Archive for the ‘ Disability ’ Category

How Not To Handle a Public Meltdown

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

Being an autism mom can amazing as well as challenging. As a mom, the amazing is easy to handle. I cheer every single moment and milestone because I know how hard my kid works. But the challenging stuff? The stuff that keeps me up at night or the things that make me see red – there’s no hand book for that.  And sometimes my initial instinct isn’t always the best reaction.

It happened in a fast food restaurant. My son, Norrin, and I were sitting at a table waiting for my husband, Joseph, to bring over our food. I handed Norrin his iPad while we waited. We were on vacation, completely out of our routine and it was an unbearably hot day. All Norrin wanted was to return to the hotel pool.  And there was no WiFi connection and Norrin wanted to watch a video on YouTube. All the ingredients for a major meltdown.

I calmly explained to Norrin that we were for Dad to return with our food. We were going to eat and then go back to the hotel. Usually Norrin is fine. He doesn’t need visual cues so long as I tell him what comes next. But the last few days Norrin had been having a hard time. And in that crowded fast food restaurant, my 8 year old son started to cry and scream. I remained calm and tried to comfort him with words, smoothing his hair away from his face. But he didn’t stop. His face was bright red and his nose runny, tears streaming down his face.

That’s when I noticed a table of three men staring at Norrin; their eyes wide open and lips curled in a smirk.

“Is there a problem?” I demanded. And when they shook their heads no, I yelled “Then why are you staring.” I was all New York Latina attitude, neck rolling and hand waving. I glared at them until they looked away and went back to eating.

Joseph had returned with our food and managed to calm Norrin down. Unlike me, Joseph had ignored the men and focused on Norrin.

I’m not usually that bold to confront a table of men. But I had been feeling overwhelmed and my Mama Bear instinct just went into full gear. In retrospect, it was the completely wrong way to handle the situation. What if one of those men did have a problem? Was I truly prepared to take on three men? I cannot put myself or my family in that kind of situation. I may not be able to control how others react to Norrin, but I am in total control of how I react to them.

During a public meltdown, the only person that matters is my kid. I have to tune out everyone else, ignore the stares, the smirks, the finger pointing. While it may not have been my finest parenting moment, it was definitely a lesson learned.

Have you ever confronted a stranger for staring at your special needs child?

Catch up with last week’s post: Six Years Later, I Am Still Learning To Accept Autism

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Six Years Later, I Am Still Learning To Accept Autism

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

I will never forget the day my son, Norrin, was diagnosed with autism. The days, weeks and months that followed I felt this overwhelming sense of loss and sadness. At the time of Norrin’s diagnosis he had no speech; he couldn’t point his finger and lacked imaginative play skills. That was six years ago.  Norrin has had made significant progress. We’ve celebrated many milestones since then because we’ve seen how hard he’s worked to achieve the things that come so naturally to other children his age.

Norrin is now 8 years old and has been autistic for most of his life. The constant feelings loss and sadness have long subsided. I don’t wish to cure Norrin’s autism and I don’t believe it’s the worst thing that could have happened.

Autism has become part of our every day. It’s so common to us that I don’t even think about it. And since Norrin is my only child, I have no idea what it’s like to raise a “typical” kid. I focus on the things Norrin can do rather than the things that he can’t. And I tell myself that he will meet those milestones in his own time.

We were on vacation last week. We went to Walt Disney World – the Most Magical Place on Earth. It’s the place most kids dream about. I watched as other families waited on line, as kids excitedly pointed to rides wanting to get on. They wanted to watch the parade, posed for pictures and looked like they were having fun. And while other kids were having fun, Norrin – after the second ride – had a complete meltdown. He started crying uncontrollably and said he wanted to go back to the hotel over and over again. I tried to console him but nothing I said soothed, he was ready to leave.

In that moment, I was reminded of autism. And all those feelings of loss crept in.

As we were walking out of the park, I felt defeated and disappointed. It had been years since we had a vacation and I wanted Norrin to have fun. I wished that we were like every other family in the park, the ones you see in the commercial. I know I shouldn’t compare but sometimes it’s hard not to. “Why does something fun have to be so hard?” I wondered.

