Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sensory Issues: Finding Empathy for that moody disposition

     Sensory Issues.....A bucket of all different kinds of nuts & bolts.   Dressing issues, eating issues, maturity delays....There is a lot to take on as a parent when faced with this issue.

     The most challenging part of  Michael's Hyper-sensory issue was dealing with the effect that it had on his moods. Not only was it difficult learning how to help him manage his moods, but even more difficult understanding him and feel empathy.

     For the last couple of years when my Michael's Hyper-sensitive issues came to the for front, this is what he looked like much of the time:  Along with his other issues, he woke up with an edge. He was crabby, irritable, mouthy, and prone to temper tantrums. His tone was that of an insolent teenager.  It did not matter if I was asking him to pick up his toys or asking him if he would like some ice cream, it was always the same: his responses came in this snappy, edgy, disrespectful tone that just cut right through me.

      It was so disconcerting because I did not talk to him that way, I did not teach him this. So why?  Why would this child be so disrespectful to me?  It really got under my skin. Why would this child treat me, the very one who was trying the hardest to make his world a more harmonious and sensory integrated place?

     I tried everything. Talking to him, coddling him, ignoring him, reprimanding him, behavior charts, you name it.  Nothing seemed to work.

     Understanding this was just almost impossible.  Over time, when it appeared that there was not a thing I could do about this I just got angry. Angry and at times resentful.

      Then one evening  it came to me. Clear as day.   It came to me in  the way of a hot, itchy,  woolly, sweater.  They say you should not judge someone until you have walked a mile in his shoes...  Well try walking that same mile with an "itchy woolly sweater on a 90 degree day.


     I was out to dinner with my friend.  We were eating Sushi.  We were drinking wine.  ( I love Sushi, and I love wine).  She was one of my favorite friends, I was looking forward to this night and I should have been having a great time. However, I was not.  There was a problem.  That morning I came across this woolly sweater that I could never remember wearing so I put it on.  That was the problem. It was hot, it was itchy, and I was miserable.  As dinner progressed, I became more and more miserable.  I could not enjoy my Sushi, I could not enjoy my wine, and I could not enjoy my coveted girl talk with one of my best friends.  I really just wanted to go home and TAKE OFF THIS SWEATER!   I was trying my best to hide my discontentment, but my friend, whom can read me well, finally said, "what is wrong with you? Is everything okay? Your not yourself".  I responded, rather heatedly, "It is this sweater! It is driving me crazy!" I took a few moments to express myself...#!!%##*!!"

     In that same moment I stopped..."OMG!", "Michael!"..."Huh?", my friend was clearly puzzled.  "Michael!, this is how Michael feels!".

     In a New York second I had a taste of what it might feel like to be Michael.  My Michael with sensory issues.  My Michael who is Hyper-sensitive. Who had been expressing  displeasure with his body's reaction to the world for a long, long time.  The world to him often, to LOUD, to HOT, to TIGHT, to LOOSE.

     He has been walking around in this "Itchy woolly sweater" for years, with a sweater on that he could not take off at the end of the day... and I wanted him to smile.

     I now understood why sometimes even when we are at his favorite place, doing his favorite things, Michael does  not feel like smiling.  Why, sometimes, when he wakes up in the morning, he is snarky, and irritable.  Why there are times that he just can't pull off what I am asking of him.  No matter what the circumstances are.

     We have come a long way in the way in helping Michael get through the world in a more sensory organized way.  We have our good days, and we have our could be better ones.

     But on those days, when my son comes in the door looking and talking like a disgruntled, mouthy kid...before I react, or judge him too harshly, I ask myself, "How would I feel right now if I had to put back on that itchy, woolly sweater?...

     EMPATHY.....It can come packaged in the most extraordinary ways....




Sunday, January 20, 2013

Children's Temperaments: Meeting your child where he is...Part 1

     Inborn Temperaments:  The intrinsic, innate, hardwired set of personality traits that your child came into this world with.

     We all come into this world with our own "stuff".  The stuff that makes us unique.  Temperaments that determine whether we will be "risk takers" or "tentative".  Shy or outgoing.  Patient or easily frustrated.  Naturally independent, or on the needy side.  High strung or calm. Energetic, a couch potato, or somewhere in-between.  The list can go on and on.

     Now don't misunderstand, I am not implying that these traits are completely cut in stone, or so permanently ingrained that they are unable to be "tweaked".  I like to think of a child's inborn "blueprint" as a starting point.  Desirable or undesirable, the set of personality traits that your child brings with him into this world is truly where your work as a parent starts.

     I think it is most important to understand just what your child's set of blueprints look like.  To best meet their needs, you must. 

     The world of parenting has really not changed much over time in the sense that most of us really want what's best for their child.  Parent's naturally want to see their child grow in all areas: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.  Mainly, we want for our children to meet their "full" potential.  Each generation seems to bring with it their own ideas on how best to achieve this goal.

     These generational parenting models are embraced socially, academically, culturally, adopted and embraced by most institutions of the current time.  Some more notable models were, "spare the rod & spoil the child".  Then their was the parental paradigm  that approached parenting from a standpoint of understanding your child's "stages of development".  There was the focus on "self-esteem" model, geared toward not crushing the child with to many boundaries or emotional restraints.  Again, there have been, and always will be a current socially set of parenting "do's & don'ts" for each new set of parents to glean wisdom from.  You will find these little pearl's of wisdom from best selling books, coffee clutches at your local playground, and of course, even some of your own family members....

     Most parenting models I can't argue with...completely.  After all, they really do often have your child's best interest at heart.  I will say this though....there is no "one" way to raise a child.  There is no "foolproof method".  There is no one parenting model that is able to completely meet the needs of every child.  Every child is different.  So ask yourself, if that is true, how could one set of child rearing viewpoints be good for every child?

     The wisdom of parenting...the ability to extract from the good the things that work for YOUR child, and discard the rest...often despite what all the books and experts are telling you.

     It is very easy to buy into a set of current parenting guidelines because everybody is telling you that is what you must do and that is what works.  In fact, indeed, you will see many examples of why the current paradigm works...try them...if they work great...keep doing what your doing.  If it is not working....Chances are high that the current parenting method does not meet your own special unique child's set of needs.  So discard them, tweak them, find what works, and do that instead. (a word of caution....the pressure can be so great out there by the "system people" that you will doubt yourself....DON'T).

     So I say this again...Get to know your child's inborn temperament.  It is vital.  If your try to mold your child with parenting methods that don't meet his/her needs, I promise you, they won't work.  It can in fact make things worse. If you try to mold a child into something  that is not of their inherent temperament, you will fail.

     Your child is your child.  He is not Johnny or Ben or Sarah or Susie.  They don't have those other children's temperaments.  They have their own set of blueprints.  So don't try to build an apartment building with a set of blueprints that call for a single family home.  Get it?

     It took me awhile as a first time mom to learn some of this.  We can easily fall into the trap of trying to be the perfect mom, trying to make the perfect child.  A humbling lesson for me.  The reality is I am not perfect, and nor is my boring would that be anyway.

     My next post I am going to talk more about some inborn traits. What can they look like?   Can we work with the undesirable ones that may be hurting your child's potential (or driving your crazy).  Understanding that every trait has a spectrum....a range.....that is indeed moldable, and also understanding what your child's unique range is in that moment and at that time of his life.