For nearly two decades, Toys "R" Us has maintained a Toy Guide For Differently Abled Kids, and the mega toy store has just released the most recent version. Updated with new toy suggestions, the guide is a trusted recourse for families, friends, and caregivers of kids with special needs. Along with the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making play accessible to children of all abilities, Toys "R" Us selected toys that help children with physical and cognitive disabilities develop skills through the power of play. The easy-to-use, color-coded system makes it easy to navigate the guide and find the perfect toy for your tot. Click through for a special collection of featured toys that correlate with 10 essential skills.
Celebs are known to go on fad diets to get red carpet ready in an instant — Dukan diet anyone? But these days, it's their kids who are following the unusual eating habits. More than just picky eaters, these lil ones are removing wheat, nuts, and meat from their menus due to allergies and health. Take a look at seven Tinseltown tots moving beyond the children's menu and eating differently than other children in the cafeteria.
This honestly isn't meant to be a knock on men. Yet the truth is that moms tend to accept an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis a whole lot more quickly than dads.
I'm not quoting statistics in stating that, although I am sure somewhere out there some do exist. No, I am speaking from personal experiences, both my own and those of friends and acquaintances whose children have been diagnosed.
Thanks to the honesty and openness of posters in various threads in the Autism/Asperger's/PDD Awareness community, my theory that mom pulls her head out of the sand much faster than dad does seem to be a common story.
Here is just a sampling:
"My son was diagnosed at 26 months and his dad refused to believe it," shares Amber W.
"I am so sick and tired of these fathers who refuse to accept that their children have neurological disorders. Painfully, it would be easier for them if your child had a life threatening illness like cancer, or diabetes, because then they can comprehend it," laments Sheila D.
"Mothers seem to be the first to be able to accept their child's diagnosis. Fathers and extended family are usually a lot slower and find it more difficult, maybe it's because we have no choice but to pick up the pieces and do what our child needs us to do," posts Amanda S.
"My husband refuses to accept that my son has any issues other than some mild development delays," posts Becky M.
"My husband doesn't think my son has a problem. He thinks that Tyler just doesn't care about anything or anyone and just needs firmer discipline," writes Lindsay. "How can I help my husband so we can help my son?"
How can I help my husband so we can help my son?
That is the million dollar question.
Here are some priceless answers to it — obviously, easier said than implemented — also coming from moms posting on various threads in the Autism/Asperger's/PDD Awareness community.
"Maybe get some medical person to explain things to your husband," suggests Cassandra J.
"Your husband sees the same child you do, so try to make sure you can use examples of things you know he has witnessed and why they are related to your son's (or daughter's) condition," advises Beth B.
"I started printing symptoms and signs for him to read and he started seeing that is was more than just being stubborn and misbehaving," shares Thomasine H.
"Your best bet is to print out the shortest, most direct, most detailed piece of info you can find which describes your child. Hand it to your husband and tell him calmly to read it," posts Jeannette C.
"Give him time to come around. He might not show it but it is painful for a father to admit there is something he cannot protect his child from," writes Amanda S.
One Family's Story
In my case, each of the above pieces of advice has played out in one shape or another.
Coming to grips with Ian's status on the autism spectrum wasn't easy for either of us. But it was indeed me, his mom, who recognized early on that something wasn't quite "normal." Perhaps that was because as the mom at home, I was with him more. And I was propelled into immediate action when I learned that the earlier we intervened, the better.
The initial vagueness around Ian's diagnosis as PDD-NOS (Pervasise Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) instead of Asperger's Syndrome right off the bat did indeed frustrate my husband. It was a whole new and very foreign world for him. What do all those letters really mean? How is this fixed? Both of those questions, which he raised repeatedly, demonstrated his lack of patience for the many vagaries surrounding autism. If something was wrong, he wanted to be able to fix it, and the reality that Ian's cognitive disorder couldn't be cured, only mitigated (by teaching him coping skills) frustrated my husband's need to make everything alright for our family.
