Dyana Robbins

As much as special-needs parents understand caring for others, cultivating compassion in our children can be difficult. Sometimes, conditions like autism or mental illness make compassion challenging to develop. Other times, children can become self-centered and focused as they grapple with the pain of their struggles.

Here are some practical strategies to develop this vital characteristic in our families:

1. Intentionally point out and discuss the needs of others

Young people may require direct teaching in this area.  When my sons were toddlers, we had a poster with kids displaying various facial expressions.  Each expression had an emotion attached to it.  We rehearsed this almost daily to help them interpret non-verbal cues, but also to cultivate empathy.

When they were a bit older, we began coaching them in social interactions by telling them how their behavior was impacting their friends or likely perceived in the community.  This direct teaching was used for both positive and negative interactions.  In many ways, I acted as a narrator for their lives during this stage; explaining the world around them and how they were operating within it.

As they have grown, we discuss news events, life events in the people around us and their own experiences in ways that point to not only facts but likely emotional responses that co-occur.  This practice has challenged us to perceive likely needs and emotions that we can respond to as we engage with these situations.

2. Travel, Serving, and Giving

Despite the limitations our families experience, there are ways we can help our children see beyond our walls.  Even trips to the library or stores provide a myriad of ways to really see those around us.  If you are able to travel more broadly, cross-cultural experiences will greatly hone your family’s compassion as you experience being “the others” while being immersed in the struggles of other cultures.

Serving others is possible for almost every child.  Finding ways to do this as a family cultivates compassion in each member.  Food banks, Operation Christmas Child, visiting nursing homes and volunteering in our neighborhoods provide ample service opportunities.  Prayer for others’ needs is always possible even when we are homebound.

Our family’s favorite service place, besides church, has been a local ministry to the homeless called the Mercy Tree.  This wonderful ministry provides lunch in a local church, devotions, laundry service, showers and transportation to those without homes.  As we cook for our friends and eat together, we understand more of a world we have never experienced and our ability to love in those places broadens.

 

 

3. Share great stories!

Powerful stories that transcend their time always include adversity that their characters overcome.  We can link the characters’ struggles to relevant experiences in our lives or those of others.  This helps us not only understand pain, but what is required to face and overcome the type of struggle depicted.  These stories are blueprints to guide us in helping others.

4. Practice gratitude and compassion at home

  • Tell your spouse frequently what you love and appreciate about him/her in front of your children
  • Around the dinner table, have each family member share thankfulness about the person next to them
  • Keep a thankfulness list in a central location and encourage everyone to contribute
  • Each month, assign one family member to select a person or family to serve in some way
  • Invite others into your home
  • Love each other well
  • Find penpals from other countries and exchange letters

 

I hope that some of these strategies encouraged you to find new ways to encourage compassion in your family.  Besides the joy it will bring your children, fostering compassion expands their relationships and equips them to better relate to their communities.

 

 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

This article was reposted from www.amblinggrace.com with permission from the author.

The holidays are rapidly approaching and sometimes our schedules fill up before we know it.  However, for parents of children with special needs; specifically those with sensory differences, the holidays can be an especially stressful time.  What can you do to make them better?

 

Keep as much routine or rhythm to your day as possible
Often times due to holiday closings, parties or family commitments, many of our days are not “typical” during November and December.  However, if you can, keep some routine in your days.  Try to keep meals, naps and sleep schedules the same, if at all possible.  Even if the times are a bit off, having the same routines (reading a story, brushing teeth, praying before bed) can make a big difference in how your children react to the holidays.

 

Consider preparing your child for new events
This looks different for every child.  But if your child needs to know what is going on, consider making a visual schedule or a social story to introduce them to new people, events, or new sensory experiences.  Talk about the event, show them pictures, or even pick out a video (YouTube is fabulous for this) to show them what the event will entail.

 

Put yourself in your child’s shoes
As you schedule your holiday plans, try to step back and really look at how much you have scheduled. Think through what your child typically has trouble with or what triggers problems or meltdowns?  Are there modifications to be made?  If you have children who love something, and others who don’t, could part of your family participate?

 

Don’t be afraid to say NO!
This is probably my best tip: Don’t be afraid to say no.  Though the holidays are special, we tend to over schedule and cram every social event into a month’s time.  It can get overwhelming, even for adults who are extroverts.  Sometimes we just need to say no.  This involves prioritizing what is really important to us and our families.  We don’t have to do everything in order to make memories.  In fact, some of things that make the best memories, are those we do at home and without planning.