We returned to the hotel, changed into our bathing suits and went down to the pool. We spent the next few hours splashing, swimming and having fun. Norrin was having a blast swimming under water and practicing floating on his back. The pool was small enough that I could sit on a nearby lounge chair  and watch. It was a luxury and I appreciated the moment. Hours earlier at the park, I held his hand tightly, too scared to let go.

I love my son and I have accepted autism. Six years ago, I couldn’t see beyond his diagnosis. I couldn’t have imagined the progress he’s made. We have good days and not so good days. Days when I can forget autism exists and moments when autism is overwhelming. And during those moments, I have to accept autism all over again.

Catch up with last week’s post: Father and Son Bonding When Your Son Has Autism

Understanding Autism: Sensory Issues
Understanding Autism: Sensory Issues
Understanding Autism: Sensory Issues

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Father and Son Bonding When Your Son Has Autism

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

When Norrin was first diagnosed with autism, my husband, Joseph, had a difficult time. Like many fathers of sons, Joseph imagined little league, football games or teaching him how to drive. Neither of us imagined, therapists, disability or special education. Those first few weeks/months/years we wondered if Norrin would ever speak or grow up to be independent. And I know Joseph worried about what kind of relationship they would have. If they would ever have that father-son bond.

Norrin started baseball again this year. This time, he’s on a team and is required to play each week. Last week was Norrin’s second game and Joseph was Norrin’s “buddy.” Norrin hit his first single! Seeing the look of pride on Joseph’s face, reminded me of how their relationship has evolved over the years and how Joseph has learned to bond with Norrin.

4 Ways My Husband Bonds With Our Autistic Son

Comic Books & Cartoons. Joseph is a major comic book fan. So much so that we named Norrin after a comic book character! While I spend my bedtimes reading Norrin my childhood favorites, Joseph reads books featuring his favorite comic book heroes. Joseph gets into character by changing his voice and Norrin loves listening! They also spend time watching cartoons like Super Hero Squad and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Norrin doesn’t quite understand the complex story lines but he likes the action and he now recognizes all the major characters.

Music. When Norrin was a baby, Joseph would rock Norrin to sleep listening to calming music like James Taylor and Bob Denver. Joseph is always introducing new music to Norrin. Some music Norrin likes – for the longest time, Norrin would only listen to “Get off of my cloud” by The Rolling Stones. And some he doesn’t – when he doesn’t, Norrin sticks his fingers in his ears and says, “Too loud, Dad. Lower the volume.” Like everything else, finding the right music is about trial and error.

Video Games. Joseph’s like a big kid when it comes to playing video games. And his love of video games was something Joseph wanted to enjoy with Norrin. Video games have helped Norrin in so many ways but mostly it’s been a critical piece of their bonding time.

Sports. There was a time when Norrin didn’t have the strength to throw or catch a ball. It took years of occupational therapy for him to learn. Norrin still struggles with his movements for many things, and he gets easily frustrated. But Joseph gets him to keep trying.

At first Norrin wasn’t interested in playing baseball. But Joseph broke the basics of baseball down. He began teaching Norrin how to catch the ball in his glove. Then how to throw the ball. Norrin loves playing catch and often asks to go outside and play. No matter how tired Joseph is, when Norrin asks – they’ll go outside and throw the ball around.

When I see Joseph and Norrin together I feel really lucky. Bonding with Norrin hasn’t always come easily but Joseph works really hard at finding ways to connect with Norrin. And seeing them interact together, watching their bond grow is a beautiful thing.

Catch up with last weeks post: A Tough Love Moment in Autism Parenting 

 

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A Tough Love Moment In Autism Parenting

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

The other day my friend was over when my 8-year-old son Norrin walked in and asked to use the iPad. I knew he had a mess in his room. I had spent the last hour asking him to clean up. There were sheets of paper and crayons all on the floor. I told him that if he wanted the iPad, he needed to clean his room. And that’s when he started to cry.

