Monday with Maureen: “How to Improve Concentration and Focus in Your Life”

How to Improve Concentration and Focus in Your Life

Summer is consumed by fun activities and vacations, but it’s also a good time to recharge when you have the chance. Helen Sanders, chief editor of Health Ambition, reached out to us sharing this article about small steps you can take to improve concentration and focus your mind. Give it a read and give it a try this week, and receive the benefits that come with centering yourself during daily tasks. Happy Monday, friends!

 

Author: Helen Sanders

I’ve sometimes wondered – and others have asked – if I have a form of ADD or ADHD. I have a very hard time sitting still, and not a moment goes by in the day when I’m not doing something, playing with something, reading something, or fiddling with something. I’m not a smoker, but I can see why the oral fixation and the need to have something in your hands can be so hard to deal with.

I have a hard time staying focused on anything, so I had to actually find ways how to improve concentration in order for me to be an effective writer, teacher, runner, and martial artist (all of these things require a good deal of concentration).

If you want to know how to improve concentration or how to improve focus, here are some tips that have helped me…

Get your Senses Involved

how to improve concentration

If you want to concentrate more, try and engage all of your senses in what you’re doing. If you’re sitting in a meeting, try and take notes as you listen and see. Engaging your brain and your sense of touch can help make it easier for you to stay awake and alert – no matter how boring the droning may be.

Did You Know: Exercising your mind to improve your concentration and focus can help to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease? Whether you learn something new, memorize information, play games, do puzzles, solve riddles, or do new things with your mind, you’ll keep it active and prevent your mind from decaying as you age.

Use Mnemonics

how to improve concentration

Mnemonics uses visual images as a means of recalling information easily. There are mnemonic devices for just about everything, and you can create your own if you want.

“My very excellent mother just served us nine pickles” is a great way to remember the order of the planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto).

They’ll help you to picture something in your head, and that picture will be related to information you want to remember. If you have a hard time concentrating on important facts, use mnemonics to help you.

Understand the Information

how to improve concentration

If you don’t understand what you’re reading, writing, or listening to, how are you going to focus? In order to be able to concentrate and focus properly, you’ll have to understand the information being presented.

Try and relate the new information to information you already have or understand, or structure it in a way that follows a logical progression. Just like you learn a new recipe by structuring it like an old recipe, structure your information this way to make it easier to remember.

Try Music

how to improve concentration

You should try to use music for your work as well, as it will prevent your mind from wandering. When I write, I love to listen to music. It engages my sense of hearing, and it helps to tie my attention to the computer that I am using to write.

The music has to be coming through headphones directly into my ears, and surround sound or speakers just don’t work for me. Your brain can only multi-task so much, and occupying it with music and work leaves no room for any errant thoughts.

Just make sure the music you listen to matches the work you’re doing.

Understand Yourself

how to improve concentration

Know yourself and how you pay attention. My attention span lasts for about an hour and a half, and then I need a break. Some people can work for hours straight, but they have to down gallons of coffee to make it happen. Find out how you work, and make it easier on your body and your mind by tailoring your schedule accordingly.

Lifehack: Break your work up into chunks, and take a break once you’ve completed a task. I take a break after 90 minutes, and it helps me to focus more on what I’m doing once I get back to it. Plus, it gives my brain time to recover from the wealth of information I’ve typed and read as I work.

Cut Communications

how to improve concentration

Whatever you do, stay offline and incommunicado as much as possible.You don’t want to be distracted by emails, Skype messages, texts, and phone calls, so take your phone off the hook, close your internet window, turn off your cell phone, and close Skype.

Lifehack: Cut yourself off from the internet. If you have a hard time focusing on your work, you need to cut off all distractions. There are some apps what will do it for you. It will block your email, social media sites, and any other non-essential internet pages, helping you to focus on what you’re doing.

Exercises from the Early 20th Century

There’s this nifty book called The Power of Concentration, published in 1918 and written by Theron Q. Dumant. It’s got some great exercises that can help to improve concentration, like:

Focus on a Glass – Hold a glass of water in your hand, and extend your arm to its full length. Now stare at the glass, and hold it still for as long as you can. It can help you gain control over your voluntary muscles, and will sharpen your focus.

