Teaching Social Skills…

I am always looking to reinforce and teach social skills to my children.  But especially my youngest child struggles with emotional control.

Awhile ago now I found a game on social skills.  Actually it is 6 games in 1 box.

These games are quick to play and they offer something for all of my kids to learn.

Today we got to play the acting out emotions game.  You a roll a dice and land on a sentence and then spin a spinner and land on an emotion.  You hen have to say the sentence with the emotion you spun.

All my kids can use some practice of recognizing and expressing emotions.  But for sure my youngest needs to hear these emotions expressed so he can learn to recognize when others are feeling them.

I highly recommend this game.  I found it at scholars choice for $39.99.

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Contagious Encouragement…

This morning was rough.

Keilan just wasn’t quite happy or content.  And frankly nothing I tried to do to help him get there was working.

Finally, I told him he could sign in himself in the late book at school.  That seemed to work for him.

However, as it turned out he wasn’t quite late.  And the secretary told him he didn’t have to sign in and to just go quickly to class.

Then we saw one of his teachers.  I asked him if he had anything he wanted to say to her.  He went stone face.  I asked him if there was anything from Friday afternoon he wanted to apologize for and make right.  And his lip started to tremble.  He went completely unresponsive.  His teacher assured him she wasn’t angry with him.  And his lip still trembled.

I went on my knees and looked him in the eyes and I talked asking him how I could help him.  I tried to get him to follow my deep breathing…but he took a couple steps to the wall and literally put his nose against it.  Finally after 10 minutes of this I took him by the hand and left the school.   He screamed at me he wanted to stay.

We spent a few minutes standing on my bus.  Me being firm in his options but gentle and supportive in his feelings.

Finally he calmed enough to go back inside.  He signed himself in.  I followed him discretely down the hall.  When I saw him swinging his sweater wildly over his head as he stomped down the hall…I called out his name.  We talked about his nearly accidentally hitting several kids…he swung his sweater less wildly.

Two of his teachers told me not to worry about him and they’d handle him.  I firmly told them I’d go when he was at least on the edge of OK.

A couple minutes later I felt he was there.  And I left.

As I walked down the hall, I was feeling totally deflated.  Yet again  I’d failed to prevent my son’s outburst.  And I was absolutely certain  I’d be getting a phone call sooner rather than later about another outburst.

His first teacher who we’d met at the door  caught up to me as I was almost exiting the school.  She said I was doing a great job parenting him and to keep it up.  I looked up at her and simply said that it sure didn’t feel like it.

She looked at me and said that in her job she has seen lots of children with issues like my son’s, and he was very lucky to have me as a mom.  She told me that how I was parenting him and interacting with him was great and to not be discouraged because he was far far ahead of many that she had worked with.

What an encouragement that was to me!  Here I was reeling from yet another unpredictable episode and waiting for that episode to end badly later this day.  And she came alongside me and encouraged me.  And thanked me for what I was doing!

I don’t get thanked for my parenting of my son.  I DO get lots of looks and negative feedback.  He can be a little angel or the very opposite.  I do often feel like I am being watched and judged and found inadequate.

So my shoulders lifted a tiny bit.  And I went off to meet a friend and mentor.  A wonderful woman who is a few years ahead of me on this journey with Keilan .  Her son is 13.  She is open and kind and a vault of information.  She is loving and caring and offers advice and stories.  But in a way that is not pushy or assuming or makes you feel like you have to do things her way.

I get to learn buckets from her experience and research.  And she makes me feel like I’ve taught her something….which is probably not actually true!

She did tell me about one researcher who has studied “sensitive” children and worked with them his whole career.  And his conclusion and findings is that children who seem to be OK and tough and strong and brush off problems but react large and violently, he feels are actually in fact more sensitive than the ones who look sensitive and act sensitive.  He talks about defences and walls and how children like mine have learned to cope with their sensitivities by building thick walls to protect themselves….

This morning Keilan’s wall had some chink missing.  That is progress and instead of being upset by his imperfection I need to be happy that his walling is starting to come down.  Happy that he is letting us see his feelings and isn’t completely hiding them from us.  He feels safe and that’s progress.

So I left our time together feeling even more encouraged and feeling like I’d learned even more.  Feeling ready and armed with more knowledge and academia and studies and resources.  Ready to continue on this trying journey we are on.