He is not alone in this need.
"Having a child on the spectrum is a scary unknown that can't, at this point, be 'cured'", writes Amanda B. in the Autism/Asperger's/PDD Awareness community.
"They (men) try to fix it, ignore it and hope it goes away. Anything to make it not true," states Leslie L. in the Mothers of Children With Tourette's community. (Tourette's Syndrome often is a co-diagnosis with autism.)
This was true of my husband. I don't know if he didn't want to believe the diagnosis or if he simply didn't want this diagnosis to be true. I shamefully admit I was too occupied processing my own feelings and seeking help for our son. Either way, my husband's head went deep in the sand. But an amazing social worker finally yanked him into the open air of autism reality, where he took the first of many deep breaths.
I remember that day well. He was anxious when Ian's caseworker came to our home. She patiently went over mounds of paperwork and outlined various programs. When Bob blatantly and very vulnerably asked if Ian would ever be cured, she looked him straight in the eye, didn't bat an eyelash and said, "No, he will have autism all of his life."
It hurt to watch the wind go right out of my husband's sails. He knew then and there that the things I'd been trying and failing to communicate for the past several months were true. I wanted to shout, "See, I told you so, I told you so. Why aren't you listening to me? Do you get it now? Are you going to get on board or what?" But I didn't. At least not right then.
A few days later said social worker made a follow-up phone call. She told me I should be patient with my husband's response. Let him process in his way, she told me. In the meantime, I needed to be the strong one for our son. It's just the way it is, she told me. Moms carry the heavier emotional burden when a family faces autism or any special need for that matter.
I've seen this scenario play out in many other families. Friends of ours, for instance, who had three girls and were finally expecting a boy. The dad's dream — of a burly son to rough and tumble with, to follow in his footsteps — was set to be realized. Then the diagnosis came. Not only a form of autism, but also Fragile X, a chromosomal deficiency in which genes responsible for intellect are unable to produce the protein necessary to support typical cell development. In most cases, it leads to some level of mental retardation. As this played out for their son, the parents discovered that two of their daughters have spectrum disorders as well.
Suddenly dreams were shattered.
Some time later, I ended up seated next to the father at a potluck. I asked how he was doing. The unhidden pain in his eyes told me all I needed to know. I took a deep breath and hoped my soul could muster up more patience than I initially had for my own husband's denial. I shared with this father as gently as I could that if he mourned the loss of what he hoped for in his son, he could then fully embrace who his son truly is and celebrate the boy's milestones as he shepherds him to adulthood.
The good news is that once a dad is on board the good ship Autism, he's a fearless captain. Note, I did not say a hearty crew member. The reality is that the swabbing of the deck, the hoisting of the mast and securing the anchor is still left up to mom. But dad does become an excellent captain steering the ship into port where supplies and a little rest and relaxation are obtainable.
It didn't happen the way I wanted it to, but my husband has become an advocate for Ian in a way I never expected nor could accomplish myself. He doesn't respond to Ian the way I do, but he's able to set appropriate expectations, and often provides the firmness and structure that Ian's cognitive disorder requires and that I find more difficult to muster.
Did my husband accept the diagnosis as quickly as I did? Positively not. Does he understand Ian in the same way I do? Nope, not even similar. But he sees nuances I don't. He took the shattered glass of our dreams and fashioned it into a kaleidoscope that reflects things mine never would.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.
Traveling with any kid is challenging. Add special behavioral needs to the mix, and getting from point A to point B can be more like navigating a mine field than an airport or the open road. When you leave home and its reassuringly predictable routine, whether you have a special needs kid or just one who gets antsy on the road, how do you prepare yourself and your child for the surprises of travel?
Circle of Moms member Kristin poses this very question in the Traveling With Children community: "Has anyone here traveled with a child who has behavioral issues caused by their special needs?" she asks.
