Shirley Blaier-Stein Blog

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About believing

Do you know how when we truly want something and believe in it, then it's more likely to come true? When we absolutely focus on it, our brain creates paths and possibilities for us to work towards and come closer to whatever it is that we want. Ask and it is given, pray and you will get it. Whatever you call this, our minds have the power, and the things we have in our lives are a result of what we unconsciously truly want and believe.
This also means that when we recognize that way of thinking, we realize that we can form, change, or tweak our beliefs so that what we truly want would come true.
When Dan was diagnosed I was told that he won't be able to learn much  He was different. He will not be able to do what others could. His mind was like an unknown terrain. It was scary. But then when I got the courage, I started to explore, find paths, and pave new ways that would enable me - and him - move from one positive place to another. I am not done exploring because new possibilities present themselves all the time. Opportunities come along, and I grab them and move forward to the next peak. Whenever I reach a high point, I always look to find the next one, and the road to the next one may pass through a dark shadowed valley, but I keep moving on, him and me concurring one area at a time.
Let your thoughts and beliefs be in a positive place, and go explore where you can take your child next.

my boy believes in education!

This summer has been somewhat of a tricky time. A time that demanded deep thinking, creativity and creation of something new. (You know I love a challenge!)

When I started working with Dan at home, talking about history, art and more, I realized how much he knows, how he enjoys learning, and how relieved and happy he is that we understand how smart he is and how much he knows. It was the first time I was addressing him as a smart student (It's my bad, I know, I used to believe the world around me, that told to me that Dan's abilities are limited) and discuss age appropriate content exactly at his level. I presumed competence.

But then while we were happily doing it at home, Dan's program at school stayed the same. He was learning at a different level. Not because his teachers did not believe in him. We are lucky to have a great group of teachers and professionals surrounding Dan. It was because the system just worked that way. If you didn't master A, you are not able to move to B. And for our kids it is sometimes hard to show their ability, even when they understand everything perfectly. There was a disconnect.

So I had to come in and talk. Advocate for my child. This was not easy, not because the team is not great and open, but because in a way, I was introducing something completely different, 'speaking a new language.' Yet this team listened. And as always they stepped to the plate and even surprised me with their creativity, willingness and ability to do this. Now Dan is learning age appropriate lessons at school about current events, science, social science, geography, history, and more. 

We are also so lucky to have a group of dedicated therapists, all with teaching degrees, who believe in Dan and teach him, all the time. Last week one of his therapist said to me, "I think I'd like to read Robert Frost with Dan." Not that long ago, discussions with the therapists were about how to keep Dan safe and how to fill his time with activities so he doesn't get bored around the house. And now this. I teared up. We have a different kid and an amazing team around him. 

Last week at Dan's session with the RPM therapist, she taught him about a natural phenomenon and asked him what he would like to preserve on earth, if he could. Dan replied, "Not sure planet earth is what I am most passionate about." While I'm laughing in the corner at how open and daring he is, she asked him, "what are you passionate about then?" And my boy responded, "EDUCATION."

The Challenge and the Solution

I was asked last week at a book talk I gave, how do I practice being calm when things get rough with Dan. This question is crucial nowadays, because the more Dan advances in his learning and communicating, he also gets anxious. I can almost see him think, “what, you truly expect me to be this smart and capable person?!” (Yes, we do, Mr. and we know you can!) I know this is very scary to be expected so much from your parents and environment.
So these times and this question brought me back to my studies with my mentor Joseph who taught me many ways and techniques to control the situation when things get rough.
Joseph sat with me in front of a calm lake and watched me getting relaxed. Then he told me to close my eyes and picture Dan’s face. When I did that, that knot of nervousness and anxiety in my stomach presented itself. Joseph reminded me how calm I was a second ago and we practiced how I could reach that calm in the midst of a crisis. Parents, try this at home: when your child is anxious, getting upset, even hits you or himself, or both, remove yourself from the situation, as soon as it becomes safe, take a few deep breaths, picture a place that you love, or something that makes you happy and calm. Now let your tone of voice reflect your new achieved calmness. I often say, “Dan, it’s ok, I’m here. It’ll be ok. Just stay with me, and we’ll get through it.” Often, that helps turn things around and he calms down. It is hard, because your natural reaction is to get upset and “show him” that he cannot mess with you, but the calmness is what’s going to be helpful in the end. Try it.

About the Miracle

What if you couldn’t talk, communicate or be understood? What if, because you couldn't talk, people assumed that you cannot understand either and treated you like a baby?
This happens to many non-verbal children with autism.
I am so happy to report that after working with Dan using a novel and excellent communication method called
RPM, I am able to do long lessons with him about the world, art, and his favorite, U.S. History. We sit for 30, 40 minutes at a time, sometimes longer, and go back and forth with learning and questions and answers.
He has never communicated this well before and we are all very excited about what the future will bring.
RPM is not only about the special technique used to communicate – a letter board that eventually becomes typing! – but is also a way of thinking: assume competence, treat the nonverbal child like any other child his age, speak to them that way, teach them about the world, open them to new people and experiences, let their personality and creativity come out in the best way possible.
I was inspired to teach Dan about Mexico and then the family travelled there, to see the Maya ruins (and be at the pool and beach too, of course!)
It was always so important to me to teach him about the world, and now I can!

about the 20% and the 80%

This is from a while ago, but I figured I'll share.

We recently moved to our new house so the past few weeks have been all about packing, carrying, organizing cleaning and unpacking. 

Oh, and Dan was off of school and about to begin his new school in our new town.

In other words, I am so exhausted.

But then the summer school started, and knock on wood it is going well. And I had a few hours by myself. To do errands, but at least with nobody else to take care of.

And then Dan and I went to pick up Gali from daycare. I finally figured out the traffic and which way it is better to take on this 40 minutes drive. We got to the daycare on time for Dan to play in the sandbox and then I decided to take them both for ice cream. We do this sometimes on days that Alex works late. 

We went to our usual place and Dan picked his usual coffee ice cream from the freezer, and then it was time for Gali to pick her flavor from the ice cream stand. The place was really busy so I held Dan’s ice cream container in my hand, but then suddenly I dropped it and it fell straight into the garbage bin. Clumsy mommy!

It was actually no big deal because that garbage bin was next to the coffee stand so it had only coffee cups and used bags of sugar. I was about to quickly pull it out but then Dan collapsed to the floor screaming. His precious ice cream! What have I done!

And then he made such a scene, screaming and holding his head with his fists.

I stood there in the middle of the store with people passing around us. Gali was so shocked that she could not pick a flavor. I didn’t blame her. All I wanted was to get out of there! Now!

But then I remembered that I once heard someone say that in life 20% is what happens to you and 80% is what you choose to do about it.

I leaned down and said, “Dan Stein, quiet now or no ice cream.”

He ignored me at first but then after the fourth time and once I showed him that his ice cream container is in my hand and still clean and ready to eat, he got up and smiled.

Of course there was a huge line to the register. But I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to teach another lesson, about waiting.

“You see all those people, Dan? They are waiting too. Let’s stand right here until it is our turn. Then we pay and go outside to sit on the chair and eat ice cream.”

Dan must have heard about the 20% and 80% rule too, because he waited very patiently.

GPS for Autism Treatment

Being an autism parent means lots of things. Like planning ahead. I mean really. Everything. You never know what will work and what not so you have to be ready for everything. My friend Rena says you have to be like a chess player – plan three moves ahead. My friend Gretchen says you have to be like a colonel in a battle field, because you never know where the next grenade will come from.

The biggest thing for me with autism is figuring out the healing journey of treatments and therapies. There are so many things out there: From the mainstream speech and occupational therapy to horses, music and the million alternative therapies. There are so many different diets and supplements.

Many times we started something and it looked like it was working very well. But then it stopped. And then sometimes things get worse!

I wish there was a GPS for therapy. Something that would help me figure out in real time whether something is working and what to expect soon. Like if whatever we are doing right now is working the device will say “keep straight!” And if it is working but we have to change something soon it will say “in 800 yards, turn right!” If something is about to completely fail or get worse my GPS will say “turn around when possible!”

And once we have done everything possible known to man and it actually all worked, the device will say what all of us autism parents long to hear: “You Have Reached Your Destination!”