Smell the World – Sit in a comfortable spot, and inhale deeply through your nose. Try and isolate each of the smells that you are inhaling, and identify as many as you can. Try this at home, in the park, at the office, or anywhere else. It will help you concentrate your attention on individual things that make up a whole.

Feel Your Body – Listen to your heart beat, your stomach growl, your lungs fill and empty, and your blood pump. Picture your organs working, your blood flowing, and your body doing its thing. You’d be amazed at how relaxing it can be.

Monday with Maureen: “Summer and Sensory Processing Issues: How to Help Kids Stay Comfortable in What Can Be Overstimulating Outdoor Activities”

We stumbled upon Rae Jacobson’s writing through Child Mind Institute, and I can safely say all of her posts are well worth your attention. This post in particular caught my eye as I sorted through Google search results about how to ensure that kiddos with sensory processing issues still get the chance to enjoy summery activities. With fireworks, outdoor games, summer camps and summer treats just around the corner, kids can be overstimulated as well as overwhelmed by the newfound flimsiness of their daily schedules. Rae Jacobson, who frequently writes about the needs and experiences of children and teens with distinct mental health issues and learning disabilities, provides applicable ideas here that can ease the discomfort of unstructured summertime and soothe extra sensitive children. But don’t stop after you read this post – check out Child Mind Institute and how you can connect with their mission to help children wrestling with learning disabilities and mental health battles.

 

Author: Rae Jacobson, writer and content engagement specialist at the Child Mind Institute.

For many kids, summer vacation holds the promise of months of school-free fun. But for children with sensory processing issues, summer can be a challenging time.

From the sand on the beach to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, the season is full of exciting but potentially difficult experiences. An unfamiliar playground, a visit to an amusement park, a messy ice cream cone: all involve sensory surprises that can be overwhelming or upsetting if a child is unusually sensitive to light, noise, and tactile sensations. But with some preparation and planning parents can help kids with sensory issues get the most out of summertime.

Study your child’s specific needs

The first step to helping a child with sensory processing issues enjoy summertime is having a strong understanding his specific needs. Sensory processing issues come in many shapes and sizes, and no two kids are exactly the same. An activity like going to the beach might be a huge treat for one child and miserable for another, depending on their individual sensitivities.

“For children with tactile hypersensitivity something like going to the beach can be a nightmare,” says Lindsey Biel, an occupational therapist and author of Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens. “They can’t stand the way the sun feels on their skin, or the sand on their feet.”

The best way to avoid a meltdown at the beach is to tune into what your child’s behavior tells you. Did he refuse to go in the water at the waterpark last summer? Does he have trouble with sticky food like cotton candy? Does he run away when you try to put sunscreen on him? Looking back at what kinds of activities your child has enjoyed—and which have lead to meltdowns—is a great way to get a sense of what he’ll enjoy in the future, and what tools you can use to help potentially difficult activities become less stressful.

Make a schedule—and stick to it

When the school year ends, saying goodbye to homework is often cause for celebration, but for kids with sensory issues the loss of an orderly schedule can spell disaster.

“One of the difficult things that happens during summer is the loss of structure,” says Biel. “Kids with sensory issues thrive when there’s a predictable schedule and they can more or less tell what’s going to happen each day. When that’s gone the day becomes more stressful, not less.”

Unexpected events are jarring and disruptive for kids with sensory issues who are more sensitive to changes in environment or activity. Routine helps them feel comfortable and better prepared to handle what’s coming their way.

  • Consider enrolling kids in activities that help them maintain a schedule. Swimming, art, or other sensory-friendly classes or day camps can mimic the structure of school in a fun way.
  • Work with your child to make a calendar of upcoming events. Use stickers or fun doodles to represent activities. A dolphin sticker might represent a day at the beach or a picture of roller skates could mean a visit to the park.
  • Once you’ve made a schedule, try hard to stick with it. Disorder is very confusing for kids with sensory issues, so consistency is key.

Avoid surprises by thinking ahead

Summer is a great time to try new things but some experiences can be overwhelming for kids with sensory issues. When it comes to going out, careful planning can mean the difference between a happy summer day and a total meltdown. The more prepared they are the less likely they are to be overwhelmed, which means everyone will have a better time.