According to Alison E., talking to the airline ahead of time is a must. Her son has behavioral issues and severe anxiety. She contacts the airlines well ahead of the scheduled departure day to request advice on how to accommodate his needs, and she shares that, "Some airlines allow you to bypass the lines."
She also tries to stay flexibile and thick skinned. "It is always nerve-wracking as you never know if he will act up. But just be prepared for the worst," she advises. Also: "Most importantly, don't worry about what anyone else says about your child because they don't know the situation and they have not walked a mile in your shoes."
Nicole S. has taken her son, who has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) to Uganda twice to accompany her on volunteer work. Getting there requires two days of flying and several layovers. She recommends taking a highly proactive approach with the people you encounter along the way.
"I was extra friendly to the people around me and apologized if things got tough for awhile. They were usually understanding and compassionate seeing (my) efforts," she posts.
She also stocks up on games for her son's portable system and brings out a new game to distract him whenever he becomes agitated. She packs lots of snacks and selects seats near the bathroom in the back of the plane in an effort to minimize any disturbance to other passengers. And last, she always brings melatonin to help her son fall asleep.
Shannon F., whose daughter has ADHD, also stockpiles distractions for long road trips: "The only way to keep her from not having a fit is to have something to do." Her arsenal includes a portable DVD player and loads of coloring books.
Angee S., a travel agent who is also a mom to an eight-year-old autistic son, recommends preparing your special needs child for travel by talking to him about the specific logistics of the trip in advance. She enlists the help of a training program called Social Stories, which is specificially targeted for children and adults on the autism spectrum.
"I read him Social Stories and books about flying so that he knows what to expect," she shares.
(Social Stories was invented by Carol Gray, founder of The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding in Grand Rapids, Mich. They are short stories depicting a particular social situation with the aim of teaching autistic children and adults the appropriate social behaviors and responses.)
Angee S. also purchases some "surprise" items and wraps them just for the trip. Whenever she needs to re-direct her son's attention from something that's bothering him, she doles out a surprise for him to unwrap.
Her other tactics include movies and strategic seating: "I also make sure he has a good stash of movies to choose from," she states, adding that "Sitting next to the window is a must, as he can watch the world go by, and I am a buffer to the rest of the plane."
Sarah D. recently took her three-year-old son with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) on his first flight. She read articles ahead of time, took her son to the airport before the day of their scheduled departure for a dry run (as far as the security gate), and arrived on the day of her family's flight in plenty of time to not be rushed through the process. "A little preparation goes a long way," she states.
From traveling with my own special needs son (13-year-old, Ian, has Asperger's), I would agree with all these moms that anticipating your child's needs goes a long way toward avoiding behavioral meltdowns. I have Ian select whatever entertainment items he wants to bring along in his carry-on backpack. I also make sure I have a credit card handy before getting seated so that I can rent a digital player for movies or television shows. And I try to just go with the flow: when, in spite of many reassurances, he remains anxious about whether our plane's on time, I encourage him to go to the gate agent to inquire directly. I take note of any food vendors en route from the security check point to the gate, since trying the airport's offerings shifts his focus away from all the boring, anxiety-provoking waiting involved in air travel. Yes, I admit it: when all else fails, distract them with munchies.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.
Your special needs kid wiggles in his chair at school and often stares off into space, leading his teacher to the assumption that he's not paying attention. Or even worse, the teacher begins to consider him to be a behavior problem just waiting to happen.
Trouble is your kiddo actually has one (or possibly even more than one) of the many and varied cognitive disabilities that express themselves highly uniquely in each child, and that still baffle some in the educational community. And now you, the parent, are having trouble convincing his teacher to provide a modified approach in the classroom. Or perhaps you have presented said teacher with plenty of documentation, and the teacher dutifully nodded and said, "thank you," but a lack of adjustment in the classroom has proved that actions truly do speak louder than words.
"I have found that your child's success in school depends entirely on the type of teacher that they have," posts Tammy N. in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community. "The teacher has the ability to make or break your experience."
