By Mary Winfield

As parents of children with special needs, who are also choosing to homeschool, we have some unique challenges. On top of these challenges, we are also not spared the normal trials that come to us as a part of our earthly lives. As I have been struggling with a seemingly endless barrage of these challenges this year, I have been on a journey of finding peace in the midst of these struggles.

 

Finding Peace by Understanding What It Is
We learn in John that the peace offered to us by the Savior is not the same as the peace offered to us by the world (14:27). The world would gain peace by erasing hardships and never struggling. Their vision of peace is based on external factors and the impact those factors have on their life. It does not take very careful scrutiny to see why peace like this is going to be shallow and fleeting. We have no control over many of the troubling things that happen in this world or even in our own lives. While we can minimize negative consequences of actions, we cannot avoid hardships.

 

So then what is peace?

As I pondered this, I was guided to a scripture in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”


As I read that scripture, I knew that is where I wanted to be. I had for too long been letting my troubles, confusion, and persecution turn into despair. Feeling forsaken and hopeless I had been ascribing to the faulty thinking that if my faith was strong enough, then I wouldn’t have to feel so confused and troubled by the things happening in my life.

 

Peace is not the absence of external hardships, but rather a “well springing up inside of us” (John 4:14) that sustains us, no matter what is happening around us. Sometimes we will feel confused and perplexed and cast down, but that does not mean we have to lose that peace and let those feelings turn into hopelessness and despair.

But how do we accomplish that?

 

Finding Peace at Its Source
If we go back to 2 Corinthians and read a couple of verses earlier in chapter 4 we find:

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (v.6)


When we feel consumed with darkness in our lives, we can turn to the ultimate “light of the world” (John 8:12) who will fill our hearts and souls up with that light. Because He “trod the winepress alone” (Isaiah 63:3), we do not have to. When the source of our peace is The Prince of Peace, nothing can take that away from us.

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By Mary Winfield

In any ecosystem, it is important for all parts to be well balanced and have the things they require to thrive. When one part of the ecosystem is not getting what it needs, all parts suffer and have to compensate. Our families are no different. There is even an area of study that suggests the family can be studied like an ecosystem because it follows the same principles. The only way that a family can thrive is if all parts of it are receiving the things they need. Strong families grow like strong ecosystems, with each individual part contributing.

 

Thinking of it simply, take The Lion King for example (cue “The Circle of Life” music).
Mufasa explains to Simba how the antelope eat the grass, the lions eat the antelope, and when they die, the lions fertilize the soil (still seems like the antelopes drew the short stick, but it works). We see later when the hyenas are taking for granted all the bounty of their ecosystem that it leads to the land becoming barren. Their ecosystem suffered for a while, which means all parts of it suffered until everyone was getting what they needed.

 

In the same way, a family suffers if everyone isn’t getting what is needed. So how do we grow strong families and support each member?

 


Growing Strong Parents

Parents are the basis of our familial ecosystem. Since they are the foundation, a lot of the responsibility to make sure the ecosystem thrives falls on their shoulders. They are responsible to make sure that temporal needs are provided, children are loved and taught both academically and spiritually, and interactions between family members are either positive or resolved positively.

 

Because of these responsibilities and the great love parents have for their children, other family members are usually put before themselves. This is necessary sometimes, but when it becomes the default setting, the family ecosystem starts to suffer.

 

We as parents have needs that are important to our well-being. Taking care of our bodies, minds, and spirits are not luxuries that we may only indulge in when there is “extra” time (Ha!). Just as one part of an ecosystem can support another part until equilibrium is restored, we can only put off our own needs for so long before there is a collapse. We pour so much into our families that we need to take time to refill our own cups. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can keep the family running smoothly without attending to your own needs. Strong families need strong parents.

 


Growing Strong Children

Children should each be considered as a separate and important part of the family ecosystem. While we sometimes group them together, they each have their own personalities and needs. Anyone with more than one child knows that the parenting style or guidance that works perfectly for one child, is not going to be as great of a fit for the others.

 

We especially know for our children that our gifted learners, struggling learners, and neurotypical children all have different needs when it comes to education. That is why we all wanted to homeschool! While we may be familiar with these differences educationally, we should incorporate them into all aspects of our family life.

 

Children need to recognize that while they are not the leader of the family, they can still contribute in meaningful ways by adding their strength and good example to the other members of the family.

 


Growing Strong Families as a Whole

Differences in weaknesses and strengths among all family members should be recognized and embraced. That is why God put us together as a family! Weaknesses can be seen as opportunities for others to serve the people they love. Different strengths can be celebrated and added to one another to accomplish a much larger goal. And when we all take time to make sure that individual needs are met, our families can grow in love and strength as individual members and as a whole.

