Learning

top view photo of person writing on white paper

Learning in a new way is different, yet challenging. It’s a new time, a new schedule, or lack of schedule and every day holds something new.

To be honest, I’m not a teacher. I do “teach” yes because I am a parent, but I’m not accustomed to teaching school work day in and out. Also teaching a child with autism takes a great deal of patience, which this week I failed at miserably many times.

I am a “type A” personality so I like to get things done. I have many lists each day and that’s the way I like it.

For our son, we get the schoolwork on Monday morning for the entire week. You are supposed to spend 3 hours per subject so that equals 12 hours per week for him. I look at the work and I try to plan but sometimes I don’t know if we will have to spend longer on a concept than the required hours. It is hard for me to estimate the time we will need and how to spread it out over the week.

I not only have to plan the work, but also my son’s moods each day and work with that. Changes in schedules, sleep times, moods, all need to be taken into consideration. It’s not just as simple as sitting down and doing the work.

What I have discovered this week is the things I do good and the things I do badly.

I have to admit that I am not proud of how I handled all of the work this week. Our son needs silence when working so that he can concentrate. We have a dog and he basically barks at every single noise – a car going by, any outside noises, inside noises, the mailman, you name it, he barks.

One day I was trying to teach a concept and we were sitting at the table, then the dog started barking, our son left went to his room, slammed the door. This happened multiple times this day. Not only was I yelling at the dog, I started getting mad at our son for not grasping the concept. I mean that’s just not right. A teacher would not do this. And to top it all off, I was then reading a note from the school board and one of the main things it was saying in distance learning was to practice patience.

Yeah, I thought to myself, you don’t live in our house. You are not dealing with autism and all the things that go with it. They say they support you, but really they can’t do this from a distance. They can provide the work, but the rest is up to the parents to figure out. Anyway, this particular day was a bad day as I was focusing on getting the work done, our son understanding the concept and then trying to find a way to put some fun into it.

So, I started thinking the next day, how can I make it fun and meaningful for him? What is the experience that I can give him to solidify concepts? What will he remember from learning at home?

I know our son learns best visually and hands on. Although I’m no expert at school, I am an expert at our son.

So, what do we do? We had received a couple of videos from school. There was a video from his geography class on the layers of the earth. We did the worksheets, watched the video and then I had an idea.

Our son had created a YouTube channel the end of the year before to do a project. We had done a couple of videos in the summer, but I thought it would be fun to do another one.

This wasn’t required from the school, but we re-created the video from the educational one that we watched but in our own way. One of our son’s therapists had taught me how to make a video where you could do certain frames and then put it all together in a movie.

I know that our son can learn anything, it’s just not in the same way as everyone else sometimes.

When we created this video, we did it in many frames. On a dry erase board, I would write down what he had to say in the first frame, we would verbally practice then I would film him. Afterwards, I would put it together into a video and then uploaded it to his YouTube channel.  This time I actually figured out how to put music in it. It wasn’t professional but looked pretty good and I was proud of our work.

This also shows our son’s capabilities and it was way more fun then just doing work in the normal way. Also, he likes to watch himself!

When we were sending back the work to the teachers, I decided to send them a copy of the video. I wanted them to see what our son was capable of when given the right tools and opportunities. I thought that perhaps, they would maybe be able to incorporate more of this into his learning at school.

I was shocked when I received an email back from the head of Special Education, who had received a copy of his video from his teacher, and said that it made her day! Not only did I receive an email from her, but also from the principal saying that it made her day!

Wow, I thought, amazing! This gave me an idea to do more videos.

But, it also gave me the idea to name Fridays as “Fun Fridays.” We are going to do fun stuff every Friday going forward. Whether it’s videos or something else I can think of, but this is a learning process for me as well.

I know that going forward, I also have to relax. I have to put fun parts into our learning every day and that is my plan.

I am looking forward to more fun times while we navigate this distance learning.

Expressions

photo of woman s head above water

When I think about expressions, I think about how we express ourselves in any given situation.  I also think about the “feeling” of where we are in the moment. Is it happy, sad, overwhelmed, grumpy, scared, exhausted?

At the current time in our home, we have everyone expressing themselves all the time with many different constantly changing expressions. Quite frankly, it’s draining.

What was previously my domain has now become home to all of us, all day, every day from the time we all wake up until the time we all go to sleep.

When one of us is happy and expressing themselves in a positive way, it’s a very good thing and the mood is light and relaxed. Just the opposite of course when one of us is grumpy or irritable (which happens all the time now) we all feel it and it can make all of us on edge and grumpy and just miserable.

I would like to be the home where everything is happy all the time, but right now that’s not the case for us. Don’t get me wrong, there are positive things to not having to work on a schedule. Both our kids function differently at different times in the day and now that we can work whenever we want, it makes it easier to wait until that person is ready to focus and then get as much work done as possible in that moment of time.

If my son is tired or grumpy, he can wait to do his work until that mood passes. If he wants to sleep late and do work late in the day, it has now become possible.

I read about many people creating their schedules and I have seen many charts and I commend these people so very much. I know that with a child on the spectrum, this sometimes works quite well in predicting what will happen through the course of a day. I remember this being even more crucial when our son was younger. I wish I could say that I am doing the same thing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you currently look at our dining room table, you will see sheets, calculators, writing tools, folders of work completed and stuff to be repeated as well as some fun stuff we have been doing as well. It’s somewhat organized but not totally.

Where a daily schedule once was, has had nothing on it with regards to going to school, in quite a while. My son doesn’t even look at it anymore to see if he’s going or not. He has been doing schoolwork at home for awhile and for the most part, he is okay with that. He misses his teachers and his classmates and just the general layout and consistency of his day. He functions quite well in this environment.

Unfortunately, our home environment cannot match the school environment – it’s just not possible, nor is it a real expectation. I commend the teachers for everything they are doing to get things out in such a short amount of time.

Mostly, his expressions change multiple times during the course of a day and I get it because I feel the same way. Today, it was lots of morning energy (which is unusual because he’s a teenager) and anyone who has teens knows that they are usually pretty grumpy until lunchtime.

He was then supposed to do a zoom meeting this afternoon and he was totally miserable and not in the head space so we had to postpone this.

For me, it’s sometimes hard to separate my frustration and look at the entire picture, but I do try my very best.

Our dog wonders why everyone is around all the time but of course no one wants to walk him except for me.

Sometimes my frustrations are many in the course of an hour and other times I’m completely content when I don’t have to run out and all the drop offs and pick ups.

To not go completely insane everyday, I take the dog for walks to clear my head. That part of my day is always nice and relaxing. I don’t really go out. My husband has been the designated everything. He does all the pick ups, whether they are groceries, prescriptions or gas. I give him lists (and they are many) so his expressions are not always positive, but he usually is a good sport and verbally doesn’t complain.

In the long run, none of us will remember how much math or reading we did, or how many hours per day we spent doing work with our children, but we will remember the connection and trying our very best to teach them, not only school work, but life as well.

Until next time, take care and take day by day, moment by moment. Take care of your loved ones!

Chaos

a photo of abstract painting

These are chaotic times for the entire world. Our family is no different than yours when it comes to trying to figure out how to cope.

In my head there are always a million things going on while being isolated and staying safe. What should we do today? When should we do it? How do I keep my children engaged? Do I do fun things? School work? Both? How much school work should we do? Should I just focus on mental health? Am I the only one not getting much accomplished? Should I let my children sleep late?

My list seems never-ending. I don’t think everyone can act the same way or accomplish the same things, but sometimes when I look at facebook or instagram posts I feel like I’m not doing nearly enough.

But when you are dealing with your new normal and autism at the same time, it’s not always cut and dry.

In some ways, I am actually surprised at how our physically distancing doesn’t seem that hard. For children with autism being alone is totally normal. So to stay away from people is not all that bad. And for introverts like myself it’s not that bad either because my go to is being alone.