But what can you do when there appears to be more breaking than making occurring?
The first step is talking. Yes, talking — even though having a pleasant conversation with said difficult teacher is probably the last thing you really want to do.
"Communication with the teachers and staff is so important," writes Shelly N., also a member of the Moms of Kids With ADHD community. She has two boys who've been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. "I kill them (the teachers) with kindness, offer names of books for them to read, and send them links to sites with helpful info."
A first bridge-builder is to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. They aren't necessarily "experts" on every disability. As Shelly N. cautions, "do not assume that teachers, because they are teachers, know how to deal with and help these kids. They get a blip of concentrated instruction in this area."
Lanny H. suggests tactfully sharing some tips that you already know will work with your child: "Come up with some acceptable methods to help," she says in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community.
For example, Cathy C. knows that her teenage son with ADHD struggles with the end-of-the-school-day routine. As she explains, "We found that a check sheet taped to his desk would help him to remember the many things he needed to pack up to bring home at the end of the school day. This took some of it off of the teacher and put the responsibility on him."
However, teachers are as varied as the rest of the human population. Not all are flexible. As Suzanne H. laments in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community, "Some teachers are set in their ways and don't want to take the time to help kids who need a little more attention."
If being proactive in offering information doesn't net the kind of changes that address your child's specific learning needs, then it's time to take the teacher to the principal's office.
But don't make that request by phone only. It's too easily ignored and too difficult to document. Cathy C. suggests documentation: "I recommend that you email the principal, counselor and teacher(s) to request a meeting. If you do this via email with a read receipt, at least you will know they received the request. When you get a response, make sure you save both your email and theirs, or better yet, save and print all correspondence."
It may seem as if you are in a battle for your child's education. You are. However, do your best to remain non-combative in your strategy with teachers and staff.
"I am really trying not to be on the defensive with teachers, nor do I want to alienate them or cause them to take anything out on my child," writes Shelly N. "But I will do what it takes to make sure he gets all the accommodations and assistance he is entitled to."
Successfully securing accommodations often means having an IEP (Individual Education Plan), which governs your child's education, in effect. (See Riding the IEP Rollercoaster.)
"If you don't have an IEP in place, get it done immediately," posts Angela C., whose youngest son has a co-diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD, and anxiety. "Once that's in place, the school and teachers have to follow it and give the help."
Even with an IEP though, you'll no doubt have to continue being a bit of a squeaky wheel. As Jennifer B. shares in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community, you're the best person for the job: "Always remember, no one knows your child better than you do. Never let someone else tell you they think they know what is best just because they see him (or her) for an hour a day, five days a week, in a high-stress environment."
What's worked best for you with your child's teachers?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.
The fight to secure financial benefits from the government for a disabled minor child can be a long, grueling and emotional battle. "They ask for so much information that a lot of people give up," writes Linda G. in the Mothers of Special Needs Children community, referring to government programs that require what seems like endless documentation. Yet for those who persist, success provides desperately needed dollars.
Here is some heart-felt advice from Circle of Moms members who've been through the experience of obtaining benefits for a disabled minor.
"Social Security nearly 100 percent of the time will deny any application the first time," posts Amy L. in the Mothers of Special Needs Children community. "My daughter's disease has a 100 percent approval rate, but they still denied it initially. I had to appeal twice."
Her advice: Keep appealing. Be stubborn. Don't give up.
"Show them you are serious. Keep them up to date with changes, doctor's appointments, etc. Request a social worker assists you with appeals if necessary," Amy L. advises.
Perseverance and a little string-pulling is what Mandy C. suggests.
"No matter how many times they deny, you keep appealing it. Get your physician and therapists involved," she writes.
Becky S. encourages taking the fight for benefits one step further: "Go get a lawyer for Social Security benefits," she advises. "They can get you benefits your child needs. They get results faster than you can get on your own."
And mom of TEN Linda G. suggests making the fight an even more personal endeavor by providing case workers with an up-close encounter with your child.