 

Let go of your expectations
In this fabulous of age of Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, we tend to want all our memories to look “picture perfect”.  Guess what?  That’s not real life.  Sometimes the greatest triumph you will have is keeping your children alive or getting everyone a bath.  Remember, when you see pictures of perfection that is literally one second of that person’s day.  I can guarantee you that the other 86,399 seconds in their day do not look that way.

 

Embrace simple family traditions
Reading Christmas stories, playing with a nativity set, singing Christmas carols, decorating a tree, baking Christmas cookies, coloring and decorating the house all are fun ways to celebrate.  You don’t have to be out at light shows or at a party with 100 people to make memories that your children will cherish.  Just as you can do school “outside of the box”, you can do Christmas “outside of the box.”  You can do it any way that works for you and your family.  Don’t be afraid of embracing new traditions or trying different things.

 

Whatever you choose to do this year, we at SPED Homeschool pray it is an amazing time for you and your family.

 


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

 

By Dyana Robbins

If you are married and parenting a special-needs child or children, you are likely well-acquainted with the marital prognosis bandied about in our circles. It’s not a kind one. Widely shared statistics tell us that the divorce rate for our families lies around eighty percent. Others decry that statistic, but no matter the number, special-needs parenting places great demands on a marriage.

However, there are wonderful things that special-needs parenting creates or deepens in an enduring marriage. I’m writing a series of articles on those things; highlighting strengths developed in the fires of parenting special-needs children and strategies for developing them. I’ll start by sharing a little of our experience and how our marriage has benefited through it.

Our Story
My husband and I married in 1995 and did not have children until 2002. These seven years provided ample time to know one another and plan for children. We both met career, financial and personal goals before conceiving and felt secure that we had laid the best foundation we could to bring children into the family.

Our marriage was well-prepared to support children, but the arrival of our first child threatened everything we had built. Our son was born without the ability to nurse or take a bottle. We spent many long weeks pumping breast milk around the clock, trying to rouse our son to eat, and then spooning the liquid gold into his mouth. Exhaustion and fear over his condition accelerated a fall into postpartum depression.

We beat back the darkness, our son improved. Then we welcomed our second son into the family two years later. Before long, I was battling fears that whatever was affecting my oldest son had also affected his younger brother. By the time our oldest was three-and-a-half, we had identified both our sons were impacted by autism spectrum disorders, among other challenges. Our family was struggling to get through each day and our marriage took some tough blows for the next five years as we came to terms with handling a reality that differed from our expectations and preparations.

As our sons are entering high school, we enjoy an enduring marriage and a host of benefits from weathering the early years of parenting. Here are some marital benefits of special-needs parenting we have discovered along the way.


Still smiling after all these years and lots of tears…. 


What We’ve Gained


Enhanced Sensitivity

Some of us are naturally attuned to the needs of others, while some people struggle to appreciate them. I won’t disclose who is who in our marriage, but we have both grown exponentially in this area. Parenting our children has required us to closely attend to the children’s needs and one another. Thriving together requires recognizing everyone’s needs and balancing them in ways not demanded by typical parenting.

Deep, Honest Communication
When our marriage was suffering, we learned to communicate more deeply, honestly, and quickly when problems arose. Beating around the bush is a luxury confined to times of normalcy and peace. Fighting for our family required honest, forthcoming communication. I developed courage to address unmet needs in myself and children and to express them well to my husband. This was a process, but we hashed out better communication skills and committed to using them.

Deeper Commitment
Our vows were expressed with a commitment to part only in death, yet I questioned them in our darkest times. As my husband struggled with our new realities, my understanding, compassion and forgiveness were lacking. I entertained ideas that it might be easier on my own and had to quickly combat them with truth. I chose to love him better and renewed my commitment to our marriage. He stuck with me through disillusionment, anger and depression. We look back on those times and marvel at how we’ve grown spiritually, emotionally and relationally.


Laughing More

There are many challenging and painful things we encounter, but almost all of them can be viewed with a sense of humor if we are willing to laugh at ourselves and our circumstances. Shared laughter helps us cope with stress and builds unity. Some of our biggest laughs have come from mining humor out of acutely stressful or painful situations. Given the number of those situations inherent to parenting special-needs children, we laugh a lot more.

Coordination and Delegation Skills
Nothing can mold a couple into a tip-top team like managing the schedules, needs and appointments of our families. Balancing work, therapy, school and life demands requires skillful coordination, a team mentality and the ability to delegate. I’m thankful for how we’ve honed these skills over our years of parenting; we can flat get things done.