Contagious encouragement is what I received today!  And it makes me just want to pass it on, so someone else can feel this way too…

The Questions…

The other night Jason and I went to a movie. In this movie there was a scene where the mother was sitting on her daughter’s bed telling her she loved her and asking her if she knew that. The girl responded hesitantly. Then the daughter asked the mother a bunch of questions….like what were her team colors and team name and a bunch of other things. The mother sat on the bed with tears streaming down her face as she realized that she truly thought she knew her daughter, but she really didn’t. At some point the mother had gone onto auto pilot and had stopped putting in the work of building the relationship and maintaining it.

It made me think. Our family spends so much time in the same vicinity that we think we know each other. The question is…do we really? Or is it a facade?

So, I decided to do something about it.

I sat down with a stack of blank paper and I started writing. I started writing questions that we all ask when we are getting to know someone. And questions we ask when we care about someone. And questions we ask to help improve our relationship.

When I was done I had 8 pages of questions. I then went downstairs and made 7 photo copies. I hole punched them and stapled them together and wrote a family member’s name at the top of each.

Then I took some time and answered the questions on my set of questions.

Later, when everyone arrived home, I told them about the questionnaire. I also told them that they had until Tuesday to complete it. And of course I told them the first one done got a special reward as well as each person would get a small reward when they completed theirs.

The big reward was a movie pass. The small ones were favorite chocolate bars. The 3 youngest were excited to do it. Katie said she wasn’t going to do it….Until she realized there was chocolate.

As of today only Kieran hasn’t done his. We have already had all sorts of interesting conversations. And I have learned so much about my kids.

I really thought I knew them. And in a lot of ways I did. But relationships take time and effort. And I think somewhere along the way I forgot that we are all constantly changing. That our likes and dislikes and hopes and dreams and goals aren’t static.

I am SO glad I took he time to ask the questions. And you know what… the kids loved being asked! It made them feel important and valued and loved.

And who knew: if Kianna could learn anything she’d learn to ride a pig; if Katie could go back in time she’d stab Adolf Hitler before he could do anything bad; if Keilan could plan a one week vacation anywhere in the world he’d go to see uncle Kenny in Toronto ; Karyssa’s happiest memories are always when she’s having an adventure and making a discovery; and Jason and I share the same saddest memory….

And there was one question no one answered….what is the one thing that your parents have done that you regret the most? I guess we aren’t doing such a bad job after all…

The Report is in!!!

Well the final report on Keilan’s ADHD combo and ODD diagnosis is finally in my hands!

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I picked it up today.  Some would probably open it up and read the seriousness of it and be depressed or down.

I opened it up and was super excited to start reading it.  There is indeed a great deal of work to be done.  There is a large mountain…really a whole range of different individual mountains to climb for our son, with us at his side.  With us encouraging him and guiding him and leading the way in the times he is lost and can’t find his way.

The journey ahead of us is long and constant.

And yet, I know deep in my soul that Keilan was given to our family for a reason…for THIS reason!  Every one of the 6 of us has something to offer him.  Something unique and perfect.  Something only they can offer him.  We are a family.  We are a single unit.  We are the Komar team.

This report is encouraging to me.  I am not done reading it.  It is a 24 page in depth report.  And the resources and appendices are another 40 pages or so.  It will take me a couple days to slowly and carefully work my way through.

But it is showing me that I know our son.  I am already doing so much right!

Frankly I NEED this encouragement.  Keilan is an amazing child!  But he can go from angel to throwing chairs and kicking classmates in the snap of your fingers.  I find it extremely difficult to NOT personalize his extremely poor choices and bad behaviour!  I find it difficult to not blame his behaviour on my poor parenting.  And honestly I find it hard to believe him when he says he can’t remember what happened.  It frustrates me!  I actually saw our psychologist for a minute in passing today and asked her about his memory of his episodes (or lack of it).  And yes he really truly doesn’t remember.  We will talk about it more in a couple weeks when we see her again.

I am no perfect parent.  I wouldn’t even say I’m a good one.  I so often feel like a complete failure.  I daily feel like I could and should have done different and better.  I want so desperately to be a good mom.  I want to raise great adults!  But everyday something discourages me.

This report is an encouragement to me.  I don’t know that Jason will see it the same way.  I suspect he will see walls where I see mountains ready to be climbed.  I am excited to continue the journey we are on in helping our amazing son to overcome this burden and in fact transform what some see as a disability into his ability and his gift to the world!

