Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

Stop Combating People

Photo 26Before I had children and early in the parenting journey, I thought it was my job to mold my children into kind, intelligent, and self-sufficient beings. That they would speak properly, have good table manners, be polite, and do well at school was presumed, a baseline. These were my assumptions before autism rocked my world, before one child was diagnosed autistic, before I realized the other two were anything by typical. Diagnosis and confusing-to-me behaviors did not immediately change my perception. I simply resolved to work harder to mold my children into the kind, polite, intelligent, and self-sufficient beings they were supposed to be.

I ALWAYS loved my children. I always strove to be the mother they needed. I did my best to be patient and supportive. But I did believe that it was my job to make them be/act/appear as normal as possible. For me, normal meant following the rules of society, exercising self-control, learning, and growing. I did not believe my goals for them were harmful. I believed it was my mother-duty to raise children who fit in, because that’s what my life experiences had taught me was correct.

As time went on, my understanding shifted. I watched my children. I embraced what made them smile and rejected that which caused them pain. I read amazing books that revealed a new way to look beyond the face value of “behaviors” and “traits.” I discovered something wonderful where others saw misbehavior and dysfunction.

Finally, c. 2008, I wrote this in my journal:

Last week I had an Ah-ha! moment. I realized I need to stop trying to fix my children. I love them with all of their sometimes challenging traits — but I have, for a long time, been on a mission to minimize those quirks. For now, I need to let them be — as important for me as for them.

A short while later, I picked up a book in which the first chapter was titled “The World Needs Autism.” Reading these words was affirmation of my realization.

A later journal entry: I have long known that there is a purpose for autism. I am slowly muddling through what that purpose is. I believe that everything is evolving perfectly and the purpose is being served — even if I don’t understand it.

It took me a long time to get here. (I tell the story of my parenting journey, and those of many other mothers, in Swan Mothers.) I still get plenty of opportunity to practice. Many resources that are available today, specifically, blogs written by autistic adults, were not available when I started this journey, so I continue to uncover new layers of understanding. I still want my children to be kind, polite, intelligent, and self-sufficiency beings, but I want them to be these things while being fully themselves.

Don’t go changing, to try & please me
You never let me down…
I couldn’t love you any better
I love you just the way you are
(with apologies to Billy Joel)

stopcombatingme8This post is my contribution to the #StopCombatingMe Flashblog

What is it?

A flashblog is a day when a group of people share their thoughts about a single topic.

Why?

To tell Congress to reform the Combating Autism Act or to let it expire.  Sign the petition and learn more here: http://action.autisticadvocacy.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=10412

Why Reform the Act?

My friend S.R. Salas explains that here.

 

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Beyond Labels: Lessons from Autism and Parenting

When I started blogging, I thought my topic would be autistic and neurodivergent children and their mothers.  The more I wrote, the more challenging it became to work the words autism and autistic into the text. Writing “autistic child” felt forced.  Why? I wondered.

I realized that I don’t relate to the term “autism mother” and everything I write applies to all of my children – not just to my autistic son. It is not because he is not special, but because they all are. We all are.

I could write about IEPs and the gluten free diet and innovative therapies for autistic children.  But there are already many blogs, newsletters, books and magazines on these topics.  They are being done well by other people.

I find myself sharing wisdom imbued in me by my children.  I write about what I’ve learned along the way that has made our lives healthier, easier and happier in the hope that you will benefit.

The word autism turned my world upside down and inside out.  I would not be who I am without it. I am also ready to move beyond the label. What do you think?  I’d really love to hear your thoughts on labels in the comment boxes below.

Beyond the Label:  Lessons from Autism

Only one of my children is diagnosable and sports a recognizable label:  autism. When I think about him, I do not think, “My autistic child.”  I think of him as Daniel. I think of my quirky daughter as Ellana and my intensely principled son as Jonathon. I see each as a uniquely magnificent individual.  All three are beyond labeling or categorizing.  There is no normal in my house.

What is normal?