New Ministry
In the early years of parenting, we had to divide and conquer to meet the challenges that kept coming. One of the few things we could do together in those years was encourage other struggling parents. It helped us stay connected to one another.

We have met many wonderful people through our family’s challenges: doctors, therapists, other parents and those with special needs themselves. These relationships give us a richer life and opportunities to share hope, comfort and encouragement even as we receive them.

These are a handful of the benefits we have enjoyed. I hope they encourage you to recognize your own. I’d love for you to share yours with me! My next article will address strategies for cultivating these benefits.


This article has been copied with permission from Ambling Grace. 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the on-going work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today

 

 

 

By Shanel Tarrant-Simone

Planning​ ​for​ ​the​ ​future​ ​often​ ​looks​ ​different​ ​and​ ​should​ ​start​ ​early​ ​for​ ​our​ ​children​ ​with learning​ ​differences​ ​and​ ​special​ ​needs.​ Below I’ll​ ​be​ ​covering​ ​a​ ​variety​ ​of​ ​topics​ ​that​ ​I​ ​hope​ ​you​ ​will​ ​find helpful​ ​when​ ​planning​ ​​your​ ​child’s​ ​future.  We will address​ ​foundational​ ​skills​ ​and how​ ​to​ ​access​ ​resources​ ​at​ ​an​ ​early​ ​age.​

​​Through​ ​​almost​ ​ten​ ​years​ ​of​ ​working​ ​in​ ​public school​ ​special​ ​education,​ ​and ​being​ ​a​ ​mom​ ​of​ seventeen-year-old ​twin​ ​boys​ ​with​ ​Level​ ​3 Autism,​ ​I’ve​ ​learned​ ​that​ Activities ​of​ ​Daily Living (ADL)​ ​are​ ​vital ​in​ ​accessing​ ​the​ ​community​ ​when​ ​our​ ​children​ ​are​ ​no longer​ ​school​ ​age.​ ​ADLs​ ​are​ ​the​ ​skills​ ​our​ ​children​ ​will​ ​need​ ​to​ ​function​ ​as independently​ ​as​ ​possible,​ ​no​ ​matter​ ​what​ ​the​ ​future​ ​holds​ ​for​ ​them.

 

When​ ​should​ ​I​ ​start​ ​planning​ ​for​ ​my​ ​child’s​ ​future?​
It’s​ ​never​ ​too​ ​early​ ​to​ ​plan​ ​for​ ​the​ ​future.​ ​​ ​Our​ ​homeschool​ ​curriculum​ ​and​ ​”lifestyle​ ​of learning”​ ​should​ ​support​ ​our​ ​child’s​ ​post​ ​school​ ​goals​ ​soon​ ​after​ ​diagnosis​ ​or​ ​as​ ​early as​ ​elementary​ ​age.​ ​And,​ ​because​ ​some​ ​of​ ​our​ ​children​ ​need​ ​longer​ ​to​ ​acquire​ ​even some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​most​ ​basic​ ​skills,​ ​teaching​ ​towards​ ​independence​ ​as​ ​much​ ​as​ ​possible​ ​starts​ ​at the​ ​preschool​ ​level.​ ​​ ​This​ ​ ​includes​ ​the​ ​most​ ​important​ ​and​ ​often​ ​overlooked​ ​skill​ ​of Functional​ ​Communication​.​

​The​ ​best​ ​advice​ ​I’ve​ ​ever​ ​heard​ ​from​ ​someone​ ​working​ ​with adults​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Spectrum​ ​is​ ​that​ ​“functional​ ​language​ ​and​ ​safely​ ​being​ ​able​ ​to​ ​use​ ​a​ ​public restroom​ ​are​ ​the​ ​two​ ​most​ ​important​ ​skills​ ​we​ ​can​ ​give​ ​a​ ​special​ ​needs​ ​child/adult. Academics​ ​are​ ​important​ ​but​ are less so ​if​ ​they​ ​don’t​ ​have​ ​these​ ​two​ ​basics mastered.”  