"Bring your child to your appeal so they can see for themselves what you have to deal with," Linda G. posts. "We did. That's when we got approved."
Frustratingly enough, getting approval for financial assistance for a disabled minor child isn't a reality for many of the families struggling to meet the monetary demands of raising a child with special challenges. This is the case for Sabrina R.
"Disability denied my disabled son benefits," she writes in the Mothers of Special Needs Children community. "Why is this even happening?" She explains that the denial was due to financial reasons. "Apparently you have to have an income no greater than $938 a month to qualify. Are you kidding me? This money is not for us. It's for him."
Unfortunately, government programs do not take into account the extra financial burden having a child with a disability can place on a family. Strict income-based guidelines are in force under federal policies. These income guidelines are not solely based on the child's income. Until the age of 18. parent's income counts as well in determining financial need.
"We consider your child's income and resources. We also consider the income and resources of family members living in the child's household," is the explanation given in the electronic book Benefits For Children With Disabilities published on the federal Social Security Administration website.
While the federal government sets basic family income guidelines, various states amend these to better reflect local economic conditions. Each state is different. The best way to find out the what the income guidelines are where you live is to check with your local Social Security office.
Should your family's income fall within guidelines, you still must prove your child's disability. "That is the key," states Florida mom Tara P. "To show that he (or she) is disabled compared to his (or her) peers and how it impacts him (or her)."
A big step toward getting an approval is to have disability-demonstrating documentation at the ready when first applying for benefits. "Be prepared to have stuff from your doctor with the diagnosis on it, stuff from psychologists, and stuff from school, like an IEP (Individual Education Plan) that states their disability," suggests Ashley K. in the Autism/Aspergers/PDD Awareness community.
Being prepared with paperwork in hand is what Angela M. did to secure disability payments for her son: "I had a little folder I brought to the appointment with me that contained EVERYTHING given to me from any doctors appointments that proved he had autism, a letter from his neurologist stating it wasn't a temporary diagnosis, and then a financial list of my income and how it was spent (bills, food, diapers, doctor appointments) and when they saw that what I needed was more than what I made, my son was approved," she shares. "You can't rely on the doctors to have and or send all the needed information, so it's good to keep your own records of your child's medical history handy for reason like this."
Have you faced a battle for benefits? What did you do to win it?
Recently, I sat down with a team of excellent, kind, and hard-working educational professionals for my son's three-year IEP (Individual Education Plan) evaluation. Together, we looked at a plethora of documents with test results and charts that were there to demonstrate Ian's academic and social deficiencies and to justify the need for continued services. By the end of the meeting we had formulated a plan for the coming school year. And I had once again come face-to-face with the ugly reality that my precious child is behind his peers. Or at least that is the truth as it is spelled out on paper.
These meetings are important, necessary and I am ever so thankful for everyone's efforts. But they are gut wrenching for me. Attending my son's IEP meetings is like strapping in for a rollercoaster ride. Sadly, I'm not a thrill ride kind of girl. Being upside down and potentially puking all over myself is not my idea of a good time. Yet Ian is now a seventh-grade student and I've been hopping on this ride every year since preschool. You'd think that by now I'd have developed an iron stomach. Or at least an iron heart, to help me keep my emotions in check.
The IEP: A Necessary Evil
The IEP is, of course, a necessary evil. In this day of tight budgets, the proof is in the paperwork. It safeguards the special services that are provided to a student with cognitive social functioning difficulties.
But it doesn't change the fact that it super sucks to once again hear disappointing news: according to psychological tests, more than 80 percent of the kids roaming the halls of Ian's school are performing at a higher level than my bright-eyed man boy.
At least I'm in good company: many moms have a love-hate relationship with the IEP.
"I HATE those IEP meetings," posts Patricia D. in the Autism/Aspergers/PDD Awareness community.
"They (IEPs) can be very intimidating," writes Jennifer P., also a member of the Mothers of Special Needs Children community.
