7 Ways to Discipline Your Child By Discipling Yourself: Attitude, It’s Learned From Somewhere Even in Autism

Big J Teaching Little J Basketball
Big J Teaching Little J Basketball

I don’t think I realized my temper was an issue until I moved to the country. I guess that’s because everyone around me also had tempers and although most were very nice people we all reacted similarly when pushed, fight over flight. City life will do that to you. Unfortunately for a parent of a child with autism a temper is one of the worst things I could have modeled.

During one of J’s tantrums, at the height of his rebellious behavior, I caught a glimpse of myself arguing with him. I was trying to rationalize with him but my face said otherwise. I looked like I was arguing with a stranger who threatened my personal space, not my child. My tone was cold, detached from kindness and fairness just straight attitude. My face was so full of anger, eyebrows furrowed, jaw clenched, nostrils flaring. I just looked overall menacing. In my eyes, I was a monster towering over this cowering little innocent who just couldn’t find the words to express himself. And how could he with me scaring the life out of him. Mom, the one person who sort of understood him in this world turning into Mrs. Hyde right before his big frightened eyes, all because he refused to go to school. I knew in that moment that if I saw myself as a monster I’m sure J saw me similarly or worse. I never wanted to be that to him again. I had to find another way to discipline J rather than intimidation and empty threats or I wouldn’t be the only monster, I’d have a mini monster and no one to blame but myself.

Puberty has been a rough transition for J as it is for most teens especially those with special needs. I decided not to medicate him since his behaviors are manageable as of now and he does not pose a threat to himself or others. I was also seeing this new-found awareness of life around him and I did not want to squelch any progress. He still lacked the verbal skills to express himself but J understood what we were saying about him. He also knew when we were annoyed with him even if it was through something as subtle as an eye roll. I could see it affected him like it never did in the past. We had to change just as much as J was. We had to acknowledge him as a young person growing into an adult and not a child that the world had no expectations for. He was creating his own expectations of what he wanted out of life now. He wanted to be treated like an adult, like most teenagers do, he wanted responsibility and the negotiation of compromise. He wanted to be included in the planning of his day and have his choices discussed with him.

Here’s how I discipline my child with mutual respect to foster a relationship of understanding and trust:

  1. I pay attention to his emotions and try my best to acknowledge them so he feels understood and validated. That doesn’t mean I give into them.
  2. I give him good reasons for my actions, simple reasons but usually fair.
  3. I fight the urge to physically dominate him when he resists, I let him go through it and then try to state my needs at an eye level distance, not towering over him.
  4. I check my ego and let go of the feeling that since I am the parent my child must yield to my every demand. Instead I take deep breaths, check myself to make sure I’m not projecting my issues on him and empathize before I act.
  5. I inform J of the rules for every situation be it house, school or bus rules. I inform him of any new ones that may be part of a new experience or place we are headed.
  6. I always give J a warning before handing down a punishment to allow J to redirect himself.
  7. Punishments are given calmly, sternly and fairly. The punishment fits the crime and he is aware of it before it is dealt. Ex: if he is misusing his tech, he will lose time on it. If he is misbehaving somewhere he will lose TV privileges when we get home.

It sounds simple but keeping calm when J is not, can be a challenge of my own discipline. Once I had these options for myself I found that I could redirect my own frustrations, stay focused on the facts rather than my own feelings, follow through and be a calmer mom for him. It’s not always smooth sailing but we get back on course quickly sans casualties. Hope this helps anyone out there dealing with discipline troubles. Please share if this works for you or if you have any ideas you may want to share.

-JRED

It’s OK to Take a Break From Autism

Sometimes I get so caught up with J that I forget to have a life of my own. I keep tabs on friends through Facebook and try to make time to see them but life can be a big hurdle to schedule around especially with a child on the spectrum who relies on a stiffly structured routine. When I actually make that time and get out I realize how important it is to do so. I got to see a good friend of mine today that I haven’t seen since her twin girls turned one in October. Only after our brief afternoon together had I realized just how much I missed her. How great it was to be us, outside, having lunch, no kids. Of course a lot of our conversation was about our kids but that’s because they are a big part of who we are now.

I forget how important taking time for myself is. I think most parents fall into this bad habit but with a child on the spectrum there aren’t too many people you feel comfortable asking to watch your child so you can have some “me time”. So I planned to go visit my friend while the boy was in school. I think for any mom but mostly a mom raising a special needs child, every moment of down time is precious so the thought of planning my week around an outing for myself was tiring, thoughts can be very restricting. I really wanted to visit my friend, so I got all my weekly errands done early on and I asked my mom to be on call in case I got caught in traffic on my way back.

