Like most parents, it was easier for me to do the housework myself, after my children went to bed or before they woke up. No fussing. No whining. Just get the job done! Was I ever wrong! I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off! I was stressed! How could I enjoy anything? I knew I had supper to make, lunches to make, carpools to run, and extra-curricular activities after school. Whew!!
All I really needed was to read The Learning Habits Study. I was doing all of these things to help my children be well rounded and have great GPA’s, but the research demonstrates children who started chores at age three or four, were more likely to have higher GPA’s, successful careers and relationships, plus be more self reliant!
Traveling with children is stressful! Traveling with a child on the autism spectrum can be terrifying! However, with a little planning and preparation, you can have that family trip you have been too scared to plan!
1. If your child gets overwhelmed by crowds, noises, and lights, DON’T have your first trip be to a big theme park! Maybe try an island vacation, or a local beach or even just a nearby city with kid-friendly activities.
2. Start reading about where you are going. If you decide to visit San Diego, get a map and some guidebooks and start planning all the places you will visit. Plan on visiting one tourist site each day and one park or playground where you don’t have to be so structured. Plan your meals too! Children, in general, like to know what to expect, and children with autism feel a lot more in control and calm when they know where they are going and what is expected of them.
3. Start talking about rules and routines. The airport can be a very overwhelming place even for adults! Draw a picture of the layout of your nearest airport and go through what will be expected from your child at each point. What happens when we check in our bags? What happens when we go through airport security? What do we do when we are waiting at the gate? If you map these routines out for your child, he will know what to expect and will be less likely to have a meltdown! I call the security check, the “Magic Gate”. My kids knew that when they passed the “magic gate” they would be allowed on the plane!
4. If your child has any allergies or food sensitivities, be sure to take his food along. No amount of planning can stop a hungry and tired child from having a meltdown! Be prepared and be happy!
5. When your child is using his best behavior, PRAISE, PRAISE, and PRAISE him some more! WOW! You were so sweet to wait patiently while mommy checked in our bags! Praising reinforces the good behavior and you are more likely to see that good behavior again!
6. Try to keep a schedule on your vacation that is similar to your routine at home. If you do any at home therapies (such as Brainjogging) or your child has any favorite toys. Be sure to bring them a long (within reason). Your child will appreciate the familiar activities and toys when he is away from home.
7. Pick your battles! You want your child to listen and follow directions, but parents need to realize that what they think makes perfect sense, doesn’t always make sense to our little ones. Especially when your little one has processing issues, you might have to explain your point another way, or even let it go, if your child is getting visibly upset.
8. Have fun!! If you are on vacation, and you are not having fun, something is wrong! Family vacations are for relaxing with your loved ones. Plan your day and prepare your child, but also be flexible if things don’t go exactly the way you planned. Each vacation will be better than the last! Bon voyage!
You’re almost done with Saturday morning errands, you have just reached the supermarket, and then it happens: a meltdown! Meltdowns are not always about being defiant. Most meltdowns occur when a child feels out of control, or doesn’t understand a situation. Why are transitions so hard for some children? It’s not that they wouldn’t like to have dinner, or go to Grandma’s house. The reason is more likely that they were focused on a particular activity or expecting a certain routine, and your plan seemed to come out of nowhere. The good news is we have a few tips to help decrease meltdowns, and help you and your child feel more in control when things are about to get ugly!
1. Explain where you are going, when you are leaving and when you will return. We wouldn’t like to be taken to some mystery destination, and neither would our kids. Letting your child know what you’ve planned helps him to understand what to expect from the your outing.
2. Talk about potential disappointments and how we should react. You might remind your son about a time his favorite restaurant was closed and he got upset. “Last time you were disappointed when the pizzeria was closed, what should we do today if we our plans don’t work out?”
3. Make a game plan together. Discuss with your child ahead of time what is expected of him, what you as a parent can do to make him feel better, and what you will do as the one in charge, if the situation goes out of control. For example, I usually let my kids know why we are at Target, and what we are looking to buy. I then let them know what fun place we are supposed to go afterwards. Then I tell them, I am going to count each time you do something you are not supposed to do(being loud, not following directions). If I get to three, we will leave the cart, get in the car, and go home. On a good day, I might get to “one”, on a bad day, I might get to “three” just as we are leaving the store. Be consistent! Once your child knows you mean what you say, they’ll follow your plan too.
4. Ask your child how he feels. Sometimes the meltdown is just too much to handle right in the middle of a public area. Take your child to the car, or to a quiet place and talk it out. Let him know you understand that he is disappointed and ask him if he could explain what upset him so that you can understand better. Most children like to know that their parents are on their side. By acknowledging his feelings and trying to understand his point of view, you are showing just that! If your child is just too loud to reason with, don’t say a word or try to compete with his intensity, simply wait for him to calm down or wait for a pause so you can be the voice of reason.
