Sunday, April 19, 2009

Win CD Set from Famed Kirk Martin as He Guest Blogs on Can Mom Be Calm

Please welcome our first guest blogger, Kirk Martin of Celebrate Calm, internationally known for his unique approach to working with families of children with special needs. Many parents and teachers confidently declare that Kirk's CDs are must-haves in helping their kids. Don't miss this chance to win the set ($495 retail)!

Dear Mom and Dad: What It’s Like to Be A Child with Special Needs

Dear Mom and Dad,

I want you to know what it's like to be me.

My brain runs like a washing machine powered by a Ferrari engine. It runs all the time and it runs fast, churning and tumbling ideas like shirts and pants and socks mixed together.

I can be talking to you and having another conversation running inside my head. I can be in class listening to the teacher, but be fully engaged in a daydream about Legos or hearing a new song on my guitar.

I kind of like all this energy inside my head because I can keep myself entertained in there by myself. But other times I feel scattered and like there’s not much order up in my brain. Everything’s swirling. That’s why I like things to be just so and I why I need to know what we’re doing all the time. It’s why I end up wearing or eating the same things. New things freak me out a bit because I don’t know what to expect, so please don’t be mad at me when I’m anxious.

I want to do well in school. But sometimes the ideas in my head are so strong or interesting, and when I follow them even for a few seconds, I fall behind. And once I’m lost in class, sometimes I figure I may as well just keep thinking about these ideas. It’s like they call to me to work on them and see them through.

This is hard to explain, but sometimes I feel my body screaming to me to move and like I need contact, to push up against something. It makes me feel better inside. I’ll be sitting in class and if I haven’t gotten any exercise, I feel like I’m about to explode. But then I know my teacher will get upset if I get up, so I sit there kind of frozen, not sure what to do. I promise I don’t get in trouble on purpose.

Okay, I was lying. Sometimes I do get in trouble on purpose. I like to get the reaction from people when I’m bored. It wakes my brain up. And if I’m really bored or my body is screaming at me, I’ll get in trouble just so I can get out of class to walk down the hall. It’s such a relief. But then I feel bad later and I know everyone is mad at me.

There’s something inside me that says if I can just get through childhood, I’m going to make a great adult one day. I’ll be a good Dad because I know what it feels like to hurt as a kid and be misunderstood. And I know I don’t always do great in school, but I have good ideas and I can work at something really hard when I’m passionate about it. I don’t have any fear of the future, it’s just the present that isn’t much fun.

Okay, I know I say I’m all grown up and everything in some ways, but things hurt me more than you think. I know you guys are trying really hard and I’m difficult, but I kind of know that everyone wishes I were different.. I see the way Grandma and Grandpa treat Adam and Grace different than me. You know the way Dad shakes his head in disapproval, the way Mom groans and all those hushed conversations you have with the teacher, therapist and principal? I know what it means.

That’s why I like hanging out with Buster a lot, because he likes me the way I am because I give him lots of attention and take him on walks. And that’s why I like to play video games and be alone sometimes. It’s like my heart can only take so much and then I have to withdraw a little bit.

I know you get concerned because I stay up late at night and don’t sleep much. But I like it when it’s quiet. I can hear my thoughts better. And my world is peaceful then.

Mom and Dad, don't worry about me. I may not do great in school or be the most popular kid, but I'm content inside. I like the way my brain works, I like my energy. If everyone would stop trying to fix me, I'd be okay.

Let me focus on the things I love doing. Drawing, building, playing music. Please stop trying to make me be like everyone else. I like who I am. Do you?

Thank you for all you do for me. You think I don’t appreciate it, but I do. I know I’m not exactly the way you want me to be or the kid you expected, but I’m going to be good as an adult and you’ll be proud of me then.


Your son

Kirk Martin, pictured above, is the Director of Education of Celebrate!Calm, an organization dedicated to helping parents and teachers understand children with special needs inside and out. Contact Kirk at or through his web site at
(Photo below: Kirk Martin holds a toy brain while his son Casey strums his guitar.)

****************** NOW FOR THE CONTEST******************

Readers can win a 4-CD set called "Stop Defiance & Disrespect Now" (Retail: $495) which also includes Straight Talk for Dads: 10 Ways to Get the Respect You Want, a CD specially designed for dads. This set was created to help parents eliminate defiance and disrespect, and instead build closer relationship with their child.

To win, tell us the best tactic you use to get your child to be calm enough to learn and comply. Simply write your submission into the comments section of this post but make sure you include your email address in your submission. All your comments will be readily accessible in the "Readers Give Advice" section on the front page of this blog. If you experience technical difficulty or don't want to put in your email address for public viewing, you can email your submission to me at and still be eligible to win. Just know that your submission will be highlighted in a future blog post but you can still remain anonymous. Please send your submission by Monday April 27, 2009 11:59 PM. Kirk will read them all and choose the winner. Good luck. I hope we can all help and learn from each other.


Anonymous said...