Annemarie B., posting in the Autism/Aspergers/PDD Awareness community on Circle of Moms, shares that she still feels intimidated even after attending IEP meetings for eight years.
"You feel so out of place with all the professionals in the room," she says.
And yet the presence of all those experts—in Ian's case a school psychologist, speech therapist, special education teacher, regular education teacher, special education department chair, principal, plus a representative from the school district busing department—is reassuring. It helps me see that I'm not alone, that many folks are on board this ride with me.
Which brings me full circle to my first and foremost IEP-oriented emotion: gratitude.
While I do battle a myriad of emotions at IEP time, this one isn't a fight. It is more of an embrace. I am thankful for the people working so diligently to help my son overcome his obstacles to reach his potential. He's a budding scientist, mixing all sorts of concoctions in his room. Without their belief in his current and future capabilities, he wouldn't have the opportunities he does to develop that passion. I know teaching is a job performed from a heart filled with care. There simply is no way anyone would last long in the profession without one.
What Really Matters, Tests Or Grades?
Frustratingly, all those experts speak an educational lingo that can take years for a parent to fully grasp.
It's tough to decipher what matters more: these performance tests with all their mysterious formulas, or the grades that were just sent home?
Third-quarter grades came in the mail this week. Ian has a "B" average in mostly mainstream classes. (His only "special education" courses are language arts and a study skills class. A junior high boy doesn't require Asperger's Syndrome to qualify for that type of remedial help.) My husband asked me how our child can score so low on performance tests yet still bring home respectable marks.
I questioned it as well until I realized once again that the IEP process, which includes its own testing and evaluation, is what gets Ian the extra help he needs to earn these respectable grades and to build patterns for future success.
Ian takes his time processing information. This isn't a bad thing unless you are taking a timed test. Ian won't perform well if he's rushed. He struggles to accurately follow multi-step directions.
Melissa G., posting in the Autism/Aspergers/PPD Awareness community, reminds me that the nature and (hopefully) end goal of the IEP meeting is "to help our children reach their full potentials."
The reality is this: My son is a square peg in a round world. We cannot shave too much off from him or he won't be who is meant to be. But we do have to gently round off his edges so that he'll fit better.
Hope in a Text Message
The other day Ian was out with a friend and his father at the hobby shop, searching out parts for a school science project. My cell phone began to buzz with text messages, little updates on the project's progress. To my amazement, the bulk of the messages came across with correct spelling, punctuation and grammar. I wondered if Ian's buddy was actually punching the buttons. But my suspicions were mistaken. My son's syntax is unmistakable, and confirmed the messages were actually from him. My kid was texting me! He was texting me enough to almost be annoying. Just like any other kid.
Suddenly my fears were put to a nap (I wish I could say rest). For at least one afternoon, I ceased worrying about the results of his IEP tests as I watched evidence of his progress and normalcy ping me repeatedly through the little screen.
Every year it takes me some time to recover from the jarring twists and turns my emotions experience on the rails of the IEP ride. But at least it isn't the bumper cars. And maybe in the future, I'll feel I've just ridden a carousel instead.
For years, my now 13-year-old son, Ian, has needed everything to be the same. As a toddler he would not sleep in his bed unless his blankets were laying in a certain order and various stuffed animals – including his Tickle Me Elmo – were tucked along the right edge of his red car bed – also in a very specific order.
He’d have a fit if he knew Mom was sharing this highlight from his younger years. After all, now he’s a cool junior high school student who would never admit to having watched Sesame Street.
Sounds almost normal, huh?
Sure, except for his Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis.
Things just have to be a certain way for kids with this type of cognitive functioning. Even the simplest daily activities can turn into monumental events.
Just ask Megan D., a member of the Moms of Kids with Asperger’s Syndrome community, who recently shared that her son asked for a clean sheet of paper because the line of numbers he was drawing was no longer straight. Her suggestion that he simply work around it just wasn’t going to work for her son. He wanted to start again.
