Children have many kinds of strengths. Sometimes these strengths are obvious, like how social they are, athleticism, or their creativity. But some strengths can be harder to notice or may even initially appear to be a weakness. The way you perceive your child and recognizing these strengths can help your child to grow and thrive
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Por Favor, Dejen de Castigar a los Niños Por Sus Discapacidades Invisibles (Please Stop Punishing My Child’s Invisible Disability)
Escrito por la Dra. Liz Matheis
The Mighty hopes to make all their blogs and articles available to all people across all languages. We are happy to share my blog, "Please Stop Punishing My Child’s Invisible Disability" in Spanish. Please read and share!
Como siempre digo, primero soy madre de tres hijos, y luego soy psicóloga de niños. Trabajo con muchos niños, adolescentes, adultos, jóvenes (y sus familias) que tienen trastorno por déficit de atención e hiperactividad (TDAH), ansiedad y discapacidades de aprendizaje. También soy madre de clase en la escuela de mis hijos donde hay niños con estas y otras discapacidades. He trabajado como psicóloga escolar en escuelas públicas y sé lo que recomendé para los niños en mi carga de casos. A lo largo de los años, he oído de los padres, con los que trabajo, que sienten que a veces la discapacidad de su hijo es malinterpretada y subestimada.
No se puede ver una discapacidad del aprendizaje, trastorno del procesamiento sensorial, ansiedad, TDAH (y muchos otros). El perfil único de un niño es detectado por el equipo del niño (padres, maestros, pediatras, psicólogos, etc.), pero no es un hecho, cambia, y no viene con un manual.
Entonces, ¿qué significa esto para usted, como el padre de un niño con una discapacidad invisible? Usted va a ser un defensor de su hijo hasta que él o ella aprendan a abogar por sí mismos. Esto significa que usted necesitará educar al maestro de su hijo, paraprofesional, administrador de casos y al director, porque las áreas donde su hijo muestra fortaleza y debilidades no siempre son fáciles de ver o recordar.
Permítanme compartir una historia de un dia en el que me ofrecí como voluntaria para la clase de medios de mi hija cuando estaba en primer grado (ahora está en cuarto grado). Este adorable hombrecito (con TDAH) quería un libro de, “Curious George.” Su paraprofesional se paró junto a él con un cronómetro y lo acosó con comentarios como: “Elige un libro. Tienes tres minutos para elegir un libro. ¿Ya has elegido un libro?” El pobre no tuvo la oportunidad de procesar. Pude verlo como se agitaba mas y mas y estaba sucediendo a manos del mismo apoyo que se suponía que le ayudaría a tomar una decision.
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Dr. Liz Matheis
How plants resemble children and their desire to flourish and grow.
Poinsettia plants are a beautiful representation of the holiday season. So bright red, so joyous, so content to just exist and bring people happiness just by doing the very thing that comes so naturally to them – grow and flourish.
My husband bought two large poinsettia plants right after Thanksgiving, and I wanted to enjoy them each and every day, so I placed them in my family room area by my son’s bearded dragon’s tank. Natural light was nearby but not directly reaching the poinsettia plants, but I was able to see them and enjoy them daily.
As the days went by, I noticed that the leaves were turning brown at the edges and drying up. Leaves were falling off in big bunches and, despite the fact that I was providing enough water, the plant started to droop and look unhealthy.
This got me thinking about how my poinsettia plant resembles children and their desire to flourish and grow. When we, parents and teachers, create unnecessary demands and expectations for them, they begin to shrivel and lose their joy for life.
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If you or someone in your home has allergies, you are probably all too familiar with the physical symptoms. Coughing, sneezing, watery eyes and wheezing or shortness of breath are extremely common and can make you feel absolutely miserable. But did you know that allergies, especially seasonal allergies, can also have an impact on your psychological health?
A variety of recent studies show a direct correlation between allergies and anxiety. There are many suspected reasons for this, from the body’s natural response to inflammation to the psychological stress of feeling sick, but the latest research leaves little doubt that those who suffer from allergies are at higher risk for anxiety (though the reverse does not seem to be true).
