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Monday, January 11, 2016

10 of my Favorite things for mothering my Autistic daughter: Preteen Edition!


It's been two years since I published the first list of my "10 Favorite Things for Mothering my Autistic Daughter" and I thought it was time for an update! Children grow daily meaning that their moods, likes, dislikes, and physical growth are constantly changing. Contrary to popular belief, this is also true for Autists as well. My daughter is now in the double digits and marching her way through puberty. Along with some light acne, glasses, and her learning to text me short messages through her tablet, we have also tried new herbal supplements, exercises for her sensory issues, and teaching her more self-help routines.

As I said two years ago, as a mother of an Autist with other health and neurological issues, it is imperative that I stay two or three steps ahead of her. Knowing what she likes and dislikes, what will engage her, and keep her feeling safe is necessary in order to accomplish the most simplest of tasks such as going to the grocery store. Furthermore, as a Muslim family, it has become increasingly important to not only be mindful of those things but to find a way to incorporate them into our religious obligations as well so that we (especially me as mom) are not losing out on opportunities to engage in Ibadah due to her special needs.

What I have noticed and had to cry my eyes out over and now having come to terms with is that my daughter's life will always be filled with complexities that other people: mothers, friends, my parents, children, and indeed, the whole Muslim community may not understand or have compassion for. As she gets older, taller, and able to speak more clearly - people are more likely to judge her negatively and harshly than they did when she was the adorable, chubby, wobbly, curly haired bright -eyed baby/toddler.

There is no way to combat every single stereotype or injustice that she may face. I am committed though to making her space educational and comfortable for her. So I have my 10 Favorite Things for Mothering my Autistic Daughter for the Preteen Edition!

#10 Behavior Charts/Daily Routine Chart


 My daughter attended an Autism Alternative Educational program that utilized ABA strategies for 5 years. Her teachers always used various charts and the token economy system. As an educator I was well aware of the research behind its use, but I never thought to use it in our home with her. Boy, was I WRONG! Because she was so familiar with the systems, it was very easy to incorporate, easy to get her to comply, and CHEAP to make. Google designs for Behavior charts or check out Pinterest for inspiration.

#9 Herbal Tea Smoothies w/ Ninja single serve

    So, on the last list 2 years ago I was all about the Nurtribullet. I still love the bullet and it's great for making large batches of drinks and smoothies. But for individual drinks, especially these herbal tea smoothies, the Ninja Professional Single Serve system is great. And we all know the hoopla surrounding herbal teas, they're good for you. The question is how do you get your cranky PMS'ing Autist preteen to gulp it down? Simple, you mix it into a yummy smoothie. I try give one or two a day and enshallah, I *think* I've seen a difference.

Teas to try:

Chamomile, Lavender, Valerian & Lemon Balm mix, Yogi Brand Calming,
Green tea, Stash Brand Lemon & Ginger, Traditional Medicinal Organic Hibiscus


Boil two cups filtered water and pour water into carafe
steep 2-3 tea bags for ten minutes and let cool
Pour half of liquid into your single serve Ninja
Add frozen fruits, spinach, kale, fresh root herbs like ginger
Additionally, you can 1/3 cup almond milk, stevia, agave nectar or a little Manuka honey ,and/ or two spoonfuls of Greek yogurt.
Blend and enjoy!

#8 On The Go/Road trip/doctor's visit/ Pms'ing/jumu'ah  snack bag

 Alhamduleelah, Hindoya has been spending more time out and about in the community! So it's important that I have a couple of items in a ready snack bag to keep her full so that she doesn't ask for things  #1 she can't eat (due to dietary restrictions) and  #2 cost an arm and leg. Being prepared is key. If you can buy items in bulk, it will be cheaper in the long run. Another thing to keep in mind when you are making these snack bags is that while we all want our kids, especially our Autists, to eat well, snacks have to taste good. My daughter has been on a modified diet since she was one and her sugar consumption has always been ridiculously  low. I used to drive myself crazy worrying about her eating super clean, but now I know it's unrealistic to keep that pace or to keep her happy. LaraBars to pricey? Here's a recipe: Home made Larabaras  Flavored waters too pricey? Make your own fruit infused waters!! All you need is fresh fruit and filtered water. Try adding some sparkling water and Crystal Light to it! This is what I keep in snack bags for Ms. Hindoya!

1. Lara Bars Minis
2. Honest Kids juice pouches
3. Pure Life Splash Waters
4. Apples & Pears & grapes  (all kinds)
5. Gluten Free Rice Chex (different flavors)
6. Air popped popcorn (mix with chex, yum!)

#7Art Easel

This easel keeps my daughter (and my three year old) occupied for an hour at a time. I got it from IKEA, but I am sure Walmart or Targets will have a comparable style. It's double sided (white board & chalk) so two of them can use it at time and then switch sides. I often tack sight words on the sides a week at time for them to trace or some times they just free play. Art is so important to child development and I have really seen her bloom by coloring and painting. It has helped her greatly with her fine motor skills and little by by little her attention span is increasing.  Which is why my next pick is:

#6 Washable Paint

Painting is fun and the great thing about this Crayola paint is that it's really washable (they got some on the floor and it easily washed out with little scrubbing) and toxic free. They can use this paint on the easel or in their Crayola Giant Coloring books (yes! we still LOVE those, get'em!). You can tape plain printer paper on the easel or if you don't have an easel get some cardboard and tape it to the floor or your kitchen table and let them have at it. This kit comes with a couple of different accessories so it's a good starter set and then you can just keep adding on.

#5 Sight words labelled throughout the house

 This is one simple trick that all parents can use to encourage literacy in all of their kids, even the teens. You can use sticky notes, index cards and tape, print up fancy designs with borders and laminate them, or you can purchase a kit.  When my daughter was first diagnosed with Autism one of her pediatric neurologists made the comment that there wouldn't be much she would be able to do in life such as talking, walking, or reading. My heart sunk and I cried for days. But then reality kick in and I knew that his opinion couldn't deter me from teaching my baby! Alhamduleelah, indeed, the decree belongs to Allah and dua is a strong weapon and I swear by the One who holds my life, sincere dua will not miss its aim!  Allah hears and responds. Alhamduleelah, Not only is Hind walking, talking (too much, mashallah), but she is now able to read many sight words and spell her first, middle, and last name. Enshallah, I will keep pushing her and labeling things for her to memorize and to learn from. This is even helping my three year who now recognizes over 15 sight words. It's never too late or too early to start working on literacy. It's also a great idea to make or purchase a second set of sight words to take with you on trips, car rides, and visits.

#4 Superbrain Yoga

So about six months ago I saw this little flyer on social media and I read it. Generally, anything that highlights Autism and other neurological disorders I try to pay attention to, further research, or pin on Pinterest for safe keeping. After doing a little Google search and watching some news clips, I decided to give it a try with all of the kids and myself. Now, for Hindoya in particular, she still has not mastered the movements. But she is doing better and she loves trying to do it with me and my 14 year old and three old (he is wobbly too). What I noticed immediately that this series of movements are very calming for her and she tries really hard to focus so it is helping her attention span. Furthermore, my 14 year old who has been having difficulty with math since x &y came on the scene feels that it takes away some of the anxiety and helps her focus better during her lessons. It's number 4 on this list of favorite things because anything that calms my child is life altering, mashallah! I try to do it at night before bed usually or right before we leave out of the house for an outing. Enshallah, we will keep at it and I might do a follow-up post at the end of the year.

More information: Superbrain Yoga

#3 Netflix Subscription

Yep, same as two years ago!  You can read what I wrote previously here 2014 List. With so many choices of educational shows that teaches math, literature, and science and clean entertaining favorites that can be streamed in a variety ways, we are still subscribed. Additionally, there are now parental controls and user features that manages what the kiddos are allowed to see so I can block out any junk that I want and still have access to some great content.* I also use my Netflix subscription a lot at school with my high school students. There is always a documentary on there to compliment a lesson that I just covered.*

#2 and my Herbal Supplement bag!

I had read a study some years ago about how children with neurological disorders were found to be lacking in many minerals in their bodies and I wanted to find a quality supplement. Over the years, I have gone through many different brands. I  was not able to keep it up because it was costly. Alhamduleelah, I was introduced to by someone and I have been hooked for maybe three years now. Not only does the site stock lots of organic products, the prices are really affordable. The Synergy Kid's Multiviamin and Mineral Supplement is sugar free and tasty. I use it for all over my kids and with every order I make, I receive coupons for next month's orders! And Vitacost has BOGO offers monthly as well. I stumbled onto reading about Manuka Honey on the Vitacost site and this stuff is expensive every where. I have priced checked plenty and Vitacost will almost always have the lowest price for it and if you throw in one of their coupons, it's a good feeling! I ration this stuff to the kids like it was something illegal. It's great for colds, the flu, sore throats, cuts, burns, and any yucky coodies kids carry and past around. For Hind she only able to take a half a teaspoon because honey reduces to sugar very quickly. Alhamduleelah, we have not seen any adverse effects or interactions with her seizure meds and she has not had the flu or bronchitis in years, mashallah. Lastly, I started giving Hind Blackseed supplements about two or three months ago. We know what the prophet (sallallahu alyhi wa sallam) has stated about it's healing properties. So as a mother with a preteen who suffers from ailments, I use it because I have trust that all cure is through the decree of Allah and at any time He can bestow healing on her for all that she struggles with. My daughter takes the pills and we also use the fine crushed seeds in her oatmeal and smoothies from time to time.

Aisha RA said that she heard the Messenger PBUH say, “This black seed is a cure for every disease except death.” (Bukhaari).

'And thy Lord taught the bee to build its cells in hills, on trees and in (men's) habitations….. there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colours, wherein is healing for mankind. Verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought'. (16:68-69)

Also The prophet PBUH said 'Honey is a remedy for every illness and the Qur'an is a remedy for all illness of the mind, therefore I recommend to you both remedies, the Qur'an and honey.' (Bukhari)

#1 Samsung Tablet

We've upgraded! The Samsung tablet is a lot lot faster, uses the Google app store so she has access to a never ending supply of content, and is portable most importantly. I take this tablet every where. From doctor appointments to shopping and even to jumu'ah!! She doesn't use it all the time, but just in case she needs it, I have it. Why? Because my daughter has sensory issues and  sometimes it is hard to block out extra noise around her. Her tablet is loaded with Qur'an apps for kids, Starfall Reading games, her sight words, SKYPE, her favorite stories read to her by her Mama, her favorite YO! Gaba Gaba episodes and her Youtube playlist. She laughs, she focuses, she is able to tune out things that may be bothering her, and she is able to do it all by herself without assistance. As I acknowledged before, the tablet is a filler. It gives my daughter a break and it gives her Mama a break. We all need that once in a while, even when Autism is in the home.

That's my 2016 list! What are your favorite things list for your special need's child?