 


Growing Strong in Community

SPED Homeschool recognizes that special education homeschooling families need to grow at their own pace, but that they grow better when they can be supported within a larger community. This is why the new SPED Strong Tribes program we’re raising funds to start in 2019 will focus on helping families grow and thrive.

 

To find out more about the SPED Strong Tribes program and how you can help us raise the funds we need to start creating local tribes that will strengthen families, check out our Fundrazr campaign.

 

For more information on the five basic foundations we will be building into our new SPED Strong Tribes, check out all the blogs in this series:
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Togetherness
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Respite and Opportunities
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Networking
Homeschooling Families Strengthened by Growth

 

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Donate today

(all donations are tax-deductible)

 

 

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By Mary Winfield

We are into all things nerdy in my house. This extends to superhero movies. And my boys are very into superheroes. They wear costumes more than regular clothes, and I have to address them by their character instead of their name or they don’t respond. Because of this, I have seen all the superhero movies. I am always taken by surprise though by how I can see parallels in my own life in these movies, and specifically what these movies show me about autism meltdowns.

 

One of these instances was the latest Thor installment: Ragnarok. Thor gets stranded on a planet where he finds the Hulk. The problem is that once the Hulk changes back into Bruce Banner, he has a hard time staying that way. Since they are in hiding, they need him to not change back into the Hulk, or they won’t be able to escape. 

 


As I was watching, I was laughing thinking of how Thor’s method for helping Bruce Banner reminded me of living with a child with Autism. But once I thought about it some more, I realized that just as Thor’s behavior wasn’t really helping, sometimes mine doesn’t either. Here are some things we can all do a little bit better when it comes to dealing with autism meltdowns.


Develop The Relationship

In earlier Avengers movies, Black Widow and Bruce Banner form a relationship. Because of their relationship, she is able to help him change back into himself when he is the Hulk. She does this by speaking calmly, moving slowly, and letting him initiate touch first. She even has a phrase that she uses to signal to him that it is time to “transition.” Does that sound familiar? The important part of this interaction though is the trust that is built up between the two of them. She spent a lot of time making sure that he felt valued and safe with her, and it took time for them to find the routine that worked for them. She put in the time and effort to make it work. 

 


Thor on the other hand just jumps in and starts trying to imitate this routine without building up the relationship first. This means that he isn’t doing everything that Bruce Banner needs, but it also means that the trust isn’t there. They don’t have that solid foundational relationship to build from, so it doesn’t work, and Banner eventually just pushes him away and tells him to stop. Does that sound familiar too?

 

How many times to do we just want to jump to the end results of being able to calm down our child without first building that foundation of trust and discovering what they as an individual need? I still do it after years and years of practice; it is an easy trap to fall into!


Our Stress = Their Stress

Like I said, Black Widow uses calm and slow movements and speech in order to help Hulk calm down enough to turn back into Banner. Thor on the other hand keeps touching him, speaking quickly, and talking A LOT. It is obvious from his speech and his mannerisms that he is dealing with a lot of stress. The stress is the only thing that is being communicated, and that does not help calm anyone down.

 

I think about how often my stress levels are high enough to leak into everything that I do. Then when trying to help a child with Autism either avoid a meltdown or come down from one, I only end up making it worse. I recently read “Fifteen Things They Forgot To Tell You About Autism” and in it the author talks about how when she is really worried about her children acting “normal” out in public, they usually have a meltdown; but when she just accepts that whatever happens will happen and she can help them if they do have struggles, then they usually do much better. I have also found this to be true with my son. Children with Autism are so sensitive to outside stimulus, that when we are anxious, that only makes a meltdown more likely.

 

Why We Are Helping Them
Another big thing that I noticed was the difference in motivations between Black Widow and Thor. Black Widow wants to help Banner become himself again because she loves him and cares about him. Thor wants Banner to stay himself because Thor needs Banner to help him.

 

A lot of times I don’t want my son to melt because I am tired, or we are in public and I don’t want to be embarrassed or judged, or because I have something else I want to do. He can tell when I want to help him because I just want him to be safe and happy, and when I am trying to help him for selfish reasons. And that makes all the difference.

 

Meltdowns are not fun for anyone (parent or child), but if we just employ these 3 subtle changes to the way we approach meltdowns, we will see a deeper relationship with our child and less meltdowns. 

 

Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

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(all donations are tax-deductible)

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