Free time

We all have some free time, but do we take advantage of it? What do we do in our free time? Is it screen time? Is it book time? Is it just staring into space time? (don’t laugh as I do this sometimes!)

For different people “free time” can mean different things. I also like to think about free time as down time – time that is different from the regular structure of our day-to-day routine and stresses that we all go through. No matter your age or stage of life you are at, this time is sacred and important for all of us.

I always feel that I don’t have enough free time, but as I look at the course of my day and what I do, I realize that I do have free time available to possibly be doing something more constructive or self-care than I actually do. If I stopped looking at my phone, that would give me more free time than I actually need!

For people on the autism spectrum, free time is very important. Since structure is so important in the course of their day, it is just as important to have some time to do the things that they want to do – whatever that may be and whatever that may look like.

Sometimes I can get frustrated with both of our children as I may not understand why they are doing something (or why they are not for that matter), but then I have to take a step back and realize that they are allowed to have that time where they do whatever they want to do. It’s not my place to dictate what they do in that time, just as I wouldn’t want someone to dictate to me what I do in my down time. It has taken me years to figure this out though, so I hope if you are reading this, it doesn’t take you as long as me to figure this out!

I have realized that as I watch our children, how much calmer and centered they are when they have this time to do whatever they want. I notice a lot of stress, tiredness and tenseness, especially after a long day at school and when they come home each of them copes differently and wants to do different things to get relaxed and forget about their day or perhaps just to have a break from their day. In the past I never realized how important these breaks were for our children.

I believe that for people on the autism spectrum, that have to work sometimes 100 times harder to achieve simple goals, need to be able to take advantage of their free time and they need this time to be able to get back to things that they want to, or things that need to get completed. For our children, they can’t function well unless they take their rest breaks or have the down time to re-connect to people as people in general are exhausting for them.

I have to remind myself every day of the importance of this time and I have to be aware when trying to deal with each of our children that I don’t contribute to some sort of anxiety and stress by not respecting their time.

What will you do with your free time today?

Rembering

It’s funny how we can get so caught up in today that things from the past can easily slip our mind. We can get so comfortable in the present and where we forget about how far we have come.

At times when I think about the current struggles that our family faces, I get so caught up in the moment as I’m trying to figure out how to navigate the daily moments that I forget about yesterday and how far we have come.

Sometimes it can be the simpliest things, like just being able to not have to worry if our kids were alone in the cottage or the house and what they might be doing and having to have them in our sight all of the time. With autism, there is always a safety concern and in both of our children it manifests in different ways. In the last little while though, we have been able to feel more confident that even if something goes wrong, they will be able to figure out a solution.

It’s amazing that at one point when we used to leave our cottage we would have to give ourselves an extra hour because our son would be so upset over the fact that he had to go (because he loves it so much) that he would cry and get upset and refuse to get into the car. We had to have a promise of something fun to do when we got home just to appease him. This actually went on for quite a long time and was very exhausting. We even had to have a calendar to show him exactly when he would be coming back up.

This was many years ago now and as I think back I realize how far we have come! I am so grateful for the growth we have experienced.

There were times when I thought our son would never sit still, he was everywhere getting into everything and he didn’t stop! Now if you see how calm he is and able to sit for long lectures at school. He has completely grown so much in this area.

For our daughter as well, the small changes and improvements that I have seen, make me believe that anything is possible if you just give it enough time anything is possible.

Remembering where we were and how far we come is so crucial so that we don’t get caught up too much in the challenges of today as we know that these soon will be lost in tomorrow.

Rest

Resting is an important part of life. Think about how you feel when you don’t get enough sleep. Are you able to function? I know that I’m not. Think about how your mood is affected and how you get through the day. How much sleep do you get each night? Sleep is so important for everyone.

For people on the autism spectrum, sleep is usually an issue. From getting to sleep to staying asleep can affect a person’s ability to function properly and to just get through a day.

This summer has been nice for both of our children in this regard. They have both had the opportunity to catch up on lost sleep and to be able to get some extra sleep and just rest their bodies and minds.

Rest is truly one of the most magical things in the entire earth – at least that’s what I think. Just being able to “be” in the moment and to relax is amazing.

I have found that irritability is less, frustration decreases and just being happier is so much easier with the proper rest!

