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MIddle Space Thinking

A common challenge for many rigid, anxious, and distracted kids is the tendency to be All or Nothing thinkers. This can be experienced in many ways – with their emotions, social experiences, rules, and with tasks. When you constantly live in a place of All or Nothing and Right or Wrong – it can be easy to become hyper-focused on perfectionism and rigid expectations of external experiences become the norm.

The first step towards changing any behavior is becoming aware of current behavior and then examining what other responses exist outside of our usual response map. For our sensory kids, this means exploring the space between All and Nothing – the Middle Space.

THINKING IN THE MIDDLE SPACE

Here’s an example of a simple map to help visualize and work through the new THINKING IN THE MIDDLE SPACE options. Before a known All or Nothing experience, sit down and fill out the 3 different ways that the situation could be handled through the All Lens, the Nothing Lens, and most importantly the MIDDLE Lens. This Middle Space will often have several options to explore, options that might not naturally occur to our sensory kids. Once you explore a few of these All or Nothing experiences through the Middle Thinking lens, you can try to practice them in real life situations. This helps our sensory kids have a visual map of Middle Space responses and also give us parents a map to help guide our sensory kids through a situation with verbal prompts around these new Middle Space alternatives.

Supplies:

* Paper and markers or word processor.

* Pictures or images that represent All, Nothing, and Middle.

* Picture Images Options: Take your own pictures of your real life tasks, pictures from magazines, stock photos, or image software like Boardmaker – http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software/ , Picture Exchange Communication System – http://www.pecsusa.com/ ,Do 2 Learn (can sign-up for an annual membership on Do 2 Learn!) – http://www.do2learn.com/ , or Smarty Symbols Image Club (monthly membership) – http://smartysymbols.com/

* Can laminate and use a dry-erase marker for easy re-use.

* Could also make a simple, on-the fly visual using a notepad.

By creating a simple visual to help sensory kids make space between the All and the Nothing, they can begin to experience Thinking in the Middle. By helping them observe current behaviors and identify new ways of moving through an experience, we are helping them building new response habits. This is Sensory Organizing and this is meeting our sensory kids whenre they are today.  Simple changes for more peaceful and empowered days ~

Team Nice

Our MOST important job as the parents of sensory children is our job from the sidelines. We are the lead Cheerleaders for Team Nice and it’s a big role. Here are the Top 5 Team Nice Cheers:

* SHOWING UP IS A BIG WIN

We know the world is overwhelming to you. You often manage big feelings that don’t make sense and a body that doesn’t always do what you want it to do so when you show up each and everyday, that’s already a Big Win.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE EFFORT NOT THE OUTCOME

We know that simple things can often be harder for you. We witness how hard you work each and every day to show up and learn despite many external challenges. We are amazed by your effort.

* SMALL VICTORIES = BIG VICTORIES

We have come to learn how important small victories really are! A mastered task, an expression of a big feeling, taking a social risk, or a focused work session are big wins. You are amazing.

* YOUR WAY IS AS GOOD AS MY WAY

We have come to realize that we’re not all that different from you. We have a way of doing things that we think is valuable and important and so do you. We stand on the sidelines with verbal cues and visual guides to support your journey as needed. But our main job is to value your way as much as our own.

* YOU CAN DO IT

When we believe and say “You Can Do It”, it means today and everyday. We know that, just like everyone else, you are doing the best that you can everyday. And somedays it’s a much harder journey than others. We won’t give up – we know you can do it today and everyday.

We also know that we’ll have hard days too and we’re going to need to be our own cheerleaders and say the TEAM NICE Cheers to ourselves. But that just helps us understand that we’re all connected and all in this together. If we can learn these cheers for ourselves, we’ll be even better at cheering for you.

So let’s give three Cheers for TEAM NICE – here’s to Effort, Small Victories, and You ♥ ~

GIFT OF MAYBE

The journey of special needs parenting can be filled with uncertainly and stress. You can find yourself constantly trapped in a place of regret about decisions / experiences from the past or constant worry about your child’s future. This can leave many of us experiencing daily life with depression or anxiety – lacking any hope about what might come. Of course, there are many external tools to support our child’s journey – specialized therapy, social tools, visual supports – all things that can be an amazing support on our special needs parenting journey.

But what about a tool that changes us from the inside out? What about a tool that changes our internal perspective about our external experience? What about a tool that changes our mindset, gives us a new way to meet the uncertainly of special needs parenting? What about a tool that gives us space to examine the here and now with hope and possibility? Herein lies the power of “THE GIFT OF MAYBE: Finding Hope and Possibility in Uncertain Times” by Allison Carmen.