Synonyms for normal include:

·         typical

·         average

·         unsurprising

·         ordinary

·         common

Would you like to eat a common chocolate, drink an unremarkable wine, drive an average car, or take an ordinary vacation? Might you prefer chocolate that is uncommonly delicious, a wine that is remarkably silky, a car that offers a surprisingly refined ride, and an extraordinary vacation?

Why then are typical, ordinary, normal children seen as ideal? We don’t hunger for mediocrity in other aspects of life, yet we yearn for uneventful meals, ordinary nights and unremarkable parent-teacher conferences.

We are burdened by the notion that children should be a certain way.  That life should be a certain way.

How They Should Be, How They Are

Most people, either consciously or unconsciously, expect their children will be like them.  Fathers place tiny, spongy footballs in the cribs of their infant sons in loving anticipation of lives of athletic stardom.  Mothers play classical music for babies and take toddlers to Kindermusik to develop well-rounded, cultured children.  Grandmothers study little faces to see who the which family members the babies look like.

All of this usually comes from a place of love for the child and delight at the prospect of another chance at life.
But then something happens.  The future athlete can’t learn to ride a bike or pay attention to directions.  He certainly can’t throw or catch the ball.  The upcoming Miss Charming throws spectacular tantrums and refuses to listen to music.
Teachers and doctors and specialists say its autism or some other dis-order and the parents’ world turns upside down.

What’s in a name?

. . . language is entirely symbolic.  Words aren’t real.  They’re simply scribbles, doodles and sounds to which we assign meanings stored in the brain as images, feelings, and sounds:  mental constructs only vaguely approximating the objects they represent.   We use words to manipulate the mental representations, rarely scrutinizing our constructs under the light of physical reality.

–From Mark Rostenko’s article The Unnamed in Obscurious Moo
At first, the label is a lifeline.  It explains why our children are the way they are.  The words give us something to research:  autism, PDD-NOS, ADHD, sensory integration disorder, reactive detachment disorder.  The words connect us to others like us and are a way to find information.

Eventually though, we realize that our child’s -ism or disorder is not exactly like that of other children.  His or her most triggering behaviors and traits AND most endearing ones are quite unique.

Some suggestions about his or her condition are right on.  Others don’t work at all.

None of us fits neatly into a box.
We are all alike.  We are also all different.

Play a Game

When looking at your child’s differences or noticing people who seem entirely unlike you, play a game.  Say,“Just like me, this person….”

Notice the ways we are all connected. Notice  the ways we are uniquely magnificent.

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Love, not fear: Expanding Awareness, Embracing Beauty

This headline appeared in my Facebook feed one day. Landon Bryce, an autistic adult, opened his post with these words: This does not mean that if you hate autism, you do not also love autistic people. But you hate part of them.

On my Blessed by (Autism) Uniquely Magnificent Children Facebook page, I asked parents to comment on the above statement. They replied:

I hate autism and how my son is disabled and with low intelligence. I love my son. (Jo)

I don’t like autism but I love my daughter for who she is. (Annette)

On the surface, it seems that it is possible to hate autism while loving autistic individuals. When we dig deeper, we begin to sense the truth of Landon’s assertion.

I Hate that You Hit Your Sister, But I Love that You’re Impulsive

If my child were not impulsive, she would control her urge to hit. If she did not hit, her gentle parents would not (ahem) lose control and scream as if possessedIf she could be a little more thoughtfulwe could have a more pleasant, more normal life. (Why yes, perceptive reader, impulsivity does reside in our house.)

Enter Wabi Sabi Love

Listening to a New Consciousness Review podcast with Arielle Ford, I heard about Wabi Sabi LoveArielle, self-described Fairy Godmother of Love, introduced the concept this way:

Wabi Sabi is an ancient Japanese aesthetic that honors all things, old, worn, weathered, imperfect, and impermanent.  So if you had a large vase with a crack in it, the Japanese would put it on a pedestal and shine a light on the crack.

