On Sunday, November 2 at 2 AM, we turn back the clock an hour. Although moms and dads everywhere may wish they could sleep during that extra hour, the reality is most kids will be up and at ‘em. For parents of children with special needs who already have sleep challenges, this can be an especially tricky time of year. A few key strategies to make things go more smoothly for everyone:
• Ease into it. For the next several days, move up your child’s nap and bedtime by 15 minutes. Come Sunday morning, your darlings may just sleep in for most of that extra hour. This worked well for our family when our kids were little.
• Find the time. If your child is learning how to tell time, or has never had her own clock, this is a good moment to get her one. I let my daughter pick out an inexpensive digital clock online. On Saturday night, I plan to explain the whole “Spring ahead, fall back” thing, turn the clock back and—perhaps most importantly—show her the time when she is allowed to knock on our bedroom door in the morning.
• Make coming home in the dark welcoming. Returning to a pitch-black house after a family dinner out tends to make all of us hate Sunday nights even more, but we’ve found a new solution. Our family got a Piper to try, a chic mini home security and video monitoring system you control through an app. It’s been great to watch and listen in on the kids while I’m at work (there’s a 180-degree lens, so you can view an entire room) and talk to them through the two-way audio. We also got a door/window sensor, for extra security. Our favorite feature is the Smart Switch sensor, which plugs into an outlet; we connected a living room lamp to it, and now before we get home I turn it on from the Piper app so there’s a nice warm glow in the house when we drive up to it. When we’re out I change the setting to “Away” so the motion detector can alert us if anyone tries to break in and steal the Halloween candy.
• Actually use the shades. Pull them down at bedtime; you don’t want sunlight waking your children up any earlier than they might be inclined to because of the time change.
• Create a sleep chart. If the time shift has thrown off your tot, make a chart with columns for Bedtime/Wake-up Time/How I Feel. Fill them out with her daily, and talk through any grumpiness issues.
• Have a time-switch treat. At our house, we make chocolate-chip banana pancakes the morning after we switch back to standard time and, in the spring, the morning after we go to Daylight Saving Time. No matter how early we rise and shine, it makes getting up totally worth it.
Wings for Autism, an airport “rehearsal” that helps kids with autism feel calmer about flying, held a program at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina this weekend. Run by The Arc of the United States, and using a Delta plane, it allowed kids with autism to experience what it’s like to go through the hustle and bustle of an airport and security, and to sit on a plane with their families. Here’s a video of the program in action at another airport:
If you have a child with autism (or sensory issues, as I do), you know how stressful plane travel can be. Max went through a phase in which he repeatedly kicked the back of the seat in front of him; it helped calm him down, though it did anything but for the nearby passengers. We had to cushion his knees with our winter jackets and, once, switch seats so that I was the one in front of him. Thankfully, he grew out of it.
What’s doubly awesome about Wings for Autism is that it gives airport, airline and security staffers the chance to observe and interact with kids with autism, and better understand them. Unfortunately, you’re on your own for dealing with the glares you occasionally get from fellow passengers. Once, we sat near a woman who remarked to her kids about the “annoying noises” Max was making (basically, his form of speech). I leaned over and said, “That’s his way of talking.” And she still gave me a look. Nice!
There are five more Wings for Autism program dates coming up, in Boston, Washington and Anchorage (here’s the schedule, with a link to registration information).
“While I do love my son, and am fiercely protective of him, I know our lives would have been happier and far less complicated if he had never been born. I do wish I’d had an abortion. I wish it every day.” Those are the shocking words I read this morning, in a Daily Mail article, said by Gillian Relf, 69, mom to Stephen, 47. The piece has gotten a lot of attention, as did another recent one by the same publication in which other parents of a child with disability also said they would have terminated their pregnancy.
Let’s set aside the fact that this is a newspaper that thrives on shocking people into reading it. These are still real sentiments coming from real people. I read them with both sadness and heavy disappointment about the message they were implicitly conveying to the masses: That kids and adults with disability are damaged, lesser human beings who can ruin people’s lives.
As the parent of a kid with cerebral palsy, I completely understand the struggle with accepting a child’s special needs. Many of us contend with that. Just this week, I was musing about the ghost of that other child—the one I expected to have. In general, though, I’ve come to a place where Max’s disability is a part of who he is. Not every parent of a kid with special needs feels that way, of course, or needs to. Mom Gillian Relf is from a different generation; I wonder if she’d think otherwise if she had the resources and social media support that parents of kids with special needs have these days.
Still, making a public proclamation that you wish you’d aborted your child with Down syndrome is unfortunate. It’s downright painful to those of us who are out there doing our best to get the world to accept and include our children, which is often an uphill battle. It’s a free world and of course, any parent has a right to speak her mind—but I can’t but help but feel disturbed when people set back progress the rest of us have made for helping the world welcome children with special needs.
The number-one job kids would like to have they grow up: superhero. That’s per a new poll of 3910 adults who are parents to children under age 10. Other career aspirations that top kids’ lists (in descending order): celebrity, doctor, President of the United States, teacher, prince/princess, astronaut, chef, police officer and Santa. (Apologies, Santa.)
The majority of parents, 65 percent, said they would like their children to someday follow in their career footsteps. Parents noted that the top things they believe are influencing their kids’ ambitions are TV shows and movies.
Both my kids think they know what they want to be when they grow up. Actually, with my son, it’s more like an obsession. We are not sure how or why Max decided on a career as a firefighter, but he talks about it all the time—and wears a plastic Fire Chief hat as often as he can (school and bathtime excluded). Max may have disabilities, but who am I to discourage him? Perhaps, someday, there will be a position for him in a fire department. For now, he is content to visit our local fire station every weekend. This past weekend, we took him to the FASNY Museum of Firefighting in Hudson, New York, and it was like he had reached nirvana, so blissful was he.