As one who has always believed that small changes reap big impacts, “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” is the little gift that keeps on giving. This book is a perspective game changer. Allison Carmen, a life coach and business consultant, has created a tool can help you shift your mindset about everything. As someone who is a multi-modality learner, “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” is filled with Taoist stories, real-life client examples, visualization exercises, mini-meditations, and Maybe-mantras. It allows you to experience and then absorb this new reality from many different angles. MAYBE starts from a small place but quickly ripples out to all of life’s experiences. It can work anywhere or anytime an experience or feeling has you trapped in stress or anxiety. “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” teaches us how to be open to life’s possibilities from a place of hope instead of a place of fear.

The Power of MAYBE in my life right now:

MAYBE my child’s current struggle holds a hidden gift – for him and for me.

MAYBE when my child can says “I can’t do it this way anymore”, I can be open to a whole new way that is even better than I imagined.

MAYBE when I ask for parenting help, I’ll get to feel the love and support I have in my life and the love and support for my child.

MAYBE through my child’s challenges, I can begin to accept and understand my own challenges with love and understanding. MAYBE this is his greatest gift to me.

MAYBE I can learn to meet all uncertainty with hope.

MAYBE today is all I need to live fully and joyfully.

Sometimes, our rigid predictions of how life will be for our special needs child (and for us as parents) is the biggest hindrance there is. “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” gives us a new internal mindset for meeting the uncertainty of daily life. It gives us ways to create mental space for new possibilities and leaves us open to new outcomes. “THE GIFT OF MAYBE” is that parenting tool that can change everything because it changes us ~

Allison Carmen

For more information about “THE GIFT OF MAYBE”, about Allison Carmen and her great work, check out her website – http://www.allisoncarmen.com

“THE GIFT OF MAYBE” on Amazon.com – http://www.amazon.com/The-Gift-Maybe-Possibility-Uncertain/dp/0399169539/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Allison also blogs regularly for HUFFPOST and Psychology Today – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-carmen/ and http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-gift-mayb

Thanks to Perigee for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.

Sensory Organizing Power Tools

Sensory Organizing is about organizing and empowering daily life. When it comes to incorporating structure, routines, and visual aids into your home in a seamless fashion, there are some core tools that can support and enhance this process for you. Some of these tools come in handy for planned supports during challenging tasks or times of day and some tools come into play for those unexpected moments of need.

Here are my Top 7 Sensory Organizing Power Tools:

Small Whiteboards

This to me is the #1 secret power tool. Small, portable (even for travel) and easy to whip out at a moment’s notice for a quick schedule, plan of attack, or routine. Added bonus – small magnetic whiteboards allow magnets to come into play to support routines and visual plans. For extra support, grab a plate stand to allow you to prop it up wherever you need it! One I love is the Quartet Dry Erase Board (8.5×11)

Clipboards

The clipboard is the perfect list holder but can slip into a homework bin or hang on a wall (on a 3M Temporary Hook – see below!). These can hold the homework plans or school or extra-curricular schedules for planning sessions.

Pocket Charts

Perfect for kids who need a more visual, step-by-step schedule for a task or time of day. Love the one from Lakeshore Learning – http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/ Has a bottom pocket to hold extra visual schedule slips. Bonus: Use the one side of visual strip of one routine and use the back side for another routine (for example:The front side is the morning routine and back side is the evening routine)

Picture Frames

For me, Sensory Organizing is about bringing supports into life seamlessly and picture frames can help us do that. Anything from a fancier decorative frame to a simple acrylic frame will do the job.

Weekly Calendars

I LOVE using a weekly magnetic whiteboard calendar to help organize time and prepare for upcoming experiences. Two examples that I love: 1) Board Dudes Aluminum Framed Weekly Magnetic Dry Erase Calendar (7.5×23) and, 2) Quartet Weekly Magnetic Dry Erase Calendar Combo (7.5×23).

Temporary Hooks

Having the flexibility to hang wherever and whenever is key with Sensory Organizing and temporary hooks let us do that. Love the temporary, damage free, adhesive hooks from 3M Command – all sorts of sizes and styles – http://www.command.com

Picture images

Nothing makes a visual routine come to life like picture images. A few options to help you have powerful images at your fingertips when you need them:

1)Take your own pictures of your real life items & tasks, pictures from magazines, stock photos, or draw some images with your child.

2) Image software like: Boardmaker – http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software/ Picture Exchange Communication System – http://www.pecsusa.com/ Do 2 Learn (can sign-up for an annual membership on Do 2 Learn!) – http://www.do2learn.com/

These Sensory Organizing Power Tools are the building blocks to creating structure, routines, and visual aids for your sensory child. Small changes with a few core Sensory Organizing Power Tools = Big impact for more peaceful days at home ~

Self-Care

For people who are good at taking care of our sensory kids, we are often not very good a taking care of ourselves.  This is the part that never gets talked about but it is as important (if not more important!) as all the things we do to support our sensory children.

Here’s my top 10 Self-Care To Do List (with a few book suggestions mixed in):

1) YOU JUST DID THE HARDEST PART Just by having the courage to say you need help right now, you have already shifted the dynamics of your experience.

2) WHAT YOU ARE FEELING IS NORMAL Know that all that you are feeling is completely normal and comes with the special needs territory!! We have an amazing ability to feel like we are the only ones going through something, but we’re not. Know that.

3) WE ARE HIGHLY SENSITIVE TOO! 9 times out of 10, us parents are very sensitive also. This sensitivity can be something we’ve always had or can be the result of navigating life with a special needs child. The more we can understand and support what overwhelms us, what we need help with, the better for our sensory kids (they can feed off our energy so easily!). So let me remove any guilt for you about taking time for yourself – it will undoubtedly help your kids.  When I am in a rough spot – I do the worksheet that is in my book (meant to help us understand our kids) to understand where I am, what are my triggers right now, and what times of day are pushing me over the edge and I try to add in 2-3 things for me, for my emotional regulation.  2 Books I love about understanding our own Highly Sensitive Profiles are: – “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World” by Sharon Heller. (Heller is a trained psychologist and also lives with sensory defensiveness herself!).  http://www.amazon.com/Loud-Bright-Fast-Tight-Overstimulating/dp/0060932929  – “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine N. Aron Ph.D. One of the trail blazing books on highly sensitive people. Gives a great picture of how to understand your sensitivities and how to set up your life to support them.  http://www.amazon.com/Highly-Sensitive-Person-Elaine-Ph-D/dp/0553062182

4) SIMPLE THINGS WORK! Think simple and small changes. Sometimes it’s a bitch session with a friend or 10 minutes of complete quiet a day. If before dinnertime is a nightmare for your family, try to make dinner ahead of time and have it ready to go. Taking one thing off our plate at a stressful time of day can totally change how we navigate the stress.

5) TAKE YOUR OWN ADVICE This is hard to swallow sometimes but every time I am telling my sensory child to do something, there is a piece of that advice I need to take for myself. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Sometimes it’s just a small piece but I still have my piece so I need to look at that. If I’m telling my child to to find something he loves to do, I need to find something I love to do. When I am feeling sorry for him because of friendship changes, I need to go call one of my friends and make a date to see them. It’s all connected.

6) MAKE YOURSELF A VISUAL Visuals are powerful tools for us too. Make one for yourself and throw it in a nice picture frame that is front and center in your house. When you are feeling overwhelmed and need to get yourself grounded quickly, look at your visual. This will create some space between you and the stressful moment and it changes everything.  Maybe it’s a saying like “IT’S ALL GOING TO BE OK” or a picture of your favorite, most relaxing place in the world. Find your powerful visual, print it out, frame it, and use it everyday.

7) SOMETIMES BIG PROBLEMS HAVE SIMPLE SOLUTIONS Get out there and talk to people – be vulnerable. Just like we tell our sensory kids that their brains can make some things much bigger than they actually are, we can do that too about our life with our sensory kids. Get out there and connect, ask for help, find out what is working with other special needs families, and be open to new ideas and perspectives – it really shifts everything.

8) THERAPY FOR YOU “Therapy” can be an art class, a “Colorful Mood Walk” (as I like to call mine) with a friend where you walk and colorfully talk about where you are right now, some retail therapy, or sitting in a therapists office to get some perspective – just get your version of therapy.

9) WORK ON BUILDING YOUR OWN RESILIENCE Learn to trust in this life process. Get a journal. Think back on all the hard things in your life (as a child too!) and write down what they were and what you learned from them. There are gifts in the hard experiences, even the one you are in right now, you just can’t see them yet. One book to check out is “The Resilient Parent: Everyday Wisdom for Life with Your Exceptional Child” by Mantu Joshi – http://www.amazon.com/The-Resilient-Parent-Everyday-Exceptional/dp/1933084251

10) LEARN TO MAKE SPACE FOR LIFE For me, making space for life means not believing every thought I have about my life today. I can take things too seriously, make things too dramatic or big, and can believe my thoughts without even questioning them. Make space with your thoughts – just because you have a thought, does not mean that it’s true. For me, it’s in that little bit of space that truth and wisdom come in.

And most importantly, know that everything I just told you, I need to hear for myself but only every single day. Thank you for helping me see it again today ~

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