  • Focus on transitions. “Kids with sensory processing issues often struggle with transitions,” says Dr. Matthew Rouse, a clinician at the Child Mind Institute. “So it’s very important to give them plenty of warning when transitioning from one activity to another.”
  • Talk it out. “Prepare kids for potentially overwhelming activities by talking about what the experience will be like in advance,” says Dr. Rouse. “Knowing what’s going to happen takes a lot of the anxiety out of trying new things.”
  • Break it down. “Take any situation that’s potentially problematic and do a sensory analysis of it,” says Biel. If taking your kid to the park overwhelms him, think about what sensory triggers might be behind his reaction. Breaking the experience down to its sensory components—the light touch of long grass, the bugs, the noise—can help you and your child figure out how to manage the more difficult parts of the experience before you arrive.
  • Try a test run. “Once you know your child’s sensory triggers you can begin working to help them manage their sensory arousal,” explains Dr. Rouse. A lot of popular summer activities, especially those that take place outside, are full of intense multi-sensory stimulation. Kids may need to back up and explore the sensory experiences in a less stimulating environment.A great way to do this is to ‘test’ different components of the sensory experience in a non-stressful setting. “Making a sensory bin for kids to play with at home lets them get used to the different sensory experiences one at a time so they don’t get overloaded,” says Biel. “Turning desensitizing activities into play also helps kids associate difficult textures with fun.”Sensory bins are easy to make. For example, if you’re heading to the beach try filling a tray with sand and
    shells at home. This way he’ll have the chance to get used to the tactile experience long before you hit the shore. Another way to prepare for activities ahead of time is to ‘practice’ them at home. For example if you’re thinking of taking a hike, try doing a short test run in the park or the yard. This way, kids can get a preview of the sensations—how the grass brushes their legs, or how their backpack feels when they carry it for a long time, in a safe, comfortable space.
  • Make a sensory go-kit. “Kids should have their own toolbox of things that help them to feel good,” says Biel. Put together a backpack of objects that provide sensory relief so kids can carry them even when parents aren’t present. “Try including earmuffs, fidget toys, chewing gum or a weighted lap pad,” suggests Biel. “Anything that kids can use to keep themselves regulated during new or difficult activities.”

Summer tools to know

The right tools and clothes can reduce sensory overload and help kids have a good time.

  • Sunglasses: “Make sure the child has really high quality sunglasses,” says Biel, “A lot of kids with sensory issues are very sensitive to bright light.” A neoprene strap to help them stay on can be helpful.
  • Sun-protective hats: For kids who are very sensitive to sun try a soft, comfortable wide-brimmed hat.
  • Good bug spray: When it comes to mosquitos and ticks, comfort and safety are important. Many bug sprays are very effective but kids might resist them because they feel sticky or are strong-smelling. Lightweight long pants and long sleeves can be equally effective. You can also try spraying his clothing and hair rather than applying it directly to bare skin.
  • Sunscreen: If you’re spending time outside, sunscreen can be an essential. There are many different kinds, so
    investigate which works best for your child. Some are less greasy or come unscented or in spray versions. When applying sunscreen use massaging, even strokes. “Deep pressure is calming and organizing for kids.” says Biel. “Instead of using light touch to apply sunblock, use that as an opportunity for a massage. It can be a good way
    to help desensitize a child before going out.
  • The right bathing suit: “There are different bathing suits that have different sensory qualities to them,” says Biel. “A lot of kids can’t stand an elastic waistband, or the light touch of ruffles.” Finding a sensory-friendly suit will make going to the pool and other swimming activities much more fun for kids.
  • Ear protection: Bring noise-cancelling earmuffs. Reducing noise takes intensity out of multisensory experiences. This is especially helpful for kids who are very sensitive to sound, but can be a great way for any child to take a step back and regroup.
  • Portable shelter: Beaches and parks can be fun but it’s important for kids to have a retreat. An umbrella or beach cabana provides protection from the sun and gives kids a safe space to take a break during outdoor activities.
  • Protective shoes: If walking on grass or sand is intensely uncomfortable, don’t push kids to go barefoot. Bring along a pair of aqua socks or other comfortable shoes that work well in outdoor conditions.
  • Seek out sensory-friendly events: Many museums, movie theaters, and shows including circuses and major musicals offer summer events geared towards kids with sensory processing issues. To get a sense of what’s available, try doing an Internet search for sensory-friendly activities in your area.

