Monday, June 29, 2015

Dating Rules for Parents of Children with Disabilities

Dating Rules for Parents of Children with Disabilities
Like myself, there are many single parents out there raising children with autism or other disabilities and trying to carve out some small capsule of a social life. For many, that's a difficult, if not laughable task. Most of us have devoted so much of ourselves to our children that we have had few opportunities to get out and mingle. For those who have been lucky enough to build a social outlet, there may be questions about how to successfully navigate the dating scene.
  • Don't go in with too many expectations. Just have fun with it...try to avoid looking for someone or something. The less stress you have while socializing, the more you will enjoy your experience. 
  • Try not to feel guilty about having social time. A little separation anxiety is normal,  but as long as your child is in the care of a trusted babysitter, relax a little. 
  • If you meet someone new, don't be too quick to disclose your entire life to them. This may be a major turnoff and be a red flag that you are the needy type.
  • Wait a while before introducing a new guy or girl to the kids. Children who have issues with transitions or sensory overload (to name a few) may not behave well if you bring home someone new. Needless to say, no one will be happy in this case.
  • Talk to your child in an age-appropriate manner if you foresee introducing someone new into the picture. Particularly for younger children,  you may want to use social stories as a means of communicating the new situation. 
  • Reinforce your love and commitment to your child so that they don't begin to feel left out or abandoned as you are spending time away from them.
Just remember, creating a social life for yourself is nothing to feel guilty about. Being able to go out of the house from time to time is a healthy practice that will allow you to de-escalate from your everyday stress, giving you a healthier outlook on life.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Autism Research: Real or Embellished Science?

It is extremely difficult to not find an article about the "latest findings" or "cutting research" about autism that is subsequently debunked by yet another study or article a day or two later. I constantly find myself questioning both the validity and the reliability of these studies. Are these researchers truly reporting concrete findings from well-organized studies or are they playing on the emotions of parents looking for answers regarding their children's diagnosis? Any reasonably orchestrated study on a disability of this nature should take years to accurately analyze and report; even then,  findings should be reported with caution.

I wonder about any research study that reports a link between autism and cesareans that is ultimately refuted, causing needless panic and emotions for expecting parents wrestling with the decision of delivering their child via this method. Yes, we need a lot of research about the causes and implications of an autism diagnosis but what we don't need is a bunch of quackery and embellished science making our lives even more uncertain than it already is.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Autism & Gender

With so much emphasis on# boys with #autism,  we tend to forget about #girls who have also been diagnosed. Statistically, boys outnumber girls when it comes to autism #diagnoses but is this because of a gender relationship or are girls simply overlooked on the spectrum? Research suggests that girls are less likely to be diagnosed because their #symptoms do not manifest themselves in the same way as boys.

Girls could possibly fly under the radar because they are less active than boys and may simply be considered shy or withdrawn. This information alone could also indicate greater autism #prevalence rates that are being masked by gender biases within the medical community.

More focus needs to be placed on better diagnosis techniques specifically for girls that will allow for increased accuracy in diagnostic procedures.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Navigating Your Child's Disability-Conclusion

Navigating Your Child's Disability Diagnosis
Having a child diagnosed with a disability can be overwhelming. The range of emotions that accompany a diagnosis can range from deep depression to intense anger, with variations of other feelings in between. This blog post will conclude the discussion of the various stages of a disability. While the stages may vary for each individual, it is important that parents, caregivers and anyone vested in the life of an individual with autism recognize their own emotional journey and receive the appropriate levels of support.

Accepting the diagnosis may actually begin during the transition phase, where the parents or parent begins to take action in an effort to help their child. Acceptance, as chronicled in other stages of emotion (i.e. grief, divorce) generally indicates that the parents have found a middle ground in which they are able to come to terms with the diagnosis. Acceptance may also mark the point in which the parents or parent has redefined normalcy in their every day lives so that they are able to move forward. Parents may alter their schedules or routines to accommodate their child's disability. For example, one parent may decide to work part-time or quit working altogether so that he can attend to the needs of the child. Once their lives are restructured, the family as a unit can attempt to move forward for the greater good.

It is important to keep in mind that acceptance does not mean that the parents or the family is now going to live happily ever after because everyone is content. In fact, evidence of the other phases may crop up from time to time. It is perfectly logical to think that there might be periods of depression or anger even when acceptance has settled in. Something may even trigger a spark that makes the parent think that the disability may not be permanent, as in the initial phase. For these reasons, emphasis continues to be placed on a strong support system and a cohesive family unit in which everyone understands his or her role in the scheme of things. Non-disabled children need to be aware that while much of the focus is being placed on their disabled sibling, their role in the family remains immensely important. The same is true for parents who become so inundated with the daily living requirements that they lose focus of their commitment to one another.

Coping with a disability diagnosis is an individualized experience. Although there have been many who have experienced the range of emotions that accompany the parenting of a child with a disability, no one really knows exactly how you feel. Nevertheless, the amount of support that those around you can offer is immeasurable as long as you remain open to it. The most important thing for you, as a parent, to do is to allow yourself time to process your feelings and don't feel guilty about how you are feeling, as long as your ability to care for your child is not impacted. You should also know when to seek professional help if your emotions reach the point of severity or you are not able to properly care for your child. In the long run, it is what is in the best interest of the child that is key

Friday, June 19, 2015

Navigating Your Child's Disability Diagnosis Part 2

Navigating Your Child's Disability Diagnosis

Navigating Your Child's Disability Diagnosis
Having a child diagnosed with a disability can be overwhelming. The range of emotions that accompany a diagnosis can range from deep depression to intense anger, with variations of other feelings in between. The next several blog posts will be devoted to discussing various stages of a disability diagnosis.
Transition Phase
The transition phase is the period when parents begin to come to terms with their child's diagnosis. You, as a parent, may still experience feelings of depression, anger or resentment as in the initial phase, but now may be the time in which you are pushed into action. Many parents take on the role of advocate or they may become immensely protective of their child. You will likely want to gather and absorb as much information about your child's disability as possible to the point that you become overwhelmed with information overload. It may be a good idea to join a support group or meet with an advocate who can give you some guidance. Stress can come in some many shapes and forms and you certainly don't want to find yourself dealing with anything that is going to hamper your ability to work towards the best interest of your child.