Fortunately, treating the allergies appears to bring down the anxiety as well. Seeing a doctor for your allergies is always important, but minimizing your exposure to allergens can also help. Properly maintaining your HVAC system is one of the biggest ways that you can lessen allergens in your home, reducing allergy flare-ups and the anxiety that goes with them. In addition, regular HVAC maintenance boosts the lifespan of your system, reduces the risk of expensive breakdowns, and keeps costs down by maximizing efficiency. If your HVAC has reached the end of its useful life, consider replacing it with one of the best furnaces or best air conditioners of 2020.
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By: Jennifer Mandato, LAC
In today’s society we are always on the go and it can be difficult to engage in the healthiest habits for ourselves and our kids. These habits are not just about exercise but about what foods we put into our body and the relationship we have with them. While this is a challenge for us as adults it can be even harder for our kids. Here are some ways to encourage your kids to make healthy choices.
Talk to your kids about food
As parents you can name things your child likes or will not eat no matter how hard you have tried. Most of us have not asked them why or how food makes them feel. How do they feel after they have sugar? It may surprise you that they may say they like candy but feel tired or lousy after. Then ask them about fruit and vegetables? Helping them compare the way their body feels after eating different things can help them make better food choices. Keep this conversation going and keep learning together about healthy eating habits.
Have healthy food challenges
Make healthy eating fun! Start food challenges/competitions. Who can make brownies using sweet potatoes? Who can create the healthiest snack? Kids love their sweet treats, so make it fun. Show your kids they can still treat themselves but there are substitutes and ways to have sweet treats that are smarter choices for our bodies. Take this time to teach them about moderation.
Get active together
In our busy lives it can be hard to settle into a nice workout routine. Our kids are also busy with after school activities and then homework. Going for walks in the park, hiking or biking is great for your health but then also provides opportunities to talk to your kids about school and their lives as well. When the weather gets cold indoor activities like yoga or charades keeps us moving and engaged with one another.
Remember dance like no one is watching!
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A Gift for Making Kids Shine - SOMA Teacher Michael Wojcio is a superhero to his special needs students
By: Heidi Borst
A group of eight young children listens to their teacher in quiet anticipation as he reads aloud Froggy’s Worst Play Date. No one budges from their spot on the semicircle; the students remain silently captivated by the story, amused by the distinct voices the teacher invents for each character. The ability to sit still and focus on story time, a seemingly routine classroom occurrence, is an astonishing feat for this particular group of kids, a testimony to their teacher’s expertise.
In his 13 years teaching kids with special needs, Michael Wojcio has aquired a reputation as a miracle worker among SOMA parents and administrators alike. Wojcio teaches a multi-age class (kindergarten through second grade) at Marshall Elementary School in South Orange exclusively for children with behavioral disorders, or BD’s, which often manifests as hyperactivity, or trouble with focus and concentration.
His experience as a special education teacher fostered Wojcio’s insight that the ideal environment for kids with BD’s differs vastly from what works best for children with other learning difficulties. Wojcio convinced his school district to let him implement and instruct a strictly BD class; the 2018-2019 school year served as the program’s test run.
“As a first year goes,” Wojcio says, “this one was extremely fleshed-out, which made things go smoothly from the beginning. I had great coworkers and staff in the room. We were able to work specifically on behaviors such as anxious outbursts and heightened emotions, to the extent that many of these behaviors not only lessened but became extinct.”
The goal of Wojcio’s BD program is to make it possible for kids to transition into an inclusive classroom setting, one in which students with learning disabilities work alongside general education students...
Written by Eva Benoit
Technology has a funny way of grabbing onto kids and not letting go. The addictiveness of phone games or online videos can capture even the most inquisitive and interested minds. However, alternatives to screen time can often be pretty pricey. Fortunately, there are several budget-friendly ways to cut back on technology.
Why Limit Screen Time?