Wikipedia says:

[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.[3]

700 years ago, understanding emptiness and imperfection was honored as tantamount to the first step to satori, or enlightenment. In today’s Japan, the meaning of wabi sabi is often condensed to ″wisdom in natural simplicity.″ In art books, it is typically defined as ″flawed beauty.″ [4]

Wabi Sabi for Everybody

Here’s the thing: 

We are all flawed, and we are all stunningly beautiful.  Everything is In Creation, a work in progress. All is perfect, even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Arielle encourages us to tell a new story about the characteristics or traits that we perceive as flaws. A non-implusive Ellana would mean no joyful, exuberant, and very loud outbursts of singing, no wild swinging, no boisterous play with her brothers. A non-impulsive Jonathon would mean no running leaps into my arms, no tumbling on the bed, no shooting sounds during play.

Non-impulsive, my children would be calmer and quieter, but they would not be themselves.  And I like them exactly the way they are.

For Valentine’s Day, Arielle Ford created the Wabi Sabi Amnesty Vow. Check it out and consider writing a Wabi Sabi promise to your children. Consider writing one for your partner. Or for yourself.

Here’s my adaptation of Arielle’s Amnesty Vow:

Love by Pastel Punk on Deviant Art

Dear (Child),

I love you. You have been bringing me joy from the moment you were born. I appreciate every day that we are together. Often, I’m not good at showing it.

As you know, (oh, how you know!), for the past (16) years I have been criticizing you for (being disorganized, loud, and unaware). I have recently learned about a concept called Wabi Sabi Love.  It’s all about learning to find beauty and perfection in people, situations, and things exactly the way they are.

I now make a  Wabi Sabi Vow to you. Starting now, I am telling a new story.  I will do my best to find the beauty and perfection in your unique way of being and doing things, especially those that have bothered me in the past.

Please forgive me for all of the times I yelled at and misunderstood you. Thank you for being you and for all that you do.

Love, Mama

P.S. I will need to practice this Wabi Sabi thing.  When I begin to slip up, I give you permission to put me back on track by saying “Where’s the Wabi Sabi Love?”

Adapted from Arielle Ford at www.wabisabilove.com

Written for 

flashblog-entry

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Natalia Erehnah on Starseed Radio Academy

This evening, Tuesday, November 26, 2013, I’ll be the featured guest on Starseed Radio Academy. Please listen and call in.

Learn more about Starseed Radio Academy at http://www.starseedhotline.com.

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The Amazingness of Atypicalness in the Age of Half-Bloods, Wizards and Magical Creatures

All around the world, influenced by brilliant stories from gifted authors, children who thought they were different in a bad way are discovering that they are, in fact, different in a magnificent way.

  • Harry Potter thinks there is something wrong with him because his family forces him to live in the cupboard under the stairs.  Plus, he “makes things happen” and can talk to snakes.
  • Percy Jackson has profound ADHD and dyslexia.  He’s so “bad” that he has never been able to attend the same school two years in a row.
  • Elissa is being raised by an old woman as a servant in a castle and knows only that her mother is dead.  Yet, she is the daughter of a king and deeply connected to the Earth by her magical powers.
  • Aang is the last of his kind.  He is the only person left on the planet with the ability to bend air.

At the heart of every myth and legend lies a grain of truth.

Grain:  The smallest possible amount of anything, a small, hard seed – the essence, crux, heart, significance, or soul of the matter.

How do the stories of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Elissa and Aang reflect what is going on with our real, uniquely magnificent children?

It is neither surprising nor coincidence that there so many hugely popular books and movies about magical children have been produced in the past two decades.  This is the same time span during which magical children began appearing on Earth in large numbers.

Many of today’s children are called indigo, crysal or rainbow, autistic, ADHD, atypical or neurodivergent. They probably arrived via quite-ordinary birth.  But those who are paying attention see clearly that there is something different about our children.  Some want to call the differentness disorder or disability. I call it magic.

Learning from the Magical Heroes

Each of the characters mentioned above must find his or her own way for the old ways no longer work.  The premises have changed.  Their perceptions of themselves have been turned upside down.