During the transition period, as parents you  may begin to develop separate ideas about the direction that you should take in regards to meeting your child's needs. One of you may be lingering in the initial phase while the other has began easing into transition. It is critical that each of you acknowledges the other's present state and not allow your differences in opinion drive a wedge between you. The divorce rate among parents of children with disabilities has been suggested by some research to be above 50%, which makes it even more necessary for you, as a couple, to maintain some level of stability even in your state of disagreement. It may be a good idea to seek counseling to resolve some of your issues and have a neutral party help you work through those key areas in which you differ. The bottom line is that you want what's best for your child and that should be the commonality that creates a bond between the two of you.

Like other phases before and after a child's diagnosis, transition can last for an indefinite period depending on your ability to cope and stabilize your emotions. Some people experience multiple phases at once...for instance, a parent may be in the transition phase and take on an advocate role but still be in the initial phase, where they are in denial about the true nature or severity of their child's disability. It cannot be emphasized enough the importance of a support system. If you do not have friends or relatives who can give you the level of encouragement that you need, contact a local agency like Easter Seals or the Autism Society to get information about parent support groups in your area.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Navigating Your Child's Disability Diagnosis

Navigating Your Child's Disability Diagnosis
Having a child diagnosed with a disability can be overwhelming. The range of emotions that accompany a diagnosis can range from deep depression to intense anger, with variations of other feelings in between. The next several blog posts will be devoted to discussing various stages of a disability diagnosis.

Initial Phase
In the time leading up to diagnosis, it may be common for parents to feel a sense of denial about their child's difficulties. You may see developmental delays as awkward phases or conclude that your child is just being lazy. Even when a determination is made affirming the presence of a disability, you, as a parent, may still have a hard time excepting the diagnosis, possibly blaming themselves for poor parenting. 

During the initial phase of a diagnosis,  it is important to have a strong support system to encourage your emotional well-being. Everything changes during this period and parents must now adjust to their new reality. 

Some parents may remain in denial or in the initial phase for longer periods of time,  depending on how quickly they are able to transition from the shock of the diagnosis to a proactive role of deciding what is in the best interest of their child.

In the initial phase,  parents may also be overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the future. This is the time to remember that "one day at a time" is the best mantra to live by. The more overwhelmed you, as a parent, become the greater your stress levels,  which will impact your ability to take adequate care of your family and yourself. Unless there is an urgent matter that needs immediate attention,  try to focus on the immediate needs for the time being.

Remember, a diagnosis is not the end of the world. Seek advice from others who have experienced raising a child with a disability. Their insights can help you more effectively navigate a world of uncertainty and provide you with a greater sense of comfort knowing that your child's life outcomes are not limited by a diagnosis. 

Early Signs of Autism


Monday, June 15, 2015

Play Dates and Children with Autism

Image result for autistic child wandering off

As the summer months approach, it is important for parents to have an action plan to keep their children happy and healthy. Check out my website to read more about #autism and wandering to learn how parents can take precautionary measures in order to increase their children's safety.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

I just skimmed an article that proposed a link between #parental age and autism.  I suddenly remembered exactly why I don't read these kinds of autism "studies." All they do is cause unnecessary emotional responses by relying heavily on more theory, less scientific evidence. Do I honestly need to feel guilty about the age difference between my ex-husband and myself that, according to the study,  may be the reason our sons have #autism? I would rather see research about #interventions that are most effective when working with my children. I'd prefer to know where I can find funding that would allow my children to receive additional #speech and #behavior therapy which will,  in turn, allow them to live independently and productively contribute to society. In a nut shell: Enough already with these pseudo-research studies! Give me and other parents of children with autism something that we can actually USE!!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Today I had an IEP meeting for my youngest son and I must admit...even as a special education teacher, I always walk away feeling like I should have,  could have done more or done things differently. It's difficult making decisions for your child under any circumstances,  but dealing with special ed. can be tricky business. All that I can hope for in the end is that in the end, it  will all work out for my boy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

As crazy as it sounds, I'm realizing that I have a lot more to be happy about than I thought!

Monday, June 8, 2015

I'm trying to finally crawl out of my shell...not really for my sake but for my boys. Regardless of how protective I want to be as far as they are concerned,  I do want them to be productive members of society. The only way I can do that is to become more open to the world outside of our home. I can't let #autism create needless limitations for my family...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

I'm slowly learning to let go of some of my anxiety and just exist...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

While I am not a supporter of high stakes testing because of the needless pressures it causes our children,  I was extremely proud when I received the letter of congratulations from my son's school stating that he had passed his end of grade test in reading.

Like so many children with #disabilities,  no one had really expected him to do well. He had been written off. On his last quarterly benchmark he had scored a 35%, an entire 18 point drop from his previous assessment.

My only words of support to him going into the test was "Just do the best that you can." Well, the moral of this story is to never give up on your children even when the situation looks bleak.

 No one should ever define who our children are...their possibilities are just as unlimited as children without disabilities.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Building relationships between children with #autism and their non-disabled siblings is an important part of maintaining the family unit. When one person in a household has autism,  it impacts every member of the family. Nondisabled siblings should be encouraged to build positive relationships with their #siblings. However, they should also be encouraged to pursue their independent interests outside the home so that they do not become overwhelmed.