While Megan doesn’t specifically mention this in her post, I suspect that some of the ensuing drama revolved around her Asperger kid’s need for perfection.
How do we as parents accommodate the needs of children who think way off the grid, when in reality that is exactly where they have to live? How do we help these square pegs fit into a round world without shaving off too much of who they are?
It’s a question I’ve been grappling with for years as I’ve watched my own amazing child struggle--with his need for everything to be done just so, and with the reality that compromise is a fact of life.
As Megan indicates in her post, “it takes a lot of energy.”
And that is often the biggest problem for an Aspie parent. We spend so much time making sure we cover all the bases. We anticipate every single possibility and outline a battle plan and a retreat plan for every social situation. Often we don’t manage to do the one thing our kids really need: teach them how to handle life and all of its curve balls in their own capacity.
Michelle O., who is also a member of Moms of Kids with Asperger’s Syndrome, suggests giving kids words to explain their struggles with self-regulation: “Enable them to verbalize how their engines are running. For example, too slow, too fast or just right,” she writes.
We’ve tried this approach with Ian. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Go figure. What we have learned is this: Be very careful with how you introduce anything new. The way it is first presented is what your Asperger child is going to want to see again and again.
My son is not a neurotypical kid and he’s not going to be a neurotypical adult. His need for sameness is engrained in who he is. The characters may change, but the plot remains on the same course.
When he was five, he was convinced that the ice cream scoop was a “digger hammer.” I couldn’t talk him out of that until just recently. For most of his early elementary years, a Veggie Tales movie provided the transition to bedtime. But not just any Veggie Tales. No, it had to be Dave and the Giant Pickle or all hell was going to break loose. There was no rationalizing this issue.
Fortunately, a lot of this has changed. His coping skills have increased. But he is still rigid. His need for “sameness” only expresses itself in more age-appropriate ways. By the time he comes home from school, for instance, he’s held it together long enough that he simply must unplug—with video games and music that sounds to me as if someone is getting stabbed by a pitchfork. And this is where my parenting skills are really put to the test. Do I insist that he do his homework right after school, as many parents would, or do I attempt to view this from my son’s perspective, and honor his need for a cognitive break while still finding a way to make sure that homework is completed before the sun sets? I’ve tried both. The second option is much harder for me but yields better fruit. I find that when I accept the validity of Ian’s uncompromising behaviors I’m able to deal more effectively with them.
I persist because I have to. I’m learning along the way to be flexible with my rigid kid.
They are often the constant companions of mothers raising children with special needs.
“I feel like a horrible mother because I can’t take my child’s behavior anymore,” writes Zenovia K. in the Children with ADHD/ADD community. Her 12-year-old daughter has both attention deficit hyperactivity and oppositional defiant disorders. It\'s a tough cognitive combination that sometimes causes her daughter to physically and verbally assault her.
“I feel so alone,” Zenovia posts.
Yet she isn’t.
At least not according to numbers reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- 13 percent of American children have a developmental disability ranging from a mild speech or language impairment to a serious developmental or intellectual diagnosis such as cerebral palsy or autism.
- 4.5 million school age children have ADHD
- 1 in 110 children have an autism spectrum disorder
- 10 percent of children have anxiety disorder
Her three-year-old son has a global development delay, mild cerebral palsy, and a genetic disorder caused by a chromosome deletion. His vocabulary is limited. She’s having difficulty getting him to understand the concept of danger.
“I always felt like I was in control and dealing with everything the best I could, but in the last few days I’m feeling like I’m just failing,” Summer posts. “Major guilt and feelings of failure happening in our house.”
In just two short paragraphs, Summer used the word “failure” three times to describe her efforts as a mom.
While feelings of failure are real and valid emotions, a mom named Holly O. points out that they don’t say much about how well a parent is actually handling the special challenge of raising of a special needs child. As she puts it, “While it is easier said than done, throw that guilt and failure right out the window. You are a good, loving, caring mom of a very complex little boy.\"
“Yes, there are times when you feel you are failing them but you are not,” writes Brenda H.