Harry must shift his perspective from the Muggle to the Magical World.  Percy has to embrace his god-nature.  Elissa, a humble girl who knew her own mind even if she did not always choose to speak it, embraces her mission and taps into powers she had not realized she possessed.  Aang, at only 11 years old, must restore balance in the world.

As our heroes become attuned to their powers, they realize that with great power comes great responsibility.  This can be a heavy burden for a child or teenager to carry.  Our heroes waver, err, and complain, but they stay true to their calling.

In each of the books of the Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson Series, the Phoenix Rising Trilogy (Elissa’s story) and the Avatar:  The Last Airbender Saga (Aang’s story), it is not only the hero who is magical.  Friends and enemies have magical powers too.  Our heroes do not possess unique gifts.  They possess gifts that are available to many.

As we notice our children’s gifts and talents, it is useful to consider:

  • What are my gifts and talents?
  • What can I do differently than I have always done it until now?
  • Am I working from an obscured premise?

Parenting the Heroes

In many fictional accounts, the heroes’ parents are conveniently missing. Harry’s parents are dead.  Percy’s mother, fully human, is not allowed at Camp Halfblood and his father, a god, does not have time for his half-human children.  Elissa’s mother is dead and her father is missing.  Aang’s parents have been dead for almost a century.

For those of us parenting magical children, there is no hint in these books of what the children might need from us.  We are left with a bit of insight into the children, but with no new information on what is required of us.

You must get used to the fact that there are many things in magic which are not and never will be explained. God decided to do certain things in a certain way and why He did this is a secret known only to Him.”  (Paulo Coelho in Brida.)

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

“May your path be one of peace in times of peace, and of combat in times of combat.  Never confuse one with the other.”  (Paulo Coelho in Brida.)

Again and again we are presented the lesson that there is nothing to do but carry on, taking one step and one second at a time, learning what we can when we can, being willing to walk in the dark.  Without a roadmap or a manual, we learn to listen and watch our children and our hearts.  We figure out a way to make it through each day.

I love listening to podcasts. Here’s a good one about being your true self.

 

In Autistic Hermione Thoughts, autistic blogger Alyssa of Yes, That Too, writes about reading Hermione as an autistic person.

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Magic for Muggles: Change the Way You See and Experience EVERYTHING

Sometimes, muggles get really lucky and stumble upon some magic.  Magic we can actually do.  Easily, consistently.

I had such an experience when I attended a Matrix Reimprinting seminar with Karl Dawson.  (The photo shows me, Karl and my friend Linda Friedman Jones at the seminar.)  Even though I have known about EFT for many years, even though I had finally figured out how to use if effectively, I had no idea about the amazingly transformative power of meridian  tapping.

What is Matrix Reimprinting?

Matrix Reimprinting is a new meridian tapping technique developed by EFT Master Karl Dawson.  Like EFT, Matrix Reimprinting often resolves long-standing emotional and physical issues.

By changing

  1. how you perceive old events

  2. how ingrained ideas shape your words and actions

Matrix Reimprinting can be used to create a life you love by creating better energy flow in your body

During a Matrix Reimprinting session, we tap on points that have been used in acupuncture for thousands of years.  Most of the points we use are at the ends of meridians.

Meridians are channels for energy flow just as blood vessels and arteries are channels for blood flow.  Emotional, chemical and physical trauma can disrupt the flow of energy in the meridians.  When the energy is obstructed, disease may result.

We can correct the flow of energy by stimulating the meridian points.  In EFT and Matrix Reimprinting, we do this by tapping on them.

How is Matrix Reimprinting different from EFT?

In conventional EFT, tapping on meridian end points is used to take the emotional intensity out of a past memory. When an issue is resolved with EFT, you are able to recall your most traumatic and stressful life memories without any emotional disruption or stress.  This is a useful healing strategy since most disease results from stress.

When an issue is resolved using Matrix Reimprinting, the memories associated with it are actually transformed.

During the Matrix session, the practitioner will guide you as you go into a past memory.