Many parents may wonder why they need to limit screen time at all. For starters, children benefit more from unstructured play than they do from screen time. Television shows and video games are limiting, and they don’t offer much room for the imagination. When children are encouraged to create their own forms of play, they blossom. Moreover, too much screen time is linked to several negative outcomes, according to the Mayo Clinic, including poor sleep and appetite, weight problems, and issues socializing, among others.
One of the very best alternatives to screen time is outdoor play. Getting outside has so many positive impacts on children. Kids who play outside are more likely to get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity per day. They’re also getting a healthy dose of vitamin D they need to develop healthy bodies and brains.
If your kids aren’t interested in the outdoors, there are several ways you can encourage them to get into nature. An outdoor playground can draw your kids outside. Focus on a simple set that won’t need much maintenance to keep costs low. However, make sure you do plenty of planning so your playground is something they will thoroughly enjoy. If that doesn’t work, you can also get your kids into organized sports. The price of participation is usually manageable if you go through a school or neighborhood team. Sports equipment and gear can get expensive, so remember to look for deals, savings, and cashback offers online when you’re shopping.
Embracing the Arts
Creative hobbies, such as music or art, can be a great, low-cost way to get kids to spend less time online. You can buy an inexpensive set of colored pencils and a sketchbook that will last for ages. You may need to replace supplies over time: Keep your eye on sales to find the best times to stock up. If your child is interested in music, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to get them an instrument. Secondhand beginner instruments are very low-cost. If you’re willing to find a way to move it, you may even be able to find a piano for free on local selling boards. Moreover, some music shops also offer rent-to-buy options, where the money spent on the rental can eventually go toward a step-up instrument.
A Good Book
One of the most cost-effective ways to limit screen time is to encourage reading. If you have a local library, you can check out books for free, making this an enormously budget-friendly option. If your child wants to own a particular favorite, second-hand bookshops are plentiful. Even a brand-new book once in a while can probably fit into most budgets, and an eye on sales will make treating your child to a new book a special (and affordable) treat. If your child isn’t already a reader, diving into a good book together can make all the difference. Look for recommendations of children’s stories that also appeal to adults, and take turns reading pages or chapters to each other. This will boost their reading skills and serve as valuable family time.
On Productive Screen Time
Unsure how much to cut back? The AAP has released a tool you can use to come up with your family’s screen time plan. Generally speaking, keep the screen time productive and educational. Discourage your children from spending lots of time on mood-worsening social media sites or lost in YouTube binges. Instead, focus on screen time that the family can do together, such as playing multiplayer games or watching television shows everyone enjoys.
Remember: You need to teach by example. Limiting screen time for your children won’t be effective if they don’t see you put down the phone as well. Plan plenty of outdoors activities as a family, and ensure they see you finding non-tech ways to fill your downtime. Reducing screen time is good for anyone of any age. By cutting back as a family, you can all reap the benefits.
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By: Nicole Filiberti
We have officially reached that part of the winter when we are in full-on winter mode. Less daylight and cold weather have the tendency to keep us cooped up inside, only leaving the house when it’s necessary. Excess snacking and increased Netflix binging may have become our new hobbies. We know all about the multitude of benefits that come along with regularly moving our bodies. Setting an example for our children by staying active throughout the year will help them grow into healthy, active adults. There are plenty of ways to incorporate movement and exercise into the daily routine.
1. Consistency is key
Make movement a priority by setting a certain day of the week to participate in some form of movement together as a family. Joining a family bowling league or ongoing family yoga class is a great place to start. Search your local area for options and pick one that everyone in the family is at least willing to try. By having a certain day and time set up, you are holding yourselves accountable. Remember, the movement of chose does not have to be everyone’s favorite, but one that everyone in the family is open minded enough to try.
2. Choose based on the season
We are currently in the winter season, which does put a limit on exercise options. Don’t forget the health benefits and mental benefits of having a fun day laughing while playing in the snow and sledding as a family. Other winter exercise activities include ice skating, roller skating, and indoor trampoline arenas. Set the tone of the day by showing how excited you are, and remember to model resiliency for your children if your ice skating skills are as strong as you remember them to be… get back up if you fall again! In the warmer months, something as simple as taking the dog for a long walk in the park together as a family is a great option.