 

What questions should I be asking in​ ​planning​ ​for​ ​my​ ​child’s​ ​future?​

  • Education​: Will​ ​my​ ​child’s​ ​future​ ​include​ ​attending​ ​college,​ ​Trade/Vocational​ ​School​ ​or spending​ ​several​ ​days​ ​each​ ​week​ ​in​ ​the​ ​community​ ​at​ ​a​ ​DayHab​ ​facility?
  • Legal​​: Do​ ​I​ ​have​ ​all​ ​the​ ​necessary​ ​documents​ ​in​ ​place​ ​such​ ​as​ ​a​ ​will​ ​and​ ​Special Needs​ ​Trust?​ ​Will​ ​my​ ​child​ ​need​ ​full​ ​Guardianship​ ​or​ ​will​ ​Supported​ ​Decision​ ​Making​ ​be enough?
  • Living​ ​Arrangement​​:  Will​ ​they​ ​live​ ​independently?​ ​If​ ​so,​ ​where?​ ​Is​ ​Supported (semi-independent)​ ​Living,​ ​Group​ ​Home​ ​or​ ​Host​ ​Home​ ​Companion​ ​(Foster​ ​Care)​ ​the best​ ​option?​ ​Or​ ​will​ ​they​ ​remain​ ​at​ ​home​ ​with​ ​family?​ ​What​ ​supports​ ​will​ ​they​ ​need​ ​to access​ ​the​ ​community?
  • Job/Financial​​: ​Will​ ​my​ ​child​ ​have​ ​a​ ​job?​ ​Volunteer?​ ​Need​ ​Employment​ ​Assistance​ ​or Supported​ ​Employment?
  • Local​ ​&​ ​State​ ​Services​​:  Who​ ​is​ ​my​ ​Local​ ​Authority?​ ​What​ ​services​ ​are​ ​available​ ​to​ ​my child​ ​as​ ​a​ ​minor​ ​and​ ​what​ ​services​ ​will​ ​be​ ​available​ ​to​ ​support​ ​them​ ​as​ ​an​ ​adult?​ ​Is there​ ​a​ ​waiver​ ​list​ ​that​ ​would​ ​help​ ​support​ ​their​ ​community-based,​ ​behavioral,​ ​medical and​ ​financial​ ​needs?​ ​Should​ ​I​ ​apply​ ​for​ ​SSI​ ​and​ ​Medicaid?     

 

These​ ​are​ ​just​ ​a​ ​few​ ​of​ ​the​ ​many​ ​decisions​ ​that​ ​need​ ​to​ ​be​ ​made​ ​for​ ​our​ ​children.​ ​Some at​ ​an​ ​early​ ​age, ​others​ ​once​ ​they​ ​reach​ ​high​ ​school​ ​age.​ ​I​ ​am​ ​currently​ ​in​ ​the​ ​process​ ​of making​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​more​ ​time​-​sensitive​ ​and​ ​critical​ ​adult​ ​transition​ ​decisions​ ​for​ ​my boys.​ ​I​ ​hope​ ​my​ ​experiences​ ​over​ ​the​ ​last​ ​twelve ​years​ ​will ​be​ ​helpful​ ​to​ ​you​ ​and​ ​your family​ ​when​ ​making​ ​some​ ​of​ ​these​ ​​difficult​ ​but​ ​necessary​ ​decisions.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you benefit from this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today!

 


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. 

 


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded?

Donate today

 

 

 

Sherry Martin

To have a friend…be one” were the words the iron trivet in the little Texas kitchen of my childhood.  I used to look at those words every day and I knew they held wisdom, but for the life of me, I could not figure what that wisdom was.  

I always made friends easily, maybe because I was an only child and no friends meant no playmates.  It wasn’t until much later when I had kids of my own that I realized not everyone possesses the ability to form and maintain friends.  

 

Struggles Turned to Homeschooling Goals
As a mother of a son with special needs,  I experienced the pain and helplessness of having a child who was rejected, isolated and he knew it.  I prayed he would grow out of it.  I had no clue of what to do about it. This was the early 90’s, and all anyone was focused on for children with special needs, were their academic shortcomings.

As homeschool parents we teach our children everything from how to hold a pencil to analytic geometry.  Do we need to add social skills to our busy lives too?  The answer is a resounding …YES!

 

Social Skills are a Foundation
Helping your child develop these skills is crucial to a happy, abundant life.  All of us are born with the desire for meaningful relationships, and experiences with others that add to our confidence, enjoyment, and well-being.  These skills teach our children how to express and control their emotions, take turns, ask for forgiveness and many  other necessary social graces they need to become proficient in navigating the communal highway.

Remember, social skillfulness is also important in laying a foundation for our children to become confident spouses and parents later in life.

 

 

 

 

 


Did you enjoy this article?

Would you consider a small donation to support the ongoing work of SPED Homeschool?

Click Here to Donate Today