5. If you know a particular place always results in tears and tantrums, you might consider not going there until your child is a little more mature. When he asks you why you haven’t taken a trip to that particular place, let him know the reason. You could say, “I don’t think we are ready for that store. It seems to upset you, and I would rather not go there.” Our children might not be aware of the consequences of their behavior. Not going to a fun place might be the necessary consequence for him to understand the importance of staying calm and using his words, rather than throwing a tantrum.
All children will throw tantrums at some point. Children with processing issues, ADHD, or Autism will have more frequent meltdowns. However with the right attitude and a lot of consistency we can survive and decrease the menacing meltdowns!
What would you say if I told you that 15.5% of elementary students, grades 1-5 have been diagnosed with ADHD? Recent data from the National Health Center showed that as of 2015, 10.2% of children ages 5-15 were diagnosed with ADHD. From 1980 to 2007, the diagnosis of ADHD in the pediatric population increased by 800 percent! These dramatic increases indicate that the cause may not just be genetic. Experts are looking to environmental factors to explain the sharp rise in ADHD among children. According to Victoria Dunckley, M.D., the answer could be in the palm of your hand.
As reported by Dunckley, integrative child psychiatrist and author of the book, Reset Your Child’s Brain, technology is having a negative impact on our children’s brain health and development. Electronic Screen Syndrome (ESS), is the result of over exposure to screens in the forms of video game systems, tablets, and smart phones. Electronics can overstimulate and deregulate a child’s nervous system. The added overstimulation and stress cause children to have issues with mood, focus, sleep, and behavior. (Dunckley)
How does Electronic Screen Syndrome affect children?
Constantly interacting with the artificial stimuli that screens supply, shifts the nervous system into a stressed mode. Our brains and bodies are meant to handle some stress, but repeated stress can overwhelm our body’s ability to adapt. Usually, high stress levels normalize when followed by an appropriate discharge of energy (think fight or flight). However, screen time is generally paired with a lot of sitting. Where does the energy go? According to Dunckley, it gets released in the form of a tantrum or other inappropriate behavior. Dunckley further points out that if we were to look inside a brain engaged in screen-time, we would see that brain getting too much activity in some areas, such as reward pathways, and not enough in other areas such as the regions associated with empathy. This leads to fragmented brain development, making it less flexible and resilient. (Dunckley) One of the strongest impact of screens on the brain is with regards to sleep. The unnatural, bright light from a smart phone or tablet slows the production of the sleep signal, melatonin. Lack of melatonin desynchronizes the body clock resulting in poor sleep and disrupted hormone cycles. In fact, weight gain and high blood pressure related to screen-time could be a result of constantly high stress hormones, as well as being overly sedentary. (Dunckley)
What behaviors are associated with ESS?
Poor eye contact
Lack of focus
Children with underlying issues such as ADHD and Autism will display more severe versions of the symptoms. Often these children are more likely to be drawn to screens. Parents can mistake the kids’ “quiet” behavior while playing on a tablet as improvement. Try taking the screen away, and you soon realize that the screen was only masking the issues! (Dunckley)
Parents worry that their child will be the only one without a tablet, or that he won’t make friends, or learn the latest technology. That is not the case. For young children the importance of being screen free is to allow their brains to naturally develop strong neuronal connections. The brain’s most rapid growth is during the first few years of life. Assaulting those brains with digital media is preventing them from reaching their true potential academically and socially. Children benefit so much more from human interaction and outdoor play. Let our children’s brains grow and develop so that they can withstand the effects of the latest technology and be able to use the appropriately and proficiently when they get older.
What can parents do to help their children?
Dunckley suggests an electronic fast, 3-4 weeks of strict removal of all electronic media. Doing so, will help reset your child’s brain, allowing you to focus on what is really going on with your child, without having to deal with the added behavior issues. (Dunckley)
Encourage your child to engage in other activities. Have a family game night. Help your child find a sports team or club to join.
Brainjogging twice a day can help children get their brains back in sync. The exercises in Brainjogging target the areas of the brain controlling focus, attention, memory, and processing. Brainjogging’s simple design and quick exercises make it highly effective for all children.
While most parents start their children on Brainjogging for academic reasons, the first change they notice, is in their child’s behavior. A child who is out of sync, will have trouble regulating his emotions and behavior. A child who has made the important connections in the brain is in sync will be more flexible, more resilient, and will demonstrate improved behavior and focus!