3. Simple choices add up
Decide to take the stairs instead of the elevator and see who makes it up the quickest. Select a parking spot in the back of the parking lot and enjoy the extra time outside in the fresh air. Making it a habit to take an after-dinner stroll as a family will lead to your kids automatically taking part in this activity.
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By Dr. Liz Matheis
Being a mama means that we are always caring for others and
setting our own needs to the side. Our needs don’t go away because we set them to the side, rather they grow and we risk becoming burned out. In the end, nobody wins when mama is burned out.
It’s January and I am burned out. This past holiday season wore me down with three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Throw in two birthdays, a holiday play and finishing out the year within my private practice and this mama felt like a burnt piece of toast. Fried. Crisp. Anxiety was high every day, all day.
On December 26th, I was determined to break this cycle that I had created. I needed to make some changes and build in time for self-care.
Read on to find out the three things I do to help when I’m feeling burned out.
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By: Stacey Rubin
Children thrive when they play. Playing is an integral part of development and it helps promote the emotional, cognitive, physical and social well-being of kids.
If you have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), playtime is also incredibly important, but how children on the spectrum play may look a little different.
ASD may affect a child’s ability to copy the actions of others, explore their environment, and imagine the thoughts and feelings of others.
Children with ASD can learn those skills needed to play and ultimately thrive later in life, but it may require some facilitation from parents. One way to encourage healthy play is to create a dedicated playroom or space.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
We are all guilty of sometimes feeling as though we are not mentally present with our children even though we may be physically. Dinner, garbage, homework, laundry, your work responsibilities. The list is truly endless. As a mom of a teenager, budding teenager, and a 6-year-old, I am constantly being pulled in multiple directions. But I am a mom first and I am making a vow to be more present. Make the vow with me.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
Once you’ve recovered from going through the process of identifying, evaluating and classifying your child, you can now rest for three years. Even though you will review your child’s Individualized Education Plan annually, your child will not being formally assessed for eligibility for another three years.
Read the full article to learn more about what re-evalution is and if it is right for you and your child.
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By: Heidi Borst
Before diving head-first into burnout, let’s consider this: the higher our reach, the more likely our failure. In fact, most of us will abandon our resolutions before we’ve undressed the Christmas tree. But don’t despair—it’s possible to set achievable goals.
Read on for ideas to turn fling-like resolutions into long-term commitments.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
It's not about the power struggle.
I hear this often from parents who are frustrated with their child’s behaviors and the difficulty of making their child accede to their demands. But is parenting really a phase in your and your child’s life that’s about control—a power struggle?
From birth to age 18 is a time during which you are supporting and growing your child; it's not a tug of war of wills. When it becomes one, I ask parents to think about whose needs are being frustrated—are they yours or your child’s?
Any relationship that becomes a constant struggle is no longer enjoyable, but when it’s with your child, you don’t have the option of ending the relationship. Your relationship with your child shouldn’t be so difficult all the time. If it is, it’s time to take a look at what your relationship with your child is and is not.
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Calling all Fashion Designers!
Students will recreate the Monarch Silhouette. Start with choosing your fabric, designing, and sketching your design. Then learn to cute, pin, & sew your design together.
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By: Dr. Liz Matheis
Your child is bright, creative, and clearly has many areas of skills. In theory, that should make it so that relating to peers is easy, given that he has so many areas of interest to talk and relate about, right? Well, not exactly. Our children with ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are passionate people who love what they love very much, but sharing that information or knowledge with a peer may look like your child is talking at instead of talking with them.
Your child may also become easily frustrated because other children are not as interested in certain topics, games, or other children don’t want to talk about that topic for very long. Possibly, your child may not notice the body language and facial expressions of a peer who has lost interest, and ultimately walks away. When your child feels rejected, but doesn’t know why – they may become very angry, yell or become aggressive towards the children whose behavior or actions aren’t understood. The other children don’t understand your child’s internal experience and begin to label him as angry or weird. To a parent, that’s heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, you can’t go to school with your child and mediate these peer interactions (even though you’ve thought about it!), but you can use a few strategies to help build your child’s social awareness in an effort to make social relationships a little bit easier.