Our time together was brief, we had enough time for a little morning stroll with her girls and lunch, but it was better than not seeing her at all.  WP_20150514_002For in that short time we were able to reconnect, talk comfortably to someone outside of our daily lives and gain perspective. As my familial responsibilities have increased friendships outside of family and a five-mile radius seemed impossible and yes a friendship like we had prior to kids maybe because of time constraints but friendship can evolve. Rather than challenge each others limitations as we once did out of youthful competitiveness, we respected each others responsibilities and supported them.

It was nice to take a break from Autism and be Jessica again I was still J’s mom,  and Big J’s wife but these titles didn’t define me to my friend to her I am just Jess. I made it back before the bus came and didn’t even upset the balance of my son’s daily routine but one thing was different, his mom. I was re energized and grateful to be with him. My outing reminded me of how beneficial social interactions can be not just for myself but for J.

-JRED

5 Apps for Autism

While I was home schooling J, I used his love for tech to my advantage. Unfortunately there is a lot of unproductive technology out there which can lead to stimming. So I tried a lot of different apps before finding some great ones that keep him focused and learning, and having fun. Here are 5 Apps I used to turn my son’s iPad into a learning tool.

1. Pictello– at $19.99 it’s the priciest app on this list but worth it. J has communication challenges and this app supports sentence construction. It also allows him to create a social story of his own with pictures, video, text, and sound.

pictello

2. Shelby’s Quest– $4.99. This app focuses on fine motor and visual perceptive skills. While I was homeschooling I used this during our Occupational Therapy sessions with great success.

Shelby's Quest

3. Endless Alphabet, Reader, Numbers, and Wordplay– Free. Originator Inc. is the team behind these great apps. They each focus on the title indication, they teach letters sounds and words, reading skills and sentence structure, counting and basic addition, and spelling patterns and phonograms. The app itself is free however the packs to add additional words and content start at $4.99 a pack. I suggest trying the free trial first before committing to bundle packs. J loves this whole series so much I’ve even purchased him new packs as positive reinforcement as a reward for good behavior.

Endless Reader

4. Albert– $0.99. This app is so much fun and very challenging, think “Dumb Ways to Die” but for kids. It utilizes all tools of the iPad and even works on iPhone. It also teaches sequence as you are following Albert through out his day waking him up, helping him bathe and get dressed as well as other daily tasks like driving and grocery shopping. These mini games are challenging and as with all the apps I’ve listed I suggest playing it with your child, J and I take turns on Albert and even I don’t pass the challenge sometimes which is a great opportunity to teach J about what to do when we lose at a game.

Albert

5. Dr. Seuss Books– Oceanhouse Media brings the beloved Dr. Seuss’ books to life. An interactive book, your child won’t just read but also be able to play and record. J and I like to go page for page while we record the story. The classic “Dr. Seuss’ ABC’s” is a free sample so you may want to start there to see if your child enjoys this format before purchasing other titles. Great for kids who can get a little rough with actual books. Titles start at $2.99, they tend to go on sale every so often, usually around Dr. Seuss’ birthday (March), that’s usually when I stock up.

Dr. Seuss

These are just a few apps we’ve come to know and love in our house. They serve as a great opportunity for J and I to practice appropriate play skills such as taking turns and encouragement. They are also great while on the go as they keep him entertained and learning. I’ll add some more that we use soon. Let me know if you’ve had any success with these apps as well or any you would like me to include in the next list. Thanks.

-JRED

Spreading Awareness of the World of Autism- What is Stimming?

Ever crack your knuckles or your neck? Maybe you rub your hands when your thinking or nervous. We do these things to self soothe and feel more comfortable. Some times we do it without even noticing because it just feels good. Well that’s basically the purpose of stimming in a person living with Autism. Unlike most people who have self stimulating habits, someone on the spectrum may have no control over this. Some common stimms I’ve seen in my son J are humming, hand clapping, jumping, rocking and visual/audio stimulants. Here are some of his favorite stimm videos, he will watch these over an over, rewinding and fast forwarding to achieve the visual or audio stimulation he enjoys:

It’s a form of self soothing but can be unproductive, socially inappropriate and further detaches J from us so I try to limit this kind of stimm with redirection. I even point out to him that he is stimming so he can become aware of this behavior and eventually redirect himself toward something more enriching and socially engaging. I will usually suggest a new activity, for example if he is stimming on YouTube I will suggest going to a more interactive site like PBS Kids so we can play a game together. If he is humming or rocking while we are out I will try to apply deep pressure to his shoulders and arms, here’s an example of what I mean:

Stimming- (as defined by North Shore Pediatric Therapy ) – Stereotypy or self-stimulatory behavior refers to repetitive body movements or repetitive movement of objects. These movements are used solely to stimulate one’s own senses. This behavior is common in many individuals with developmental disabilities; it appears to be most common in children and adults with autism. It is important to note that not all self-injurious behaviors are considered to be self- stimulatory. Self-injurious behavior can also be communicative.

If you have any stimming stories or recommendations please share below and share to spread the awareness of why people with Autism stimm. Thanks.

-JRED

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