There, you may say and do what you wished you had said and done.  You will be shown how to bring in people or tools to support you in any way that you need.  You will recreate the recorded picture in your memory. This will transform your reflexive reactions in situations that were triggering an unwanted response.

But these things did happen!  No one can change that.

In Matrix work, we never deny that an event occurred.  We do not use distraction techniques. In fact, we recognize that the best way to transform a situation is to be fully present in it.  You will not relive the situation.  Matrix Reimprinting is a very gentle technique – easier to demonstrate than to explain.

Experience Matrix Magic

Matrix Reimprinting is an essential part of all of my group sessions.

Physically, mentally and emotionally healthy parents, family members and caregivers create a healthy life for autistic, ADHD, and other children with special needs.

Want to know much more about Matrix Reimprinting?  You can read all about it in Matrix Reimprinting Using EFT:  Rewrite Your Past, Transform Your Future by Karl Dawson and Sasha Allenby.

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A New Kind of Time Out

Most of us are rather enlightened parents these days.  When our children hit or scream or take another child’s toy, we don’t spank them.  We put them in time out.

There they sit, one minute for every year old, contemplating their transgressions and regrouping.  They take a break from out-of-control emotions and behaviors and call on inner resources and external support systems to return to a harmonious state.

As I walk through our modern world, watching adults running like hamsters on treadmills and children getting exercise from wii and x-box games, I wonder:

If children had more time out(side) and time off, would they still need time outs?

We live in an age of over-stimulation and overwhelm.  For all of our time-saving devices, we work more and sleep and relax less than humans of times past.

Children need time off from school and from schedules. They need to have time to do nothing and time to do whatever they want.

There are studies that validate the importance of play in the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills.  But we don’t need studies.  Be observing our children at play, we can see this natural development in action.

IMG_20110808_111243When my children were 13, 11 and 8, they often played in our yard with the neighbors (12 and 10). They figured out how to play kick-ball and other games in a way that was fair. They made adjustments for ages, special needs or extra skills (my middle child is autistic), number of children out playing that day.

“Sarah and I get only two outs and the boys get three,” my daughter informed me one day.  The next day, if three or four of them wanted to play, they found another solution.  No adults mediated or suggested anything.  When they are red-cheeked and sweaty, they reach for water and flop on the grass to rest.

Implementing the New Time Out

Amidst school or homeschool activities, sports, music, and dance schedules, and work obligations of parents, it can be challenging to find a way to, as my children say, chillax.  Here are some ideas to get started:

1.      Take a Mental Health Day away from school.

Let the kids stay home and do nothing once in a while.  This may keep them balanced and healthy so they don’t have to get sick to get a break.

2.      Schedule at least one day per week with no planned activities.

For us, this is Sunday.  We all look forward to it.

3.      Encourage free play.

Let the children fill their own time.  Save your boxes and paper towel rolls and see what happens, even if your children are in middle school or high school.

4.      Spend time outdoors that is not in organized sports.

Children love to make up their own games or explore.  You don’t have to do anything (beyond ensuring safety).  They will create worlds, climb trees, and make their own fun.

2805_70655739737_5197931_n5.      Be Silly.

I’m not good at silly, but the children love it.  So Daddy takes over and they giggle and scare each other and tell jokes.  If you need help, share your children with an adult who knows how to have fun.

6.      Go All the Way:  Take a Year Off

Consider how you can take a Really Big Time Out.  Take a vacation.  Homeschool.  Travel.  Enjoy.

Check out these families who did it.

One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children by David Elliot Cohen

The Family Sabbatical Handbook: The Budget Guide To Living Abroad With Your Family by Elisa Bernick

Benefits of the New Time Out

There is a Sufi tale that tells of a scholar being ferried by Nasrudin across a body of water.

“Have you learned mathematics?” he asks the ferry-man.

“No,” Nasrudin replies.

“Do you understand the sciences?” he continued.

“No,” Nasrudin answered.

Next, the scholar chided Nasrudin for his ungrammatical language, and, hearing that the boat-man never went to school exclaimed, “Half of your life has been wasted!”

Shortly afterwards, Nasrudin asked him: “Did you learn to swim?”