To help your child understand what a disinterested peer looks like, act it out, or be exaggerative in your response to him when he tells you a story at home that is now going on for a long period of time with no end in sight. Your tolerance is higher and your patience may be greater because, after all, this is your baby. However, friends are not that patient.
See if your child asks you what’s wrong or why you’re making that face or slouching in your seat. Use this as a time to tell your child that his story is too long. You may feel like a ‘bad’ parent for saying something like this, but if you don’t, his peers will – and they likely won’t be as nice about it!
You can also role play other signs of disinterest, such as looking around the room, starting a conversation with another person, or walking away. Let your child know that it’s time to end a story or conversation and do something else. For example, she can ask her peer a question to keep the conversation going, “What did you do this weekend? What’s your favorite cartoon?” or “Do you want to play tag with me?”
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Are you looking for a fun activity for your young ones to get involved with? Check out the Shining Stars Sports League in Livingston!
The Shining Stars Sports League is a wonderful developmental opportunity for your special needs individual. League activities focus on gross motor skills, fundamentals of each sport, and socialization.
Participants will enjoy both clinic-style instruction and games in each season. The league uses modified equipment, game play and rules to enhance the learning and play experience.
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By: Kealia Reynolds
Mindfulness helps improve concentration, reduces ruminative thinking that contributes to high levels of stress, helps us understand our emotions in healthy ways, and even bolsters our immune systems. By creating a mindful space in the home, we can keep stress and anxiety levels down and live an overall healthier life. Here are eight tips to help you create a mindful space in the home.
1. Set an intention
Before creating a mindful space, one of the first things you should do is set an intention. If you make mindfulness a goal instead of an intention, you create a rift between what you’re experiencing in the current moment and what you would like to happen. With an intention, there’s no required result and no pressure to achieve a goal. Intending to practice awareness or focusing on your breathing are two intentions that you can set for yourself.
2. Go big (or small) with your space
You don’t need to dedicate an entire room to mindfulness—maybe you choose a sunny corner in your living room or a small table in your kitchen. “You could devote an entire room to meditation or just a corner of a room,” says Joy Rains, author of Meditation Illuminated: Simple Ways to Manage Your Busy Mind. Rains offers the following examples as ways to achieve mindfulness in your existing space:
3. Declutter and organize
According to researchers at UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives and Families (CLEF), cluttered environments are tied to higher levels of stress. Annie Draddy, co-founder of Henry & Higby, a professional organization company, has seen first-hand the positive impact that the process of decluttering and organizing spaces has had on her clients. “Finding ‘homes’ for things so that they are no longer cluttering up surfaces helps to create a clean and clear space which in turn makes the home more tranquil.”
Declutter your space by organizing your stuff into three piles: one for keeping, one for donating, and one for throwing away. Get rid of things you haven’t used in a year and store small items like notepads and pencils in bins or boxes to reduce the look of clutter.
4. Eliminate distractions
If you live in a noisy area, add a white noise machine to your space to block out unwanted sounds or consider soundproofing your apartment with a plush rug or draft blocker. “While we should all be able to meditate with ambient noise, for newbies, the less noise the better,” says Sage. Pare down on technology, especially items like laptops, tablets, and cell phones that can ruin energy flow and bring work and stress into your space. According to Kita Williams, CEO and lead designer at KMW Interiors, a California-based home staging and interior design company, TV should be limited to one place in the home, like the family or living room.
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By: Kyra Heenan
Cell phones are more ubiquitous than ever. You’d be hard-pressed to find an American adult who leaves their home without their cell phone in their pocket or purse, even if just for a quick errand. With the rise of smartphones, we have access to anything we want—communication, games, information, navigation—with a few taps of a finger.
On top of that, with the influx of social media use, seemingly everyone is connected at all hours of the day, and most of us rarely choose to turn off our phones and disconnect from it all for a bit.
Naturally, while this connectedness allows for a more globalized world, it also comes with its downsides, especially when it comes to mental health.
