Dawn Spence

For many, this will be your first year of homeschooling and my best advice for you is to take self-care breaks this year. Homeschooling is a fabulous journey, but it requires work and dedication. Breaks can take many different shapes and forms, so I want to highlight a few that have been helpful for me in my seven, almost eight, years of homeschooling. Not only will taking breaks help you finish strong, rest is an essential part of staying healthy – physically and mentally.

 

Quiet Time at Home

I am still working on this part. Whether it is taking a hot bath, a Bible study, or sitting quietly with a cup of coffee, it is important to feel calm and quiet. Let’s face it, life is crazy and most days we go all day. We are teachers, cooks, nurses, referees, moms, dads, and much more but we need time to just be still. Find your peace and wrap yourself around the bigger picture of why you do this whole crazy life. We are called to serve and love but we need the quiet and break to refocus and ground ourselves so we do not become overwhelmed.

 

Connect with Friends

You are not just a homeschool parent, you are a person who needs their friends. Take time to talk to or meet up with other friends that will encourage you. Find your friends or group that give you words of wisdom and who you can be real with about your struggles and your triumphs. Meet over coffee or chat over zoom, but take the time you will be amazed how much it will rejuvenate you. I truly believe that friendships help us know that those bad days are normal. We all need a cheering section that will speak to our hearts, hold our hand, and pray for us.

 

“…friendships help us know that those bad days are normal..”

 

Retreat Away from Home

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of getting away with an organization called A Mother’s Rest. A special needs mom started this program because she knows what is on our plates. It was an amazing time to get away at a bed and breakfast with no expectations except to relax and sleep. It was nice to be with other moms who understand. They also have retreats for couples or just dads. Their motto is, “You cannot pour from an empty cup,” which is so true. It was nice to step away, be pampered, and truly rest. If you cannot get away for a retreat, find other ways. My husband has surprised me with a night away at a hotel to sleep. Find a way to fill your cup.

 

As you go through this year, take time for yourself so that you can give more to important people in your life. Self-care is never selfish and it allows you to replenish yourself so that you can accomplish your goals.

 

 

 

 

 


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building autism resilience blog image

By Dyana Robbins

Managing anxiety and sensory overload present a core challenge for those with autism and their caregivers.  These two obstacles can limit social engagement and successful navigation of social environments.  Below are six tips that have worked for  my family and others to help those affected by autism develop resilience in difficult situations.  When successful, these interventions open up a world of greater involvement and connectedness.

 1.  Identify and list contributing factors   

Identifying factors which contribute to autistic social difficulties may seem an easy task, but this first step is often challenging for families.  Sometimes, the stress of the difficulties or their frequency makes it difficult to think through these factors.  Other times, it seems impossible to determine the triggers.  

Either way, writing them down, keeping a journal and asking for others’ observations are simple steps caregivers can take to start identifying these factors.  Once you have developed a list, it becomes easier to clarify and organize the factors contributing to specific problems.

 2.  Determine the threshold for each difficulty 

Individuals affected by autism become overwhelmed when their tolerance threshold has been exceeded.  Where that threshold lies varies by activity, stimulus and individual differences.

For example, a person who seems overwhelmed by the wind may be able to tolerate a gentle breeze around buildings, but not at parks where it blows leaves around or causes tablecloths and awnings to flap.  Likewise, that person might enjoy the sensation of a gentle breeze when they are well-rested and relaxed but are unable to handle it when tired and stressed. 

As best you can, note the limits you observe.  The key in making these observations is to learn how much the person can tolerate BEFORE experiencing a meltdown. 

 

3.  Develop a plan for success in those challenging environments

 Borrowing heavily from  systematic desensitization principles, I have found success in helping others adapt to challenging environments and even overcoming them.  This involves the following components:

  • Allowing exposure to the stressors, but not to the point of overwhelming your loved one
  • Repeated, short exposures to the stressors without long periods between times (i.e. weekly or bi-weekly library visits or grocery store trips) until they have achieved mastery of them
  • Providing education and problem-solving, if appropriate, to equip them in the challenge (outside of the stressful environment)
  • Encouraging the child repeatedly before and during the stressful exposure of their ability to handle the situation
  • Assuring the individual you will leave as soon as they have tried their tools and/or their threshold has been met
  • Gradually extending the time in those situations as improvement is demonstrated
  • Reducing other stressful situations while targeting one

4.  Solicit their involvement/agreement if possible.

Even if your child is nonverbal, talking with them about your love and concern for them in these situations is vital.  Framing the plan you have developed as a tool to help them achieve greater social skill navigation. goes a long way in garnering their cooperation.  Talking about their struggle, and your desire to help them with it, demonstrates respect for them and encourages a teamwork dynamic. 

 

5.  Start by targeting the most troublesome barrier

In most families, there is one issue that rises above the rest.  If possible, I recommend working on that one barrier first to build momentum for success and to quickly reduce familial stress.  Perhaps it is sitting in church or being in groups of other children; whatever it is, get focused and marshal your energies to hit it first.  Let the other challenges take a backseat so you can work together on this one goal.

 

6.  Give grace, understanding, and compassion to one another

This process will not be easy.  You will need to rely on encouragement, and support from others as you grapple with these challenges.  Your family will also need to practice patience while giving grace for unmet goals and do-overs as you all adapt.  

For our family, having the prayers and help of friends while we tackled the hardest problems carried us through.   In that time, a couple of verses which encouraged me greatly were Genesis 33:13-14 .  In these verses, Jacob is leading his family and herds on a long journey.  They are stressed, tired and overwhelmed.  Jacob refuses to drive them too hard on the road, but to travel instead at the pace his family is setting.  

 

As you move forward in tackling issues with your child, I encourage you to let your loved one set the pace.  Challenge and support them.  Then, celebrate as the struggle gives way to greater confidence, skills, involvement, and hope. 

 


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