Learning to Love My Teen the Way He Needs to Be Loved

By Jessica R. Duggins

We all want to be loved, adults and children a like. And when we are loved, when our needs are met, we feel supported, confident, and empowered and all is right in the world. So how does this help when parenting? It reminds us to parent with love first, and responsibility second. Once we are fluent with the way our children respond to love, once we are in tuned with their needs and motivators, we can gain their trust and in turn guide them with cooperation, respect and love to healthy development.

I’m so excited to share one of my favorite visual tools that I use to remind myself of this focus. A simple chart I came across while feeling frustrated in another relationship of importance, my marriage. I found myself feeling resentful, exhausted, over entitled, and unfulfilled. I was in a rut and I put myself there by holding my most loved ones to expectations unbeknownst to them. My expectations. The expectation that they will love me as I expect them too and if they don’t then I will self destruct and hold them all responsible. That’s crazy, right? But all to common, maybe not so dramatic but common. And we deal with it, we live life banging our heads against a padded wall going maybe someday they’ll get it, if I beat it in their heads enough, maybe they will care about the things I care about at my intensity. Why would I really want that anyway? I love these people for who they are and what makes them unique to my heart.

What if instead we empathized, one of my favorite words when it comes to parenting. What makes my kiddo happy, what puts a smile on his face, what lifts his heart? Not mine, not what makes me feel safe and cozy and cared for but from his perspective.

I am a physical lover, I love hugs and cuddles, and spooning, and nuzzles.  And although I may enjoy that and maybe my two year old does also but my teen on the spectrum not so much. Physical contact makes him visibly uncomfortable. That’s not to say he doesn’t return it, but that’s because he knows its my love language, it makes my heart rise when he hugs me on his own, my smile cracks from ear to ear when he kisses me on his own, and he knows it, he’s so smart.

So how do you figure out how your child loves, when they have challenges communicating simple daily needs, or any words at all? Observe and learn. try some different approaches. The chart below is printed out over my computer because that is the place I tend to get most frustrated with my children because I am not trying to focus on them but myself.

5 languages of love- children

This moms site has some great printbles to get you started for free, after a simple email subscription, and I do suggest you print it out and put it somewhere your kids seem to get your goat most, maybe the bathroom, or kitchen. The visual concrete reference will help to create this process of rethinking your approach when parenting and hopefully ease frustration. I did not invent the Five Languages of love, no, just lucky enough to stumble upon Dr. Gary Chapman’s ideas in my research to better my communication and understanding skills in my nuclear family.

True love, unconditional love, is not easy, it does not just happen. You have to do the work and commit to change no matter how uncomfortable it may feel in the beginning. You have to make the effort to see another way of life, of love. As with all new habits, it has to be habitual for results, but when we falter we have to be kind enough to forgive ourselves and start over. Good luck guys, please comment below and share if this chart helped you out or even if  it didn’t.


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.


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.


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.


4:30 AM wake up calls from Autism

SunriseWell it’s Easter Sunday and I thought for sure J would sleep in today. We we’re up late last night watching HOP, but once again the unpredictable spice of life that is Autism has awaken him at 4:30 AM. He woke up yelling and screaming, I figured he must have had a bad dream, maybe a bad cramp. Trying to reason with J when he is awake is its own task, add the delirium of being half asleep and it’s a whole other beast. I brought him a glass of water along with my “A game” of patience and went to investigate.

Apparently his anxiety about leaving his iPad charger at grandma and grandpa’s house woke him up. I know he gets anxious about family gatherings so it made perfect sense. We have a big, vociferous family, so the escape of having his iPad and headphones when he needs a break is a great comfort to him. I had the bright idea to teach J about being more responsible with his belongings. So instead of going back out later in the evening to retrieve it, my parents live in the same town, I told him I would get it in the morning and enforced it with”remember your things next time”.