The Studies on Cell Phone Use and Mental Health
As cell phones have become more commonplace, researchers have increasingly studied their effects on our mental wellbeing.
In a review of 23 peer-reviewed articles on the topic, researchers found ample evidence that exhibits a link between smartphone use and anxiety, as well as depression and increased stress levels. With higher levels of smartphone use came reported higher levels of these disorders.
One study found that participants who had high levels of regular cell phone use experienced separation anxiety from being apart from their phones. On the other hand, participants who had lower levels of cell phone use did not experience those high levels of anxiety when separated from their phones.
Another study even found that some highly cell phone dependent participants experienced the same symptoms of addicts experiencing withdrawal. When we get a notification, we experience a hit of dopamine—and it can become addictive.
How You Can Mitigate the Negative Effects of Cell Phone Use on Your Mental Health
Our phones have practically become an extension of ourselves. For many of us, when we take a hard look at our phone habits, we realize just how attached we have become to our devices.
Since we have concrete evidence on the link between cell phones and anxiety, it is smart to break down bad cell phone habits. These are a few practices you can implement to keep yourself from mindlessly staring at your screen and scrolling through social media apps.
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By: Heidi Borst
Earlier this week, I admitted to a friend how utterly exhausted I was, not physically, but mentally. I felt overextended, at the end of my rope. I confessed that some days I fantasized about sitting alone in pure silence. I needed some space. I’m an introvert; I desperately need time alone to recharge my batteries. When I don’t get it, I feel drained. Lately, at the end of the day, I couldn’t summon the energy to listen and engage with my son as much as I knew I should… Instead, I’d tune out the noise and imagine myself in a quiet room, no one asking me questions or needing my help, until another “Mom!” would abruptly break me out of my spell.
Sound awful? It did to me, and mom-guilt was ever present, weighing heavily on my heart. I felt contrary to everything I believed I, as a mother, was supposed to be. I should want to listen attentively to every sweet word that came from my child’s mouth, yet instead, I was selfishly letting him down.
Graciously, rather than responding from a place of judgement, my friend kindly smiled and nodded, gently observing that my son was a LOT of work; more work, in fact, than her two children combined- how did I do it? Surprised by my friend’s reaction, I relaxed, fully appreciative of her understanding and support. With a few kind words, she had reassured me, validated me, and my self-doubt melted away.
It is true, my son is a lot; non-stop activity is all I have ever known (trust me, I’m beyond grateful he’s healthy and active)., and most days, I can keep up. But when I don’t have even a minute to decompress, especially over the course of several days, the weariness catches up with me.
You see, unlike me, my son is an extrovert; he feeds off of human interaction as much as I need a break from it. He needs to talk and engage as much as I need silence & “me” time. We do our best to meet in the middle, but it’s a delicate dance, a balancing act on a tightrope. But when I became a mother, isn’t this is what I promised to do, even welcomed with open arms? To be there for my child, to support and nurture him, and to do everything possible to keep him healthy, safe, unjudged, and loved.
Like most mamas, I try my hardest to put my own needs in the background until they simmer up to the surface, demanding my attention. Every day, I try to focus instead on the amazing human my son is becoming. His sweet smile can turn the worst day around; his profound wisdom can catch me off-guard (how is it possible for a 6-year old to know SO much?). His enormous heart is pure gold. The world needs more people like him, and I’m privileged to witness his growth.
And yet. Some days I am humbled by the demands on my time and attention. Those days, I’m on autopilot. I feel like I’m failing, letting myself and my child down. But I just keep going, because what other choice is there? I signed up for this! And somehow, every single time, some saving grace comes along to float me toward shore, getting me through.
Every day, I try to remember to reflect with appreciation and gratitude on what a blessing it is to be his mommy. Despite the challenges and the endless tests to my patience (not a virtue of mine), I would not change one single thing. I’ve been granted the responsibility, no, the privilege, of helping guide this beautiful person through life. He is a gift, a bright star, a caring, thoughtful, sensitive soul. I GET to be his safe place in this crazy world, a soft cushion for him to land on. That’s my job.
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Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles