Archive | June, 2014

{Clean} No-bake Peanut Butter Bars

clean eating 1This summer, our family is really focusing on clean eating.  We are eliminating preservatives, artificial food coloring, and artificial flavors.  We have heard a lot about the benefits of clean eating for children with autism and ADHD, so this summer we are committed to seeing how it affects our family.

Instead of presenting it to our children as an abrupt lifestyle change, we decided to present it as something we are all working on together for a set amount of time.  We chose to start with just two weeks and chose a fun family activity as a reward for sticking to our commitments on healthy eating.  At the end of two weeks, we will pick another milestone to work towards as a family.

When we talked to our kids about our health challenge, we saw some excitement and some fear.  My son Matt (my 8-year old with ADHD) looked devastated and was literally holding back tears.  We talked through his concerns and I promised my kids I would make a “healthy” treat on Sundays and Mondays.  I hope that by providing healthier alternatives to candy and other sweets that my kids won’t feel the need to hoard candy when they get it.

My family’s favorite “healthy” treat is peanut butter bars.  They are super easy and have lots of protein and fiber.

 

{Clean} No-bake Peanut Butter Bars

1 cup raw walnuts or almonds

1 1/2 cups all-natural peanut butter, divided

1 cup honey

3 cups quick oats

1 1/2 cups all natural extra dark chocolate chips

Blend the raw nuts in a blender or food processor until they are finely chopped.  Then stir together 1 cup peanut butter, honey, and nuts.  Add oats and stir until well combined.  Press into greased 9×13 pan.

Melt chocolate chips and 1/2 cup peanut butter in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth.  Spread evenly over peanut butter mixture.

Refrigerate (or freeze, if you’re in a hurry) until the chocolate is set.  Keep refrigerated.

 

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Spousal Relationships when Dealing with Special Needs Children – Part I: Grief

Grief Special Needs Child 2I remember laying in bed the night the doctor diagnosed our son, Will, with lung disease.  Earlier that day, the doctor informed us that our son would need oxygen 24 hours a day.  He told us that doctors did not know much about the long-term affects of the disease.  The disease had only been “discovered” about 10 years earlier.  That day, our son’s future suddenly became unclear.

As Tyler and I lay next to each other, staring at the ceiling, with tears running down our cheeks, we talked about Will’s future.  Our conversation went something like this:

Tyler: “Well, I guess he’ll only ever be able to play golf.”

Me:  “No way.  This might not look like what we expected, but Will is going to be fine.”

We still shed tears and worked to adjust to our new future, but my adjustment seemed to happen more quickly than Tyler’s adjustment happened.

Fast forward six years…I walked down the hall of the hospital right after finding out that David’s “episodes” were seizures.  I felt hollow.

After the diagnosis, each time David had a seizure, I freaked out.  Gasping for breath.  Panicking.  Crying.  I could not handle knowing that seizures consumed David.  Panic attacks hit me for weeks.

HERE IS THE IMPORTANT PART…how did Tyler handle David’s diagnosis?  COMPLETELY DIFFERENTLY than me.  Tyler’s heart stayed calm. He kept saying, “Trish, it’s going to be fine.  David is going to be fine.”

With Will’s diagnosis, I had an easier time coming to terms with it than Tyler.  With David’s diagnosis, Tyler had an easier time coming to terms with it than me…and that is okay!

WE GRIEVE DIFFERENTLY!

I’ll never forget Aimee talking about how she and Ryan had to GRIEVE when Tex was diagnosed with autism.  I had never thought about the fact that Tyler and I had grieved over Will’s diagnosis.  Recognizing our grief made a big difference for me.

I think it is important to understand that grief is a MAJOR part of receiving a diagnosis for a special needs child.  Grief does not just happen when someone dies.  Grief happens when there is a LOSS.  With a diagnosis that your child’s future looks differently than what you expected, grief comes.

I remember Aimee talking about how she and Ryan each grieved DIFFERENTLY with Tex’s diagnosis.  I immediately thought of how Tyler and I reacted differently to Will’s diagnosis.  Suddenly recognizing that our reactions that seemed so different, our view of our son’s future that seemed so different, our ability to move forward that came at different times, recognizing that all of those things translated into Tyler and I grieving in our own ways made everything so much better!  The times Tyler and I felt frustrated with each other because we did not understand why the other person said or did or felt differently…it was all because of grief!  We simply needed to grieve and everyone one of us grieves differently!