At 4:30 AM he made it very clear this was the source of his anxiety. He needed me to reassure him that I would get the wire several times before his emotions finally simmered. I was tempted to go out right then and there but I chose to teach him about responsibility and there was no backing out now. After about an hour of moaning and groaning he finally went back to sleep, and so did Big J.

I never rediscovered the comfort of my bed so I figured I’d make the best of it and wish you all a Happy Easter or Passover, which ever you celebrate. Hopefully the Easter bunny leaves me a pillow for a nap since I’ve already given myself the lesson of learning when to pick my battles, especially when a good night’s sleep is at stake.


Back with Tons to Share- Autism, Puberty, Education

Hi Anyone out there.

When I started this blog back in 2013 I had no idea how consuming home schooling would be. I definitely had no time to contribute to this blog the way I wanted to. So it’s been forever since my last post and I have so much to share. I can finally sit down and formulate all this great knowledge into something understandable for the world. J is back in a center based program. Home school was amazing but it kicked my butt mentally, spiritually, physically and financially.  I learned so much about him, how he learns, how he communicates, and what the best approaches to his challenging behavior are. I learned even more about myself like what I was doing wrong, how creative I could be, and how strong of a person I really am.

If I had the resources and help, I might have considered homeschooling indefinitely. J learned so much when he was home the results were undeniable. His reading skills improved drastically, his independence soared, and he was beginning to look at the world with an inquisitive eye I had never really seen in him before.  However the lines of mother and educator were blurred and there was never any time off. It was non stop and exhausting. I was losing myself in his world of Autism. I was neglecting my husband, family and friends. I let go of my goals and aspirations. I was neglecting myself on almost every level, I was existing for one sole purpose, J.

Most days this didn’t matter, I knew this was temporary, that I had a limited amount of time to help him and I had the rest of my life to help myself.  Other days home school would consume me so much I would fall behind on everything else I was responsible for and then I would stress. And then the chest pains started. I would get dizzy often and wake up and go to sleep with headaches. I lived a very healthy lifestyle other than all the stress of home schooling, so my mind spiraled out imagining what was wrong with me.  I started home schooling J in October of 2012 and by February 2013 I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Attacks. My doctor said I was on the verge of having a stroke or a heart attack at the age of 31 if I continued living at this level of stress.

I wouldn’t be any good to anyone if this happened, so I made it my mission to find a program that would work with me, that would look at all I learned and apply it. In the coming weeks I will share stories from our home school experiment, ideas to help issues we tackled, and strategies tried and true. I will discuss further why returning to a center based program was better for J and myself. J is now 13 and as most parents of teenagers know, the rules have changed! I will discuss how we are managing the new hormones, the debate to medicate, social skills, and everything else that comes with pubescent territory. I look forward to sharing this pivotal part of my life with you and hope that it leaves you inspired and empowered or at least a little more positive.



I started homeschooling my son this year. Since I’ve begun, I have learned a lot more about my son’s strengths, abilities, and weaknesses, than I could ever asses while he was enrolled. Some people believe what I’m dong is crazy, that I’m taking on too much, that I am alienating my son from society, I say it’s quite the opposite. Hello? He is my son! I have given public education programs a crack at it for 8 years, I’m not satisfied, maybe it’s part of being an overachieving Capricorn. I just believe my son can achieve so much more than what’s expected of him, and how else do things evolve if not through change?

I better get going, got to get started on his quarterly report. Quarterly reports are part of homeschooling, just as in any educational dynamic. Don’t let the idea of quarterly reports discourage you if your starting to home school, they serve as a goal keeper for your progress. I like to share them with all therapist and doctors, on my child’s educating team, it’s good to keep everyone informed and on the same page to maximize success and progress. I like to keep goals realistic, so I don’t put pressure on myself our my child. For example I want my son to learn about his age appropriate curriculum but he has not mastered skills from a first grade curriculum yet so I have to realistically start there.  Homeschooling a child with Autism is already stressful for both parent and child, I try to make it as fun as possible. All children learn better when they’re being entertained and having fun, I know I did.



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