Finally, remember that the goal is to help kids have a great summer. Focus on having fun, learning new skills, and doing what’s best for your kids and yourself.

 

Monday with Maureen: “Support, Confidence, and Coping Strategies: How to Help Your Child Handle Adolescent Anxiety”

Anxiety is crushing enough as it is, but for children who haven’t yet gained the communication skills or coping mechanisms adults have often acquired by the time they reach functional adulthood, anxiety may be an even deeper and darker nightmare. This article sketches out some ideas and explanation for parents walking through adolescent and childhood anxiety with their kids. Special thanks to Noah Smith, who reached out to us expressing concern for kids with anxiety that goes untreated and unaided. Noah loves sharing his travel advice on WellnessVoyager. He tries to take one big trip each year, is currently saving up to backpack through Europe, and graced our blog with his presence this morning through these insights into the mental health struggles so many endure throughout their childhood.

Author: Noah Smith

 

Growing up, children will go through many phases. Phases are normal, temporary, and typically harmless. However, if you notice signs of nervousness, fear, and shyness in your child that doesn’t go away, they may be dealing with an anxiety disorder. Here are a few tips on how you can help your child successfully cope with their anxiety.

 

Give them your support.

Having anxiety can make a child feel isolated and alone due to the stress it causes. As a parent, you need to show them that they are not alone and you are there to help them face this trying time.

There will be times you will want to shield your child from what triggers their anxiety, but the best way for them to learn how to successfully cope with and perhaps get over it is to face everything. They have to learn how to tolerate their anxiety and function to the best of their ability, especially when they are stressed. It can be tempting to take over, and although it will make your child feel better in the moment, it relays the message that they can’t handle it on their own.

One of the best ways you can support your child is by expressing positive, but realistic expectations. You can’t promise your child that they will never experience anxiety, but you can express confidence that they will be able to manage their anxiety and everything will be okay.

Let your child know that as they face their fears, their anxiety level will begin to drop. Build up their personal strength by praising them for facing challenges. Whether it is a pat on the back or a trip to get frozen yogurt, simple praise will go a long way in building your child’s self confidence.

 

Let them feel.

Expressing confidence in your child’s ability to overcome anxiety is very necessary, but you will also need to respect their feelings so that you don’t belittle their fears. Although it may be hard for you to bear, it is okay to let your child experience some anxiety.

It is important that you explain to your child that anxiety isn’t dangerous or a punishment, but rather their body’s natural coping mechanism. For example, it explains why they feel scared if they can’t find you in the store or why they feel anxious when they are walking home from a friend’s house and it is getting dark.

Anxiety is natural, but sometimes it bubbles over and becomes a barrier. Offer them encouragement to help them realize that they can face their fears. The message you want to come across is, “I recognize that you are afraid and that’s okay. I’m here and I’m going to help you get through this.” Fear is natural and overcoming it is too.

 

Teach them a positive coping strategy.

Breathing exercises can help your child to calm themselves in stressful situations and stave off a panic attack. A technique called calm breathing teaches your child how to slow down their breathing when they are feeling anxious. When children are anxious, they tend to take quick shallow breaths, which may cause hyperventilation. Calm breathing will help your child reestablish their sense of control.

Teach your child to take a slow breath in through their nose, hold their breath for 2 seconds, then exhale slowly through their mouth. Wait a few seconds, then repeat up to 10 times. Once your child becomes comfortable with this technique, encourage them to do it any time they feel it is necessary. This is an exercise that your child can do anywhere and it is so subtle that other people won’t even notice what they are doing.

The sooner you begin to enforce ways to successfully manage your child’s anxiety, the better off they will be. If left untreated, anxiety can lead to alcohol abuse or addiction when your child gets older. As a parent, you always want what’s best for your child, so start implementing these tools today so your child can live their best life.