“No, I did not,” replied the scholar.

“Well, in this case it seems all your life has been wasted.  We are sinking,” said Nasrudin.

Reading, writing, and arithmetic are useful skills.  Proficiency in sports, music, and arts can bring much enjoyment.  But over-planning and over-scheduling may produce an ignorance of how to live.

After I post this, I will go and enjoy my own time out(side).  I hope that after your read, you will too.

Want to believe this is possible but don’t?  Join me starting January 2014 and shift to joyful thinking and easier living. More information coming soon.

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Lazy Parenting: Doing Things for Our Children

Daniel was working on his homework on morning while I fried eggs for breakfast.  Not understanding a math problem, he became frustrated.  As he gritted his teeth and whined, I turned around and quickly solved the equation for him.  “There you go!” I said turning back to the stove.  Instead of politely thanking me, he cried,“No, no!  Don’t do it for me.  Teach me!”

Later that day, I saw this exchange on Facebook:

Talisman Camps and Programs When is it appropriate and helpful to be a “helicopter parent” for your special needs child? When does it become unhelpful?

Natalia When our children are in distress, it is time to step in and support them. We don’t need to facilitate every event and interaction because they are not doing it the way we think is best.

Talisman Camps and Programs Natalia, we like how you say “Support” but do not equate that with “do for”

Ouch!  There was my post from just a few days before along with a compliment on not “doing for” our children when that is exactly what I had done that very morning.

How humbling.

I completely and totally believe that, as parents, we should support and facilitate our children’s endeavors, be they social interactions or math problems.  Yet, in my haste, I had taken the lazy way out. I did the problem for him instead of making a suggestion that may have given him the information he needed to do the problem himself.

I could have facilitated a moment of learning and confidence.  Instead, my actions said, “You’re too slow.  Here.  I’ll do it for you.  You probably couldn’t do it anyway.”

Reading the Talisman posts that evening, I realized:

When I am lazy or hurried, I “do for” rather than support.

In general, I have no objection to laziness.  I am a big fan of down time, reading, lounging around, and just being.

In this situation though, my laziness and doing what was easiest in the moment, did not serve my child.  Ultimately, it will not serve me.

We want our children to slow down and pay attentionI am committing to slowing down and paying attention myself.  I will pay attention to my children and how I can best serve them.

When my children are struggling, I will take a deep breath and ask:  “How can I help?”  I will listen to what they say and provide the support they need.  Instead of parenting by reflex, I will pay attention to the habits that are driving my actions and change them when needed.

It is infinitely more important to me that my children become confident and self-sufficient – including asking for what they need – than that they get perfect grades on homework assignments or act “right” according to some unspoken rules.

Allowing Success, Building Confidence

When children do things on their own, they learn:

  • I can do hard things.

  • I’m good at figuring stuff out.

  • Mama trusts me.  She believes I can do it.

When parents constantly jump in and do things for them, they learn:

  • I can’t do anything right.

  • Mom and Dad do everything better for me.

  • Mom never let’s me do anything.  She must think I’m stupid.

What are you teaching your children?  Will you join me in slowing down and paying attention?

We can learn from what we say and write and think.  We have all the wisdom we need inside ourselves.

I will be taking my own advice.  When my children are deeply frustrated, I will support them.  I will encourage, give a hint, teach.  I will still do things for them of course.  It is one of the ways I show my love.  But when I do for them, it will be from a place of love – not because it is more convenient for me.

Next time they are tying their shoes or clearing the table too slowly, I will let them be. Except, when I slip and interfere and forget or neglect to be the mother I want to be. But I already wrote about that.

Getting to This Place

By gathering with other mothers and supporting them as they support us, we move along in our parenting journey.  Support groups for mothers starting soon.

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Tools and Words for Reducing Anxiety in Children (Part 2: Verbal First Aid)

In the Part 1:  Changing Old Stories, I wrote about using Matrix Reimprinting to change how your child sees old events.   When old traumas continue to affect our children, Matrix Reimprinting is the tool to use.