We are constantly going at 500 miles per hour all the time, myself included, and we just never stop to rest. Sometimes when we put on head on the pillow at night our mind is racing with all the things we didn’t get done or have to get done the next day. For people on the autism spectrum, this can be a recipe for disaster.

For our family, summer is an important time to rest and just be as much as we can. It’s not always possible to do for a long period of time but it is important to take the time, any amount of time, when you have the chance.

Places for some people help aid the resting process. Our children both have different issues if they get too overwhelmed with pressures from their daily lives. It can be in the form of mental breakdowns and physical ones as well. The anxiety that both of our children can exhibit can be heartbreaking to watch and try to help them resolve.

Resting for our daughter, is about focusing on her art that helps her get into that mindset. For our son, going to the cottage and doing outdoor activities helps him free his mind so that he can rest and not have so many things going on in his brain that he sometimes has a hard time dealing with.

Breaking from a rigorous routine, even if just for a short time, is so very important for both physical and mental health in my humble opinion.

So whatever you can do to find some rest or whatever you have to do to help your kids on the spectrum break from the routine and just be able to rest their mind, do it! You will never regret it.

Vision therapy

So we started vision therapy about 3 weeks ago. You may ask why? What is vision therapy? These are questions that I asked as well before I knew anything about it.

I discovered that there was some vision issues with our son through another therapy that we are currently doing. I had filled in some forms that the lady that I was dealing with had asked me if we had ever had our son’s eyes checked. I advised her that we had but I also discovered that by doing this, it was not enough.

Apparently our son as a visual motor deficiency in eye teaming and eye tracking. His official diagnosis is Oculomotor Dysfunction, Accommodative Insufficiency and Exotropia. I know it sounds long right?

Anyway, he needs what they call vision therapy to retrain his eyes. I honestly had never heard of this before, but I am truly finding this very fascinating as we progress with the therapy.

Unfortunately these lessons are expensive and of course, not covered by our health plan. My husband says I always find things that we have to spend money on, but honestly, that’s not true. I find and research things that will benefit health and to me that is the most important thing in the world.

Some of the things that I have learned in the past few weeks is that our son doesn’t have the visual perception to always see where a ball is. So for example, he does some exercises, where he has this long stick where he has to make contact with this ball. This could be why in some of these sports he was not able to participate successfully because of his perception.

Another thing that he has done in therapy is touching this big board with these special glasses on while points light up and then he keeps going and the therapist switches the glasses and he does this with both hands (one at a time).

He also has to read different eye charts touching different colors with one hand then with both hands.

I still don’t know what the “end” goal is but I am hopeful that we will see some good progress once these lessons are completed.

It’s really quite amazing the way our brain works!

The Future

Do you ever think about the future? I mean everyone does, don’t they? Some of us think about tomorrow, what we need to do or next week or even a few months down the line, especially if we have something that we are really looking forward to.

I think I probably speak for most parents with children on the spectrum when I ask, Do you ever worry about the future? As many people get older they think and plan as best they can for things to come and they may even make funeral plans or financial plans. That’s probably pretty normal for the average person to do.

When you have a child on the spectrum, I think you worry about a future that does not include you. You may worry about who will look after your child when you are no longer here. You may get upset about this, grieve this or even wonder if your child will be okay and what their life may look like when you are no longer around. These thoughts can be all-consuming and even destructive, if we let them.

We have done some planning as a family. We have a will in place and many of the financial aspects. We have guardians who will take over our affairs and look after our children if we are no longer here. But where does the worrying stop? What if something happens to these people? What if my child ends up in a place where they are not treated well?

Another set of questions may be, will my child be able to live on their own and hold down a job? Will anyone care? My child doesn’t understand money, who will help them?

Will my child be happy?

Believe me I have pondered these and many, many more questions over the years. This is a tough one and I think that it looks so different for everyone. We all come from different sizes of families. We all have people we are close to. Our children all have unique, individual needs. I read comments in autism groups on Facebook all the time where people are stating how much they worry about their child’s future.

For me, we tried to plan the best we possibly could. We have a will, we have family members who are willing to step in and take over and we have close friends as well as our church family. We just have to do our absolute best to have the things that are important in place. That’s all any of us can do especially since we can’t predict the future.

My husband and I try our best to promote independence in both of our children and we keep preparing them the best we can every day.

Isn’t that all any of us can really do?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject………

Until next time……… take care!