Monday with Maureen: “If You Start to Apologize When I Tell You My Child Is on the Autism Spectrum”

Bird

Danielle Duggins writes with delight and wisdom about raising children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. Her blog, Someone’s Mum, brims with perceptive humor and narratives of growth, and her words paint a loving and brave picture of what it means to receive the gift that is her son. With thoughtfulness backed up by eloquence, she objects to the suggestion that her son is in any way defective. I was encouraged by Danielle’s joyful, seasoned appreciation for her son’s life (not to mention impressed how well-spoken she is as a writer!) and I can’t wait for you to read this post from her. And make sure to rummage through her blog for more wonderful writing!

Author: Danielle Duggins

 

You ask me, “Does your eldest child have autism?”

“Yes,” I reply.

“I’m so sorry.”

My stomach lurches. No. Don’t say you are sorry. I know you mean well. But don’t apologize for the gift that is my boy — for any part of him.

I used to think a child having a disability was a tragedy. I thought that the parents of such children must long for them to be “whole.” But your idea of “wholeness” is skewed by what you are, by what you know. Birds cannot breathe underwater. Fish cannot fly in the sky. We do not spend our time lamenting the lack of ability in either. Nor do we assume that the fishes long to fly, or that birds feel incomplete, soaring through the air.3

Fish writhe on the shore not because they are fish — but for the absence of water.

I know you want to express something. You are compelled to respond, to show you care. I know it is a subject that can make those without experience awkward and uncomfortable. You fear to offend and an apology is simple, closed. I am not offended but please — let me explain.

My boy cannot run, jump and climb like some other boys. He cannot dress himself or drink from a cup. Simple tasks we take for granted require a great effort.

But he can list the wonders of the solar system, in perfect order. Planets and moons and stars roll off his tongue. They must all be perfect. Io and Ganymede and Calisto and Europa. His perception of them is governed by rules that are as absolute as the rules of the universe that make them spin. His rules must be flawless, predictable — like gravity. And they are just as beautiful, in their perfection.

Communication can be a challenge for my boy. He has vocabulary — but the mysteries of interaction and communication must be learned. They will never come naturally. Sometimes he cannot tell me what he needs, and his frustration and despair tumble out of control.

But he loves music. He relates to the sounds of instruments more than lyrics and voices. He mimics the drums and the bass guitar and will tell me which instrument is which, his whole body tense with joy as he imitates them. Listening, singing, dancing — they are not enough. I believe he longs to be the music.

My boy cannot cope with disorder. The pressures of unpredictability take an awful toll. When there are changes, he shows anger, terror, or blankness. I do not know which is hardest to watch. I do know that it is my privilege to hold him, to protect him, to wait — until he feels better.

He is acutely honest. He is sensitive. He is loving. When I ask him how much I love him, the answer is always, “Do you love me as much as the whole world, Mummy?” and I must always reply, “Even more than that, gorgeous boy.”

He adores word games and strange vocabulary and the absurd. Deliberately muddling words can make him laugh until he shakes. He loves to make his baby sister giggle.

I have known no purer joy than watching the delight, mirrored in their faces.

He is perfect.

So, if you must feel sorry, feel sorry for those who do not see what I see. Feel sorry that the world is set up for fish, when he is bird. Feel sorry for those who might shun him, or fail to understand him, or even mock him — for strengths and weaknesses that seem so different to their own. It is their loss, their tragedy. For their perception that he is less, that he needs an apology, is based on standards that are not real. They are an illusion that seems real because the rest of us make it so by our actions, our attitudes.

You do not know what to say. And so you say sorry. You say, I don’t know how you do it. You say, you must be so strong. But my child is not a burden. He is the light of my life. And he would be yours too, if he were your child. Strength flows like water, for those we love. Yours. Mine. My spirit and resilience are no greater than yours.

So if you feel an apology about to escape your lips, stay silent. Or ask, instead, what is he like? What does he love? What makes him smile? What makes him laugh until he shakes?

Because I cannot, and will not, be sorry for any inch of him.

Monday with Maureen: Even Ellen is a Fan of Senseez!

You’ll never guess who’s featuring Senseez vibrating seat cushions and where they came from – EllenTube! Not only is this TV personality hilarious, she apparently has great taste in products contributing to childhood development. Check out this video by visiting the page, and read the accompanying story as well! There’s a sweet, informative blurb about how the company grew, and you can see the family behind the Senseez cushions. Happy Monday, friends!