In this post, I offer suggestions for speaking gently and minimizing the effects of trauma on the scene and in the moment.

When our children get hurt, the words we say can initiate healing or exacerbate the trauma.

Consider these three possible responses when a child falls and scrapes a knee.  (The examples for this article are taken from the outstanding book, Verbal First Aid by Judith Simon Prager, PhD and Judith Acosta, LISW, CHT.)

Response 1

“Oh, no! Look at you! You’re bleeding, oh, my poor, poor baby! Are you okay? Does it hurt a lot?”

Response 2

“You’re all right. Buck up, buddy. It’s not that bad.”

Response 3

“Oh, you’ve fallen and your knee is bleeding.  See what a good job your blood is doing cleaning out that cut.  Now you can even use your mind to stop your bleeding.  We’ll wash it off and put a bandage on, and you’ll be surprised at how fast it will start to feel better.”

What are your words teaching your child?

We cannot know definitively what a particular child will learn from each of those responses since each child is different.  Each already has a bank of experiences and his own temperament.    Here are some possible learnings:

  • Response 1 teaches the child that seeing blood is cause for alarm. His body will respond by creating chemicals that impede healing.

  • Response 2 teaches the child that his feelings are not valid and that he should not cry or express pain.

  • Response 3 teaches self-confidence and initiates the healing process.

The words we say in those first moments can set the course for both physical and emotional recovery.

When children are injured, they are particulariy susceptible to influence.

What We Think = How We Feel = How We Heal

Science has demonstrated that words, thoughts, images and memories generate an instantaneous cascade of chemicals, causing a physiological reaction within us.  This reaction is most pronounced when we are scared or in pain.  Our breathing gets faster, our hearts race, we sweat or freeze or run.

What we think can throw us into this flight-flight-freeze response – or initiate healing.  Since we cannot hold two thoughts simultaneously, presenting our children with a positive scenario can pull them out of the panic place to a place of peace.

Building Rapport:  Believability and Credibility

Using words that are honest and authentic will build credibility with our children.  We want our children to recognize the truth.

Saying, “Everything is fine” when neither you nor your child believe it can be damaging.  Instead, state what you see and use the knowledge and wisdom you possess to uplift and support your child.

For example, if your child is seriously injured and you don’t know what to do, try this:

Take a deep breath to calm yourself.  Use a gentle tone and say, “I’m right here.  You can relax now.  Let’s figure out what we need to do next . . .”

For extensive scripts and protocols for burns, cuts, bruises, getting stitches and much more please read the book, “Verbal First Aid.”

Verbal First Aid for Non-Verbal Children

Even if your child is non-verbal, using words in the way described in this article will be helpful.  By changing how we speak, we shift our feelings.  Children will respond to our tone and energy and gain confidence.

Super-Easy Homeopathic First Aid

Like Verbal First Aid, homeopathic remedies support the body in healing itself emotionally and physically.  I always carry the remedies described in this article.  Having homeopathic remedies with me has saved the day for my family many times.  If you don’t want to buy them all, buy arnica and prepare to be amazed at the rate of healing.

Reference

Highly recommended!

Verbal First Aid: Help Your Kids Heal from Fear and Pain–and Come Out Strong

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A Dark Side of Peer Pal Programs

My son’s school has a program called Peer Pals though which student volunteers work and play with classmates with special needs. Reading the permission slip I was required to sign indicating my consent for my autistic son to participate in Peer Pals, I felt uncomfortable. While I understood how such a program might benefit children, the idea of assigning my child a friend, or friends, felt wrong.

Daniel, then 12 and in sixth grade, was doing well in his first year of middle school. I know he worked longer to complete assignments and homework than his classmates. I know he didn’t understand much of what teachers said in class. I know he didn’t have friends who knocked on our door. At the same time, he was pleased that he had learned to operate his lockers and navigate the hallways within days. He persisted in doing his homework independently. He was happy.

During  fall conferences, his Resource Room teacher told me that there was a friendship developing between Daniel and Brian, a boy who sat at his table in English and Math. Mrs. S was teary describing how the boys talked and laughed together. Daniel told me that he sat with Brian at lunch. The relationship did not extend outside of school, but Daniel never expressed an interest in doing so, and I never suggested it.

To Peer or Not to Peer?

I discussed the the Peer Pals program with Mrs. S. She explained that his Peer Pals would share notes with Daniel if he missed a class, that he would have a Lunch Bunch so he wouldn’t “have to” sit alone in the cafeteria, and that the children would participate in fun activities to facilitate socialization. I decided to sign, but asked Mrs. S ensure that Brian did not become Daniel’s Peer Pal since their friendship was developing naturally.

A few weeks later, I discovered that Brian was Daniel’s assigned Peer Pal. Distraught, I called to ask how this had happened. Turns out the arrangement was a mistake. The social worker who runs the peer program, Mrs. K, had not communicated with Mrs. S prior to seeking peer mentors among the sixth graders.

They asked if I wanted Brian removed as Daniel’s Peer Pal, explaining, “Brian volunteered because he wanted to help Daniel.”

It was too late. I didn’t want Daniel to think Brian didn’t want him to be his pal. I didn’t want Brian to feel that his good deed had been rejected.

Daniel and Brian remained Peer Pals, assigned to each other. I was devastated, disappointed that I’d allowed a potential friendship to be marred.

Full Circle

When Daniel asked, “What’s a Peer Pal?” I explained that a pal is a friend, that Brian had volunteered to help him if he needs help in class because he’s his friend, because Brian wanted to be the one to help if Daniel needed help.

The school year passed. Daniel sat at Brian’s lunch table every day. There was an indoor (due to rain) picnic for the peers in the spring. There was a field trip for The Peers.

Then, in the last week of school, the yearbooks were distributed. Among student groups in the back pages was a group photo titled Peer to Peer Mentors. Daniel saw Brian in the picture and asked, “Why I not in this picture?” tapping on the page with his finger and looking with me with wide-open eyes. He was confused, and sad.

All of the “normal” kids were pictured. You know, the ones who volunteered. The ones who helped the less fortunate. The heroes. What does that make Daniel and the other autistic kids, the ones with Cerebral Palsy and Downs Syndrome, the “other” peer in Peer to Peer?

What Now?

A new school year has started. I expect that the same form will come home in Daniel’s folder, asking my consent for him to participate in the peer mentoring program.

  • If you’ve been in this type of group, please help me understand.
  • Was the group helpful to you?
  • How did you feel about it at the time and in retrospect?
  • Does experience in a facilitated setting translate to other situations?
  • How can parents tell if they are helping and supporting, or imposing their values and goals on their children?

Perspective and Experiences from Autistic Adult Bloggers

Sometimes What Looks Like Empathy, Isn’t

by Lynne Soraya

My new teacher was very extroverted and people-centric – traits that would seem ideal in a teacher. But we quickly came to clash. In her estimation, being alone and isolated were the worst possible outcomes for anyone. I was both.

Not that I wanted to be…but I was coming from a completely different perspective. For me, isolation was a far less painful place than the world in which I had spent the previous year – a world in which it was impossible to tell the cruel from the kind, and being around people meant living in constant fear, wondering where and when the next attack would come. And my teacher unknowingly made it worse – in an attempt to integrate me into the social sphere of the classroom, she “assigned” me a friend. read more

Out of the Goodness of Your Heart

by Judy Endow

I have nothing against the goodness in the hearts of other people. However, I would like to explain how it feels to be on the receiving end when I am befriended out of the goodness of your heart.

First of all this doesn’t a friendship make because authentic friendships are reciprocal. This means that giving and receiving go both ways. The benefits are mutual. When you befriend me out of the goodness of your heart – and then tell me so – I understand that you are assuming the role of a kind benevolent person while I am perceived as a less than person, assumed to not be able to have real friends so will be grateful to you for including me. – See more at: https://ollibean.com/2013/12/10/goodness-heart#sthash.0L1iIM0b.dpuf

 

 

 

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