PSA: Holidays are not always fun for children with special needs! via jennyherman.com

PSA: Special Needs & the Holidays

Just a little PSA…

If you know a special needs mom or dad, more than likely their child has hit a rough patch. It may have started with Halloween and the sensory overwhelm and the extra excitement, perhaps some fear of the holiday.

Then a time change came, which is hard on the systems of kids with special needs. Then a full moon. These sound like small things, but they add up. Each one is enough to disrupt a child’s balance.

And now we’re into two months of holiday time, where routines are messed up, anxiety goes on high alert, sensory issues become more than unbearable, and many other challenges arise.

So if you see a special needs parent over the next couple months, give grace. They may not answer you enthusiastically or even smile. They may be holding onto sanity for all they’re worth, running on little or no sleep, wondering what one tweak would make a huge difference for their child, imagining how they’re going to afford Christmas gifts when therapies and medical supplies are so expensive…

They could use your smile. Your quiet support. A cup of coffee. A, “You’re doing great.”

And now you know. And maybe you can pass this along and spread the awareness. And thank you for reading.

If you’re a special needs mom who’d like to get encouragement and support from other moms who “get it”, check out the Facebook group Special Needs Moms Network!

 

Come on over to discover a simple therapy for special needs parents! via jennyherman.com

Easy Therapy for Special Needs Parents (And Everyone Else)

 

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It goes without saying that special needs parents have a lot of reasons for being stressed and overwhelmed. Appointments crowd the schedule, meltdowns confuse us, and daily life turns into survival mode pretty easily. And that’s just one area of our lives. That doesn’t include other life stressors. Sometimes the overwhelm makes us want to curl up into a ball. And the stress doesn’t really go away. You might get a break, but the stress comes back. I have recently discovered something that helps with this. Doodling in a bullet journal.

I first wanted to use bullet journaling for writing and business as well as homeschooling. Being the recovering perfectionist I am, I had to research how to bullet journal. People told me “just make it your own”, but how could I make it my own if I didn’t understand it? Enter frustrating hours of watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts. I began sinking internally, feeling like this was just too much for me. Then I found this post from The Lazy Genius, and she saved me. I may have given up before I started if I hadn’t read her post. She makes it so easy!

So I started two bullet journals (And have let both go by the wayside…). While looking around Instagram at other people’s bullet journal pictures, I saw a lot of doodling in the bullet journal community and thought I’d create a “happy book”. The happy book would be a combination of a gratitude journal and various doodles of scripture, songs, and whatever else I felt like.

Learn how scripture doodling can help special needs parents! via jennyherman.comI’ve heard people talk about activities that “ground” them or feeling “grounded”. I never really understood that. By personality I tend to be a little more easily stressed and worried. I’ve been working on it. So feeling grounded isn’t really my specialty and was foreign to me.

Until recently. One morning I decided to combat feelings of anxiety by listening to worship songs and doodling Scripture. After a little while, I realized I had calmed down significantly. An odd feeling I rarely experience had come over me. “This is what be what feeling grounded is,” I thought. I decided to make this a morning routine–getting myself ready to face the day by listening to music about God and drawing verses, lyrics, or other things. You can do this with inspirational quotes as well, or whatever you like! (For more on bullet journaling and mental health, read this.)

Sadly this routine didn’t last long. In fact, I’m trying to get back to it. Want to join me? Here’s what you need:

  • Some sort of notebook. You could use a more “official” bullet journal like the Leuchtturm (affiliate link). If you’re using markers, people like the paper weight of this journal. I am using a pretty composition book from the local dollar store. Really, you could even use plain old copy paper.
  • Writing utensils. Again, you could use some fancy markers or regular pens, pencils, crayons, whatever suits your fancy. I like using colored ball point pens and colored pencils.
  • Imagination and inspiration. I kind of lack imagination, so I scroll through Instagram to look for ideas of doodling and lettering. I like Surely Simple. You can go to her site and go to the top and follow her on Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram, whichever you like, or browse her blog. Lisa of Creativlei.com has a series on lettering that may help you as well. When I follow someone’s tutorial or tweak it to be my own, I often note their name so I can go back and look for more ideas from them. At the front or back of your notebook you could start a collection of quotes or verses you’d like to turn into doodles. When I’m reading the Bible on my phone and come across a verse I want to reread many times, I take a screen shot. I have used this collection of screen shots to find verses to doodle. If you’re not an artist, don’t stress! Play around with different letter shapes and sizes. Emphasize words by using color. Stuck? Just write some quotes down and change color for specific words. Don’t let yourself get hung up on having to be a good draw-er. (Is that a word? And, I’m speaking to myself here. I really had to get over that!)
  • Time. I recommend doodling in the morning to get yourself calm and focused or at the end of the day to relax before bed. However, you may want to try other times. Maybe you have your notebook handy while you dictate spelling sentences to your child. The afternoon slump would be another great time for some doodling. Whatever works for you!
  • Grace. Be kind to yourself. It takes time to develop a new habit. Remember this is for relaxation. Take it from me–it doesn’t help you relax to get stressed out over it!

Discover a simple therapy for special needs parents! via jennyherman.comIf you’d rather skip the doodling part and would simply like to color someone else’s design, check out these two options

Free inspirational adult coloring pages

Adult coloring book of Bible verses with bonuses for pre-order

Want to use bullet journaling for things other than doodling, the actual planning stuff? Boho Berry is a good resource. This video shows the original suggested set up from Ryder Carroll. Rebecca of Hip Homeschooling Blog also provides help and inspiration for bullet journaling.

Do you use any creative activity to help you de-stress? Is there a creative outlet that helps your child relax? I’d love to know. Just leave a comment below.

I’ve got a FREE ebook of survival tips for special needs parents!  Just fill out the form below and tell me where to send it!

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.

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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.

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

The Day My Son with Autism Broke My Heart

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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.

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Read on to see how to deal with people who think you shouldn't homeschool your child with special needs. via jennyherman.com

FAQ: How Do You Deal With Those Who Think You Shouldn’t Homeschool Your Child With Special Needs?

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Though homeschooling has become more mainstream over the past few years, there are still those who will ask you why you homeschool your child with special needs. Some will ask, listen, and thank you for your reply. Others will come back with some sort of criticism. One reader asks,

“How do you deal with less than understanding responses and attitudes (complaints) from people you and your child will be around regularly? At what point do you just NOT explain or ask for accommodation, and just try to be diplomatic?”

Good question!

(more…)

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.

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Click to see what one special needs mom says about various quotes! via jennyherman.com

“Say Goodbye to Survival Mode”, “God Doesn’t Give You More Than You Can Handle” and Other Things Special Needs Parents Want to Laugh At

Friday was one of those days. I woke up discouraged about a project. I started thinking about other things and anxiety crept in. I had to get ready for a weekend family trip. I made a packing list with the boys so they could learn how to pack for themselves. Of course then we get into other things.

Anxiety kept building as I found new steps to add to my list. Before I could pack I had to vacuum out my bag (long story). Before I could do laundry I had to shower so I could wash the clothes I was wearing. Before I could…

While vacuuming, I hit the ceiling fan with the nozzle as I moved the vacuum to get spider webs, and dust balls rained down on me. I went to change laundry and something had shredded all over the clothes in the washer.

I kept mulling over the things on my mind and my anxiety level increased. Intermittently a child needed to ask me this or that seemingly unimportant question. I had to wash some of my husband’s dress shirts in the bathroom sink because the washing machine has been making them look worse than when they go in…

And I still hadn’t… (more…)