Boy Invents Senseez Pillow

Monday without Maureen: I Don’t Actually Know Much About Selling Toys

Author: Janie Townsend, Assistant Manager at Mindful Toys/Therapy in a Bin

With Maureen on vacation somewhere tropical and sunny, it’s up to me to fill the void in our social media calendar. A few disclaimers before I write another word: (1) I am not a parent of autistic children, like Maureen is; (2) I am not a mother at all, like Maureen is; and (3) I am not in any way an expert in the world of childhood development, which Maureen kind of is because of her experience plugging her kiddos into early intervention therapies and services.

All that is to say I am no authority on neurodevelopmental disorders or the lives of people affected by them firsthand. On occasion, when customers come visit the store and hear my spiel about the importance of allowing children to fidget or have weighted stuffed animals, I get asked if I have a background in childhood development. I laughingly reply every time that I was a business major in school and merely wandered into Mindful Toys/Therapy in a Bin on a whim when I applied for the job, and have no academic or professional experience whatsoever in therapeutic toy distribution. I don’t actually know much about selling toys in general, educational or otherwise.

In fact, I walked into the store that fateful September day simply because the idea that therapeutic toys were being offered to children in the first place made me feel hopeful. I didn’t know yet what kinds of toys were inside, and I had no idea every product had been selected for its helpfulness to children on the spectrum as they maneuvered through occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, speech therapy, and the list goes on and on.

As a recent college grad who saw numerous friends seeking counseling services and support for mental and emotional turbulence, I’ve gotten used to hearing the word “therapy.” I don’t flinch or feel nervous anymore if someone mentions it, not like I did when I was a high schooler and my framework for understanding the purpose and format of therapy was supplied exclusively by other people who thought therapy was a bad thing, along with movies and television.

Watching people get help and end up the better for it melted and reshaped my misunderstanding of therapy. And while your standard “I can’t live life this way anymore, let’s work through my messy feelings and thoughts and habits” therapy is not the same as occupational therapy for a three-year-old with ASD, the point is I was thrilled by the sight of a toy store embracing the chance to nourish not only children, but a community’s understanding of what it means to encourage and love children well.

When I stumbled upon Mindful Toys/Therapy in a Bin, my transformed appreciation for therapy and people’s rhetoric surrounding it inspired me to pop my head in the door. And now I know more than I ever realized I could know about the amazing things people are capable of when given a chance to be strong and brave. To me, that’s really what our store is about. Kids affected by all kinds of things – anxiety, sensory processing disorder, learning delays, you name it – come in all the time, and I’m dumbfounded at how hard they work everyday just to make it through a single class or maintain one friendship. No one who walks inside (and is probably barked at by our soon-to-be therapy pup) has to worry we’ll wrinkle our noses or look at them funny when they tell us a therapist recommended our products. That’s what makes us special. That’s a better selling proposition than any marketer could invent for us.

This is just my way of gushing about a good place, I suppose. If you’re in Nashville, definitely come visit. We won’t judge if you or your child are in any kind of therapy, and we have fun toys and fidgets, and our dog will very probably bark at you (it’s an affectionate greeting, I promise). Pop your head in the door like I did and maybe you’ll feel a little hopeful, too.

Monday with Maureen: “When I Need to Leave My Comfort Zone as an Autistic Person”

When I Need to Leave My Comfort Zone as an Autistic Person

Whenever you have the chance, visit this blog post on The Mighty, written by John Long about combating the temptation to stay in his comfort zone as an adult on the spectrum.

I invite you to give it a read for two reasons: (1) because Long begins the blog by referencing C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, an excellent reading choice that deserves being bragged about, and (2) because his perspective on life as an autistic individual is one of wisdom, whittled into shape through years of experiences, formative relationships and growth.

My mantra, which my sons are doubtlessly tired of hearing, is that the accommodations for autistic individuals are different but the expectations are not. This translates particularly well to classroom settings, so I may or may not have said it to both my boys on enough occasions to earn the “broken record” accusation. Be that as it may, I will stand by it and say that for anyone to live their life fully, there has to be a balance of knowing what you need, and knowing when you have to experience hard or scary things in order to do more than exist without consequence.

That said, Long’s blog post eloquently describes the experiences of someone managing that very balance day by day. With resolve and willingness to learn, Long’s words can speak into anyone’s life, autistic or not. Seeing the limitations of dwelling exclusively in one’s comfort zone makes it gradually easier to identify when retreating or resting in a safe space offers healthful results versus when it prevents them.

Anyway. Give it a read and consider where your comfort zone could be bent a little for your own good, if personal growth sounds like a good time to you. If not, just track down a copy of The Great Divorce and enjoy that instead. It’s a stupendous book, believe me.

Monday with Maureen: All About Timing

Let me take a moment to admit I had no part in the filming or sharing of this video. I found it on Facebook and fell in love with it, and all film credit goes to BFirst.in and not me. That said, this is what I wanted to share with all of you today.

WATCH: Little Cute Elephant Need Help- Bfirst.in …

Baby Elephant is Lia, and helped by her aunt Kery. This video was shot at Barumun Nagari Wildlife Sanctuary-Indonesia.

Posted by BFirst.in on Thursday, April 20, 2017

When I watch this baby elephant flopping over sideways in near-defeat before its mother helps him up, I think of my own kids. It would have been easy for the mother elephant to hoist her little one out of the mud from the start, and we can see in the video that she watches the baby struggle for a good while before actually offering any assistance. But raising a child means recognizing that someday said child will be a grown, fully-functioning, autonomous person. And no autonomous person can live their life well if they’ve never struggled through a problem, figured it out one way or another, and come out on the other side with the confidence and wisdom they gained from the whole grueling process.

A mother’s work is all about timing. Whether it’s balancing a schedule around soccer practice, tutoring and fifty other social/academic obligations, figuring out how long meal prep will take, or knowing when to let her child wrestle and problem-solve on their own, timing is always crucial. But the key to giving a child enough space for some healthy flailing is not standing too far off.

This mother elephant lets her baby try, and try, and try, and when nothing works she literally steps into the hole her child has slipped into. She knows how to help and sees the answer right away, being older, bigger and stronger than the baby. But she also knows her child needs to learn how to try, because no kid ever figured out how to succeed without learning how to try first.

So here’s to motherhood, with all it’s challenges and rewards and painful responsibilities, like knowing when your child needs to fail and knowing when they can learn a thing or two from you. May this little elephant video remind you what learning and success and love look like, and if it doesn’t do that, at least it’ll make you smile.

Monday with Maureen: “Easter on the Spectrum”

Flowers

When researching different holiday experiences within the autism community, we stumbled across this blog entry on Autism Speaks’ website. Written by one of their Autism Response Team Coordinators, we felt this was a sweet perspective on how to celebrate traditions and special occasions with a child on the spectrum. Have a happy, post-holiday week, friends!

 

Author: J-Jaye Hurley

Experiencing the holidays with a child on the spectrum often presents challenges, and there are many holiday traditions that most “typical” families probably take for granted.  Getting your child’s photo taken with the Easter Bunny is one of those traditions and was something we had not done with my son since he was diagnosed at 2 with severe autism spectrum disorder. The crowds, noises, and long lines all conspired to simply be too much for Jackson so each year we just chose to skip it.  This year, we were fortunate to learn of a new program called Caring Bunny, which made it possible for all of us to visit and pose with Mr. Bunny together!  This program allowed families with special needs to come to the mall before it opened to spend as much time as you wanted with the Easter Bunny! We took several pictures, the staff was friendly and conscious of Jackson’s possible needs (one employee asked if bells would startle or bother him before he used them), and zero lines or crowds!  This was the perfect Jackson scenario – even giving the Easter Bunny a high five and hug before we left!  It was a special memory for me and I am thankful more and more organizations are implementing special needs time into their “typical” programs.