But when I think about our mental health and how much we all need social interaction which is so much more important for children on the spectrum, our current situation saddens me. But there is nothing that I can do but accept it and do the best.

That’s all any of us can really do is our best. Be there for our family, comfort our family, talk to our family and not focus on the stuff that in the scope of things really doesn’t matter so much.

We all have a choice of how we handle things and for me, at this time, I choose to be grateful for the time that I have with my family, and the ability to relax the schedule and just be in the moments without the pressure of places to go and things to do.

In another month, things may look differently, but for now our family is coping quite well and doing the best that we can.

My warmest thoughts are with you at this time.  Take care and stay safe!

 

 

Sickness

apartment bed carpet chair

Normally when our children are ill, it’s not a pleasant time.

There is crankiness, more laundry, more things to do in the house and generally everyone is just feeling down, no matter who it is who is ill.

Well, let me tell you, the other day, our son had a fever and threw up. Was I upset? Nope, not even close. Was I happy? You bet! Now, you are probably thinking right now that I am crazy (well, that may be true) but finally, after many long years, our son’s immune system was starting to have a “normal” response. This is truly exciting!

You see, most people get sick, they have a fever, they throw up – all of that. We usually complain as parents and try to get through it.

Our son has not had a fever or vomited in many years. He gets colds and headaches and sometimes body aches but never a fever or sickness. This means that his immune system has not been working properly. He has not had a proper reaction to illness the way most people do.

We have been working on so many physical things with our son in the past 2.5 years with gut, nutrition, heavy metal toxicity etc that I am happy to say that his system is finally doing what it is supposed to do.

He had been sick for few days and he woke up and decided he wanted to try to go back to school so I dropped him off. It wasn’t even half an hour when I got a call saying he threw up. I told the teacher that I would be right over but inwardly I was smiling as I got so elated that things were finally working in his body! Don’t get me wrong, I was not happy he was not feeling well and that he got sick at school, but I was thrilled that his immune response was normal.

You see many times with children on the spectrum, internal body things do not work properly. It is a big puzzle that is spread out all over the floor and the pieces have to be fitted together to solve it and sometimes the pieces don’t fit so you have to take them out and move them around somewhere else to keep trying to complete the parts.

Our puzzle is unique to our child and your puzzle will be unique to your child. We may do the same things, but get different results and that’s okay. As long as we are moving forward to achieve healing, that’s all that matters for any child.

So the next time your child is sick, deal with the sickness, but be happy that the body is working. Always try to look at the other side and perhaps you will be able to put two more pieces of your puzzle together which will lead to continued healing!

 

What children teach us

alphabet class conceptual cube

I am a person who loves to learn, no matter what. The more I learn, the better I feel.

I love when learning is carefree and something that I don’t need to think about. I love learning from different people as I feel that we can always learn from each other even if our life circumstances are vastly different.

This week I have had the opportunity to learn from some pretty cool kids. These were kids with all different abilities and backgrounds. I love seeing how excited kids get and how each one of them is creative in their own special way. Our church hosted a day camp due to some of the school strikes in our area and I had the privilege of helping out.

I love watching kids and seeing how their mind words and why they do or don’t do certain things. I love seeing what makes them smile and also what makes them sad. It’s like a little mirror into their world. Each world is different and unique no matter who you are and the challenges that you face. I realize that our worlds constantly overlap every day. Although like me, you may be dealing with more “autism” things or you may be dealing with other issues altogether.

I always learn from adults as well. Some are close friends and others just casual acquaintances, but everyone has a different life story and there is always something to learn from interacting with another person.

Sometimes my life is so one-sided, so immersed in “our stuff” and I guess that’s how it is for most people.

If your life is similar to mine because you deal with “autism” things on a daily basis, try to see what is new with your child today. Take a few minutes, be in the moment and just watch and listen.

If your life circumstances are different, try to pay attention to the people you talk to today, listen, ask questions and discover something new.

I feel like that when we do this, we will not only grow as people but we also grow closer to people and feel more connected and appreciated in this world.

I