He was much calmer after. Maybe that would help?”

Jennifer: “I try to balance the needs of each child. I work really hard to find a way to help my child with sensory needs meet her needs in ways that don’t drive her sister nuts. We spend a lot of time talking about having compassion for others and realizing that your needs are not the only ones that matter. This requires so much prayer on my part. I want both of my children to understand and work to meet their needs while not trampling the needs of others in the process – and to sometimes sacrifice their needs for someone else.”

You can read Jennifer’s post about the challenges special needs siblings face here.

Sandra:  “Because James’s special-needs are so severe, we can’t push him into much. We do push David, our 10 year old typical son. And my parents pushed me in my relationship with my older sister who has Down syndrome. Like last week, we were at the splash pad and James was in full melt-down mode—crying, screaming, hitting, and trying to take his clothes off. I can’t push him. So David has to be understanding that we have to go and we will try another time. If it’s an activity that’s important to David (like seeing a movie), then just my husband Lee or I take him.”

Sandra has written an article, “7 Phrases Every Special Needs Sibling Needs to Hear.

 

Now it’s your turn. I want to know how you handle the balancing act of special needs siblings with different needs. Have something that has worked for you? Tell me in the comments!

I’ve got a super-duper ebook of 75 survival tips for special needs parents! Get it…FOR FREE! Just click the button below.

in the loop button

I do adore All About Learning Press. I work for them now, but have always loved their multisensory, easy-to-teach curriculum. If you’re looking for some spelling help for your child, why not click on over and grab some FREE colorful spelling rules posters you can print. (That is an affiliate link. I make a small commission at no cost to you should you decide to purchase something. Thank you for your support!)

Get FREE spelling rules posters!

Discover what video games have taught a mom about living with autism! via jennyherman.com

What Minecraft & Angry Birds Go! Taught Me About Living With Autism

Those of us who do not have autism cannot understand what living with autism is like. After all, we can’t get inside another person’s head or body. But recently I’ve discovered I can get a feeling for what it’s like. Thanks to Minecraft and Angry Birds Go! I’ve had a little peek into the autism world.

  • My son with autism is a Minecraft expert. He can talk to you for hours about Minecraft, and he understands it. For me, it’s like he is talking a different language. Sometimes my eyes glaze over and I feel myself hearing Charlie Brown’s teacher, even though I want to understand. I imagine that is what it is like for some of our friends living with autism. They want to understand social cues, they want to be able to communicate with others. It’s just not working for them.
  • When I play Angry Birds Go! with my boys, I feel very out of control. The go carts race down the virtual track and I stink at steering. I end up crashing. I go upside down. I’ve even gone backwards down the track. It’s a very disconcerting feeling. Think about those living with autism. There are lots of things they can’t control every day. Consider living with that stress all the time!
  • I’m pretty bad at navigating inside Minecraft and I already told you how horrible I am at steering in Angry Birds Go! Working inside these games gives me another perspective of my autistic son’s sensory issues. I have to turn the music down so I can concentrate. I experience motion sickness watching him move quickly through Minecraft or doing the loop on the Angry Birds Go! stunt track. What if your sensory issues didn’t go away? What if you were always unsure of your balance, or voices made your ears hurt? What if eating simple foods made you want to gag? What if you couldn’t stand being touched and the slightest bump set you on edge? For many folks living with autism, that’s how it is every day, every hour.
  • When my son gets to talk about Minecraft with someone else, you can see the excitement. Someone is interested in him. They’re speaking his language, so to speak, by allowing him to talk about one of his favorite things. Minecraft gives him a bridge, a way to make friends and have something to discuss, something to do together. It always helps to have a common interest, doesn’t it?

I have to say, I never expected to learn about autism from video games. These experiences have given me some valuable insights into my son’s life with autism. Where have you found unexpected lessons?

To see 27 other things I’ve learned from being an autism parent, click here.

I’m putting together a super-duper ebook of survival tips for special needs parents! My newsletters subscribers will be the first to get it…FOR FREE! Just click the button below to sign up and you’ll be in the know.

in the loop button

Click to see the surprising benefs this lady has found from being an #autism mom! via jennyherman.com

Surprise Benefits of Being an Autism Mom

Seven years ago I became an autism mom. I drowned in information and was overwhelmed by my child’s needs and delays. I’m pretty sure I never imagined the progress my son with autism would make. He’s come so far!

Though there are still many challenging days, I have found some benefits from being an autism mom that I did not expect. If you’re in the special needs trenches like I am, and you’re having a rough patch, I hope this list of benefits will help you find some silver linings.

  • I’ve become stronger and resilient.
  • Because of my own autism journey, I can help others understand.
  • I am able to use what I’ve learned to help other kids.
  • God has taught me ways to help my son, enabling me to lead a special needs class at church so other parents can go to church.
  • I’ve learned to be more understanding of what is going on when I see situations in public.
  • Due to what I’ve been through, I am able to offer support to other autism and special needs parents.
  • I can help neighbors and their families and friends.
  • Through my blog, I can share what has helped me, thereby helping others.
  • My experience gives me the ability to help other kids at events.
  • I’ve learned to advocate for my autistic son and others.

Though this post is short, I hope it has big impact. Special needs parent, your trials and challenges give you the power to help others. You may not have realized it, but they do.

I’m curious. Has this brought something to your mind? Have you realized a benefit from your role as autism parent? I’d love to hear in the comments!

If you’d like some free resources to help you on your special needs journey, sign up for my free newsletter and get immediate access to my library! You’ll find a social skills checklist, help for persevering, a list of boredom busters for your child, and more! Just click the button below.

I’ve got  an e-book of 75 survival tips for special needs parents! Just click the button below to sign up and I’ll send it to you.

in the loop button