“You are doing the best you can with a difficult child,” adds Jane S.
Hearing encouraging words from other mothers who are walking the same path can be exactly the help a discouraged mom needs most.
Case in point: Christi T. posted about her feeling of failure in the Autism/Asperger’s/PPD Awareness community not long after her son was first diagnosed. She didn\'t realize he was behind developmentally initially, and when the diagnosis finally came, people in her life questioned her skills as a mother, blaming her for her son’s diagnosis.
“When I tell them, they laugh and say, oh, he will grow out of it,” she writes. “They ask, how old are you, and when I tell them my age (I am soon to be 22), I get oh, it’s just because you are a young mom and don’t know what you are doing. It frustrates me so much and makes me feel like a complete failure.”
Christi changed her tune after a few fellow mothers commented on her thread.
“I guess I just kinda needed a pep talk,” she posted. “Thank you for all of the support, it really is comforting to know I am not the only mom out there that feels this way.”
It stands to reason that effective discipline for a special needs child with cognitive disadvantages would be handled differently than for a neurotypical child. But kids don't necessarily view the house rules through the lens of reason.
How should parents respond when a "normal" child complains that expectations for their challenged sibling seem less stringent?
"My eight-year-old ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivty disorder) is the oldest, and when we discipline him differently than our five- and three-year-old girls, they're picking up on the fact that he's being treated differerently and they think it's not fair," writes Rachael S. in the Moms of Kids With ADHD community. "How does that work? How can I 'normally' discipline my girls and be 'lenient' with my son?"
It's a question many parents face as they juggle the demanding and specific needs of their special needs children along with the resentments sometimes felt by their neurotypical kids.
Stacey H., a mom posting in the Mothers of Special Needs Children community, knows she handles her 10-year-old son (who has a a bipolar dosorder, autism, Tourette's Syndrome and ADHD) differently than the other children in the household. "I do need to let a bit of stuff with my 10-year-old slide that I would not with the others," she writes. Not only is it difficult for the kids, it creates tension between her and her boyfriend.
Friction between family members over a parent's accommodations to children with special needs is not unusual.
Yolanda M., posting in the Autism/Asperger's/PPD Awareness community sees a similar drama playing out in her home. Her eight-year-old son has vexed his older brother way past his tolerance point.
"My older son is sick of giving him his way," she shares.
Ani S., also a member of the Autism/Asperger's/PPD Awareness community, has two sons two years apart in age, the elder with a special needs diagnosis.
"We have been through the 'you favor him,' 'he has different rules than I do,' and the like," she writes.
And Renee H., who has an eight-year-old autistic son and a 10-year-old daughter with no diagnosis, says that she "will sometimes make the comment 'he always gets away with stuff.' That is not true, but it is true that I have to work with him through so many situations and she sees that as him getting off easy."
This sentiment is echoed by many in the community, including Teena S., whose four older children routinely tell her she is favoring their younger brother, who is autistic and has a diagnosis of ADHD. Much of this perception, she says, stems from the flexibility required to effectively discipline a cognitively-challenged child.
"I have to change his discipline every week, as what worked one week doesn't work the next," she posts. She realizes that the continual changes don't seem fair or consistent to the other kids. "It is a battle and is so hard."
So what's a parent engaged in this kind of battle to do? Keri L. suggests acknowledging the feelings of jilted siblings to help defuse the accumulating tension.
"We have validated that yes, it sucks for them sometimes," she writes in the Autism/Asperger's/PPD Awareness community in reference to the struggle her two neurotypical children face.
She and her husband went beyond offering just their own empathy; they involved all their children in their autistic son's ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy.
That move gave their neurotypical children insight into their brother's hardship that she says no amount of parent talk ever could.
"They understand he does have consequences. They are just different from their own," she posts.