As I was reading through his report I came to a part that made me smile and reinforced to me that I am indeed the person my son needs on his side.

In our various meetings for this report and in much of the reading I have been doing on ADHD it talks about exercise being helpful to help these kids and adults focus.

This summer I got our family into kayaking.  Keilan excelled right from the first time he sat down on the kayak.  At that point we had 2 adult kayaks and one child/youth one.  But I watched him on that kayak and just knew he belonged there.  So we have purchased 3 adult ones,  a child/youth, and a tandem (for 2).  Our whole family can now kayak together.

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So, when I read the paragraph I photographed below….it touched my heart!  I wanted to laugh and cry and scream all at once!  (He has been in just one regular activity for the past few years…Kung fu…another affirmation)

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Our son climbs anything and everything and I generally just let him go for it…unless I feel like someone is judging me and my parenting.  So seeing that rock climbing is good and helps him….again reinforced to me I may be doing a lot wrong.  But I’m doing some things right!

I am Keilan’s mother for a reason.  God gave me him for a reason.  I learn from him every single day!  He teaches me love and patience and service and hope!  He is my teacher as much or more than I am his.

I know that being his coach is a huge daily challenge, but it is truly a blessing too!  He has changed me.  He loves me, even when I’ve got no more patience for him.  He truly shines God’s love and light to the world around him every single day!

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The Oatmeal Dilemma…

We buy large boxes of oatmeal from Costco.   The problem is it contains a portion of “regular” flavour.

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My kids refuse to eat “regular.”  They don’t like it.  The rule has always been eat 1 package of regular to one package of flavoured.

However, this rule is rarely if ever followed.

So, I found a solution.

I bought extra yummy oatmeal.

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And I premixed every single package with regular.

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Goodbye regular oatmeal….

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Some kids are very upset and vow to never eat oatmeal again.  Other kids are hoping they can stick to their vow so that they get more!

A Ray of Hope and an Encouraging Meeting….

This morning Jason and Keilan and I had an appointment with a psychologist at the Eckert Psychology and Education Centre.

This has been a meeting that we were both excited and anxious about.  As it turns out it was a fantastic meeting. She reinforced and affirmed that basically what we are doing with Keilan is the right thing and she helped us to tweak it a bit.

It was relieving to hear her affirmation and compliments on all that we are already doing.  It was encouraging to hear her agree with our assessments of some of the underlying issues that are aggravating his issues at school.  And it was extremely encouraging that she is willing to meet with his teacher and administration and give them guidance and tools to help our son.

We have long had the strong feeling that our son is ADD or ADHD.  However we haven’t wanted to put this label on him and have him burdened by that for the rest of his life.

However, the way she explained it we changed our minds.  With a diagnoses and a label will come funding for his class.  And with a report on his assessment from the psychologist will come legally binding requirements for the school and the school board to follow the recommendations laid out in the legally binding report the psychologists make.

All of this comes with a price tag.  A very large one.  But Jason and I are in full agreement that this isn’t even an option.  We will just have to dig deep, make some cuts and find the money to make it happen.

In the meantime I have to email his teacher and let her know of a few suggested immediate changes.  I hope she’s able to do them.

I hope we can have Keilan assessed and some sessions under his belt before September and his first day of grade 2.  I hope that our psychologist is able to arrange a meeting in late August with his new teacher and administration so that we can start the grade 2 year all on the same page and dealing with him the same.

There is hope that things with him will get continually better.  And there is a reality that this will be his struggle for a very long time.  The hope though comes in the fact that he is getting tools and help at such a young age; so he will learn coping tools and will be successful at managing his diagnosis.

His diagnosis has really already been roughly made.  It is pretty clear from our discussions and the forms and extensive questions we answered (15 pages) where the chips will fall following the comprehensive assessment.

So following this morning’s 2 hour session  I am happy and hopeful.  I am encouraged and excited.

I am not a bad parent.  My choices to keep him home and reasoning for it were affirmed.  Jason and my proactive parenting has been definitely in the right direction and with some further tweaking I am  confident that more progress will be made.

I know that this is far from over.  Our son will have some issues he has to deal with for a very long time.  But for now there’s hope and growth and improvement and understanding.

The real issue right now will be figuring out how to pay for it….