In the five years since he was diagnosed, I have learned to “adjust” my holiday expectations so my son can actually enjoy and participate in each holiday in the best way he can, not being forced into doing something just because I felt we “should” (i.e. Seeing the Easter Bunny!).  These past few years, we all still dye eggs together- though we do it now in steps, take lots of “breaks” and enjoy making a mess together.  Jackson used to have a lot of sensory issues with different textures and even getting his hands wet, but through years of OT, he now really enjoys these experiences.  He helps select the eggs to boil, watches them in the bubbly water and then drops them into the colored water.  My husband and I hide them for him in our backyard and though he doesn’t really understand why, he will “hunt” them on Easter Sunday, though just being outside on a spring day is “holiday” enough for him so that’s what we do!  (Hunting eggs is also a fun way to work on our IEP goal of following 2-step directions in the natural environment – “Jackson, pick up the egg and put it in your basket”!)

Jackson still has challenges with attending church service, though he enjoys the opening live music, often “dancing” in the aisle.  I will also have an Easter basket for Jackson – which I have learned he will take several hours to go through, just as he does his Christmas and birthday gifts.  I no longer include typical, age-appropriate Easter fare in his basket, but I stock up on fidgets, chewies, Sesame Street DVDs and bubbles which I know he will truly enjoy.  I hope that you and your family are able to enjoy some extra time together and even some of the “traditional” Easter holiday activities – even though they may be adapted to fit certain needs by following your kiddo’s comfort level.  Of course, there is always room for a little bit of Easter candy in Jackson’s basket each year – that is something we can ALL agree on and enjoy together! HAPPY EASTER!

Monday with Maureen: “4 Reasons the School My Kids on the Autism Spectrum Attend Is Awesome”

School Supplies

Author: Steph Murray, Contributor for The Mighty.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard horror stories from other parents about how untrained, uncaring or uninterested a school was for their kids with disabilities. I’ve heard it equally in regard to public and private schools. There are a lot of different factors that go into each story, but the ones that really bothered me were the tales of woe from public school systems near our area. Mainly because we got lucky, and we have a great one. So I know it’s possible for a public school to be totally great for their kids. As we know, though, bad news usually travels the fastest and the farthest.

The complaints I heard recently at a disabilities conference were from people who lived all over, and they ranged in scale. People had to pull their kids out of one school or another because their kids were refused services, or their teachers were terrible, or their administrators were terrible. While funding certainly helps tremendously, it’s not the entire reason a public school is great. Some of these same people told terrible stories about districts much like the one I live in. Districts that, quite frankly, shocked me to hear that it was difficult to get services for their kids, because I’ve seen their public finances, and they aren’t hurting for the funding they need for these services. There are also the stories of teachers or psychologists who don’t listen to the parents. They don’t believe the parents when they try to tell them their concerns about their kids.

Or there are the tales of complete apathy about a student’s existence in the school. Where kids are ignored and not helped in the way they should be helped.

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but around here, and from what I’ve heard, the tales of school system failures for disabilities are much more prevalent than the successful ones. So I decided to share my son’s school story to shine a positive light on what public education can do for our kids.

Here’s a short list I compiled of certain attributes I believe contribute to the awesomeness of the school that both of my kids on the autism spectrum attend.

1. Active Listeners: Administrators and teachers who don’t just hear what you are saying in regard to concerns about your kids, but actually listen. They then make suggestions and put the suggestions that you agree to, and/or your own ideas that they agree to into action. Real, every day action. It doesn’t matter how silly a request may seem — if it helps your kid and it’s doable, they do it.

2. Positive Attitudes: An open, positive attitude toward any challenge presented allows for more possibilities of success. Plain and simple.

3. Communication: This could go hand and hand with listening, but communication between the school and parents throughout the day is paramount! If my kid does something he doesn’t normally do through the day, good or bad, I hear about it before the next school day. Either in text, in person or I read about it at home that day on his communication log. On rare occasion little things slip through until a few days later, because they’re human, but usually I hear about everything as it happens.

4. Attentiveness: This goes beyond listening and communicating. This is when you walk in to your school and it’s like the TV show “Cheers” — everyone knows you and your kids’ names. The day time custodian knows how my oldest kid likes to eat certain foods at lunch because he pays attention to the goings on around him as he’s cleaning up after the kids. Can little things go unnoticed sometimes? I’m sure. However, the overall secure feeling I get when I think about my kids being in school is something I cannot put a price on. Knowing they are being watched and legitimately cared for while in school getting an education is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received as a parent, other than my kids themselves.