“I’ll help you Norrin,” my friend offered, starting to get up from the sofa.

“No. He needs to do it himself. He knows how.” I said.

Norrin kept crying and asking for the iPad. I kept saying, “No. Not until you clean your room.”

I could tell my friend was getting upset. She has a soft spot for Norrin. If it were up to her, she would have given him the iPad and picked up every single piece of paper and crayon herself. But I just kept talking, enjoying my visit with her.

I don’t like seeing Norrin cry (I hate every single second of it). And I certainly don’t like being the cause of his tears (makes me feel like the worst mother in the world). But I can’t give in every time he gets upset. He has to understand the meaning of “no.”

Was it easier to go in and help him clean? Or just let him leave his room a mess and give him iPad anyway? Of course it was. But how would he benefit from that? If Norrin was a typical kid, I wouldn’t allow the same behavior. I can’t expect Norrin to become independent, if I help him every time he cries for something.

I wasn’t asking Norrin to do anything I knew he couldn’t do himself. He knows how to pick up paper and throw them away in the garbage. He knows how to pick up crayons and put them back in the box. Norrin’s tears had nothing to do with autism. It was about him not wanting to clean his room.

So I let him cry. And as upsetting as it was, I knew Norrin wasn’t in any physical pain or in danger of hurting himself. Eventually he cleaned up his room and when he was done, I gave him the iPad.

It’s called tough love for a reason. It’s tough on kids and tougher on parents. But I know that my little moments of tough love special needs parenting will teach Norrin about independence and responsibility.

Catch up with last weeks post: 5 Tips for Traveling By Plane with Your Special Needs Child

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5 Tips for Traveling By Plane with Your Special Needs Child

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

In a few weeks, we’ll be on our way to the Most Magical Place on Earth. It will be Norrin’s second time on an air plane. Unlike the first time taking a plane together, I am not nervous. The first time we flew, I was frantic even though I prepped for months. But there was no need to worry. Norrin really surprised me and I was so proud of him.

Traveling with special needs children requires careful planning. If your child has never been on a plane and you’re thinking of planning a vacation – here are some tips that can help.

Prepare. Even if you don’t have any immediate plans for a trip, start talking about planes and pointing them out to your kids. Talk about the kind of places or family/friends you can visit by taking a plane. Many kids with autism and other special needs, require social stories to help them through new experiences or teach everyday skills. Carol Gray has written two books that may help: My Social Stories Book and The New Social Story Book

There’s also a really cool app by Avril Webster called Off We Go: Going on a Plane. The app prepares special needs children and also includes “some of the typical sounds that they would hear during their journey.” The Going on a Plane app is $3.99 and compatible with iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

Do Your Homework. Think about the airlines and airports you’ve traveled with in the past – which ones gave you the best experience? If you have friends that have traveled with their special needs children – ask for suggestions. Call airlines and see what accommodations can be made for your special needs child before making your final decision.

Another thing to consider is the duration of the flight. If your child has never flown before, don’t book a 5 hour plane ride or one with multiple layovers. Keeping it under 3 hours is probably ideal.

Pack Light (if you can). Traveling by plane requires a lot of waiting and long lines. If you can manage to do carry-on luggage only – go for it! That way you avoid the checking in your bag line and waiting to claim your bag after.

Prepare some more. You want to keep your kid occupied for a significant amount of time so a bag of goodies is a must! Load up the iPad or tablet with new apps or buy a new toy or activity book for the ride. Bring candy or a special treat for your child to enjoy. And don’t forget to pack any other special items like noise-cancelling headphones or favorite comfort item, pillow or blankie. It could be the thing that prevents a meltdown.

And Speaking of Meltdowns. A mom wrote to me and expressed concern about her child having a meltdown on the plane. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best” as the saying goes. If a meltdown occurs, deal with it the best way you can and forget about if people stare – just focus on your child. If you anticipate a meltdown prior to boarding the plane – talk to the flight attendants. They want to ensure you have a pleasant experience, so do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

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