If I had answered that poll, conducted by Coupon Codes Pro, I would have said that parents are most likely shape their children’s career aspirations. My daughter wants to be a writer and editor when she grows up, just like Mommy. She’s started her own blog, and posts when she feels like it. I have to admit, I love it. I saw it coming: Back when she was little, one of her favorite games was for me to write out sentences that had spelling errors, and then she’d fix them with a pencil.
Whatever my kids do when they grow up is going to be fine with me, because it’s not something I can control. I do not know what the future holds for Max, both in terms of his development and the kind of work options that will exist for people with disabilities years from now. I do not know what my children’s interests will be when the time comes for them to choose jobs. Right now, I’m glad they’re taking an interest in work. Whatever career they ultimately choose, I just want them to be happy.
I recently found out about Touchless Toilet Technology from Kohler—a way to flush just by holding a hand over the tank lid, where a sensor has been placed. It’s really cool, and it seems like it would have been an excellent potty tool when I was training Max. Back then, both of us needed all the motivation and temptation that we could get. Max was day trained at school for a long time before he finally became so at home, at age 9. One key thing I learned: Parents have to be just as ready as the kids are. Potty-training a kid with special needs requires dedication, and if you’re not diligent about whatever tactic you try, your child won’t get into the groove.
I asked special needs parents on social media for their best tricks and tactics for potty training a child with special needs. May the flush be with you!
“What finally worked was using star stickers on a chart. Nicholas got to put one on every time he went. It seemed to really work for him that way (even though I still had to more or less force him onto the seat each time).”—Sarah L.
“The Clean Pants Check. We did the usual sitting on the potty 30 minutes after eating or drinking, but instead of checking every 30 minutes thereafter to see if he was ‘dirty,’ we checked to see if he was CLEAN, then rewarded him. He is autistic and was not potty-trained at 4.5 years old. It only took one month with this method.”—Peggy M.
“Lukas is autistic. We did lots of modeling and letting him see us go. We are not a shy family. No pressure. A couple of months after turning four, he just went in and did it. That was it.”—Rebecca D.
“I put a Pull-Up on over a pair of panties. She felt the wetness, which ultimately motivated her not to go in her pants, and I had the leak protection of a Pull-Up.”—Crystal S.
“My son was very stubborn. Making him responsible helped. He had to get the Pull-Ups from the drawer and throw them away. I bought toddler wipes so he could more easily clean himself. Eventually I think it just came down to…it was time. He was 9.”—Angela S.
“For my grandson, I picked a weekend, I talked about it with him and told him when he got home from school on Friday, he would be able to wear Big Boy underwear that he picked out the week prior (Buzz Lightyear)…. The two days of potty training gave him the ability to understand what holding it meant, and he had had to tell somebody. He has had a few accidents, but we never went back to diapers. He will be 9 tomorrow and completely potty trained. They said he would never accomplish being potty trained…. HA!”—Barbara D.
“We used potty-training DVDs and huge celebrations: woo-hoos, dancing, making a complete jack@$$ of ourselves.”—Devon B.
“Learning to point to icon on his speech app led to being willing to sign/verbalize needing to go. Didn’t happen until age 12 after trying many other ways.”—Peggy R.
“Repetition. We just did it over and over and over and over (you get it) until it stuck. Oh, and Reece’s Pieces.”—Patty H.
“I bought those little tablets that you throw in the water of the toilet, they come in all different colors. I guess it’s kind of like target practice: Once they pee on the little tablet it starts to dissolve nd turn the toilet water whatever color the tablet is.”—Stacy S.
“A giraffe puppet trained mine! They wouldn’t do it for me, but they’d do it for the puppet.”—Kristen R.
“For my daughter, I painted her toenails while she sat on the potty. She was fascinated by watching me do it and it would keep her still and help her stay put for a few minutes.”—Rosie R.
“There is this funny song about poop in Brazil, with a video clip and everything. I used to sing it for my son, making voices and faces, while he tried to do number 2. It worked really well. This is the link. Yeah, it’s a poop singing!”—Andrea B.
“He wanted a doctor kit so I put a brand new one on top of the entertainment center out of reach and said he had to use the potty and get out of diapers to have it. Every time he asked for it I just said, ‘You know what you need to do.’ I didn’t push him to use the potty. One day he decided he wanted it enough and did it. He was almost 5.”—Jennifer R.
“Had a treat box in the bathroom filled with cheap toys my son loves from Walmart and Big Lots! When he did his thing, he would get to choose one.”—Kay T.
“I used Daniel’s favorite, M&M’s, plus I kept a potty chair in the family room for emergencies!”—April G.
“A Lalaloopsy mini doll as a reward for poop on the potty. I bought an eight-pack for $44. Best money I ever spent. After two years of potty training for poop, this finally seemed to work at the age of 6.”—Christie C.
“I told my son with Sensory Processing Disorder that we couldn’t go to Disney World the following week, because Mickey didn’t let kids his age who couldn’t use the potty into Disney World. I only told him this because his OT and I agreed he was not doing it purely out of stubbornness, at that point. I wish I had done it sooner because 48 hours later, he was completely day-trained.”—KLW
CUE: LET IT GO
“Nothing worked. And we tried EVERYTHING! He just had to be ready. We finally just gave up, told him he could stop trying and wear Pull-Ups as long as he needed to. He self-trained the next day. He was 4 and we’d been trying for two years. I think just stepping back and taking the pressure off, letting him set the agenda and be in control of the process was key for him. He has Asperger’s.”—Angela C.