I’m no expert on grief.  But, for me, the road to getting through grief started with recognizing that Tyler and I WERE grieving.  For me, RECOGNIZING that Tyler and I were grieving helped me take a step back.  Recognizing that we grieve differently helped me love my husband even more; it helped me want to love him THROUGH our grief instead of feeling frustrated that he was not handling it like I was handling it.  At the same time, when it came time to grieve for David’s situation, recognizing that my grieving process took more time, that it felt desperate, helped me communicate my sadness with Tyler.  It helped us grieve TOGETHER even though we grieved differently.

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Swimming Lessons for Special Needs Children

Swimming LessonsAt my house, we love swimming lessons in the summer! My five year-old daughter told me that her favorite part of summer is going to swimming lessons every day (we really just do about 6 weeks of lessons, 5 days a week). For my 9 year-old son with autism (Paul), swimming lessons can also provide good therapy for him.

I love swimming lessons as a mom because it adds so much structure to our day, and my kids do so much better with structure. I like to have a very structured morning with everyone going on a bike ride, completing chores, practicing, reading, and then swimming lessons right before lunch. Swimming lessons wear my kids out and then we have a fairly calm afternoon.

Swimming has so many benefits, especially for sensory kids. Here are just a few of the benefits of swimming:

  • Provides excellent proprioceptive input. (Swimming is hard work—resistance for the entire body.)
  • Reduces hyperactivity.
  • Strengthens muscles.
  • Increases attention span.
  • Improves gross motor skills and coordination.
  • Increases confidence.

For my son Paul, who struggles with a lot of sensory issues, swimming does so much for him. He also loves to swim; he loves the feel of the water on his body. We are hoping he can eventually learn the strokes well enough that he might be able to join a swim team at some point (if he wants to). Swimming is a great individual sport and could provide an extracurricular sport that is also therapeutic for him.

Sometimes it is hard to find the right fit for swimming lessons so that your child can receive the greatest benefit. When you have a child with special needs, it is important to really think about how their specific disabilities may affect them in the pool.

The first thing to address when trying to find the right fit for swimming lessons, is to decide what your goal is for the lessons. If your goal is to provide a social experience and get some exercise, you just need to find a pool with a positive reputation. If you really want your child to learn the strokes correctly, you might want to do some extra research to find a program that will really meet your goals and the special needs of your child. If you have a child with autism, I found this website extremely helpful and informative.

The second thing to think about is whether you should put your child in private or group lessons. I strongly recommend private swimming lessons if your child struggles with a severe fear of water, body awareness, motor planning, auditory processing, hearing loss, or seizures. You also need to think about if you need a professional swim instructor who has experience working with children with special needs. If you have a child who is high functioning, they might be fine in a group lesson taught at a city recreation pool.

After a lot of private swimming lessons, we tried group lessons for Paul at the end of the summer a couple of years ago. It provided another positive social experience for Paul, but it did not help him become a better swimmer. The teacher could not spend enough time with him individually to really help him understand how to do the strokes correctly. His lack of body awareness (understanding where your body is in space) was very evident in watching him try to do the strokes. He has a hard time integrating breathing with the motion of the arms and legs. Also, because Paul struggles with auditory processing, the noise and splashing of the other kids made it difficult for him to process all the instructions in the noisy pool. Paul also frequently requires more explanation than his peers to understand what he is supposed to do, so it just wasn’t a good fit to have him in a group lesson.

One thing to really check into is if a pool in your area has an Adaptive Aquatics program. We were so lucky to find an Adaptive Aquatics program about 15 minutes from our house. Adaptive Aquatics provides swimming lessons for children with special needs. At the pool we go to, Adaptive Aquatics provides private lessons for the same price as a regular group swimming lesson. That way, Paul can have the private swimming lessons that he needs, and all of my other kids can be in swimming lessons at the same time. It has worked out so well for my entire family! Many communities have swimming programs for children with special needs—it is definitely worth checking out.

If you have a child who is very afraid of the water, my personal feeling is that you NEED to get them into swimming lessons as soon as you can. It is important for every child to understand how to be safe in the water and to be comfortable in the water. The only way to overcome a fear is to address it. You have to be slow and systematic as you desensitize fear. It also has to be a very positive, nurturing environment to be able work through a fear. Sometimes the progress is very slow. Start with just getting the toes wet. Whenever we have tried to help Paul through something he is terribly afraid of, it is amazing how it increases his confidence when he is able to work through his fears.

We have seen a lot of progress in the last few years with Paul’s ability to swim. He is enjoying it more and is feeling more confident in the water every year.

Internet Resources for Swimming Lessons for Children with Special Needs:

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