I don't have a particular technique, but find that if I want to help my child have a successful day I have to "pay it forward." He needs a hug and a calm, friendly, nutritious breakfast. He needs a clear idea what our plans are for the day, when and under what circumstances he will have free time, what privileges are possible to earn. He needs to know that I'm on top of things, because he gets very anxious if he has the feeling I'm not. All this means that I have to do my best to be genuinely present and centered, and that is really hard! I think learning to help my son has been the best way to start learning how to help myself and be the best person I can be, too.

Elyse Orecchio said...

When my son is anxious and hyped up and going out isn't an option, I find that a bath is a great way for him to exert as much energy as he wants, for as long as he wants. Bath toys, books, and splashing in the water tire him out. When he comes out, he loves to cuddle under a blanket and is quite mellow.

Elyse Orecchio said...

P.S. That blog post made me tear up

Kim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

First, thank you for that post it was amazing. What wonderful insight that young man had and helped me understand things a little more. do I calm my child? I scoop him up in my arms and just hold him tight while I whisper to him. Usually something like I am sorry mommy doesn't understand or I am sorry we have to transistion like this etc.... don't ask if they need a hug, the answer will be no, just do it. sometimes depending on the fit I grab his favorite toy, blanket or a bottle, if its really bad we do a pacifier which is just for emergencies. anyway just pick them up and hug them, love them unconditionally after all isn't this what all kids are looking for autistic or not? My son is only 3.5 so its easy to pick up and hug, but I plan on doing that till hes 56 if that is what it takes.

Durga said...

I listen to him. Listen with my whole being - not just to what he's saying, but what the context of his reactivity is. Have we been too busy? Eating unfamiliar foods? Not enough sleep? Have I been unavailable on some level? Some other source of possible anxiety?

Then I let him know what I've heard, and what I know about the situation (he's tired, I'm tired, etc). I also let him know that I don't expect him to be perfect, just to do his best. That I'm not perfect, but I'm committed to doing my best.

By that time he's usually calmed down enough to listen. Then we outline whatever the issue is, and I explain why I'm asking for whatever I end up asking for. And he knows that he can comment, even if it might not mean he gets his way. And he also knows, he might get his way! Because he knows I'm listening.

Of course, if he's slammed and locked his door, I just have to wait it out! That's my work ; )

Thanks Kirk - your newsletters have been incredibly helpful, and often forwarded from my ebox!

Anonymous said...

My 8 year old is ADHD/ODD and also has Social Anxiety and Selective Mutism with some sensory issues thrown in for good measure! He varies in his responses to stressful situations - and so I have a "toolbox" of different tools that I pull out as needed.

If he's really angry - we have a punching bag in the basement that he can work out that anger - when he works it out, we are able to sit and talk - well I listen, he talks.

If he's giving me the silent treatment, he goes to his room where he has books and a bunch of paper, markers, etc. I either find him drawing me a picture of what he's feeling, or he's reading. I check in with him, and he's usually ready to talk by having 20 minutes alone.

We also have "I feel ______" cards and he can say the words or write them. Sometimes just saying what he's feeling is enough.

Whatever I use, it always ends the same - with a big hug (and a kiss, if he'll let me!) and me whispering in his ear that I love him Because no matter what - he knows that I love him - even when he is a challenge. :)

lisa said...

My 8 year old son has ADHD, and ODD. The most common "issue" is anger/defiance. He doesn't want to do what he needs to do. If I keep pushing him to do it, he gets more angry, and becomes aggressive, and destructive (ie., tearing up homework). Usually if I give him a bit of time, to calm down, and think things through, he will realize he does need to do this, and I am not trying to be mean. I also try to always give him warning of any change in activity coming up (in 5 minutes you got homework, etc.) I have learned the hard way, punishments, threats, and bribery will not work! I hate when other people try to help by one of these methods, husband included, because then the situation escalates and is so much harder to diffuse.

Patti said...

I've learned with my 6yo that the most important thing is for me to listen, with my mouth shut. He has problems working out disagreements with friends and I still have to step in before the hitting starts, but as soon as he sees me, he just stops shouting and runs to me. I'm his safe haven. Together, we hug or just cuddle on the couch as he works out all the terrible things that have been done to him, until he reaches the conclusion: either he has to apologize, or sometimes it can just be let go. But the most important thing is that I'm there for him, supporting him, but letting him work it out on his own (I only speak when spoken to, it's so hard!).

We still have lots of other areas to work on, but the good days are when I spend more time listening. (and a newsletter always picks me up on the bad days, Thanks Kirk!)

Anonymous said...

What do I do to help my children and our household be calm and therefore regulated? Most of our energy has been directed at this goal. It is a combined effort that not just one tactic can handle. Although it is a lot of work, the payoff has been huge in a happy family that still has ups and downs but not the extreme out-of-control all over the place behaviors that we had been dealing with in previous years. We didn’t start with all of this at once, rather, started with simple things and added others as we broadened our knowledge base. This has been a 9-year work in progress which we continue to add to and tweak as the kids grow and mature. Our house is set up so they know where items go (shoes in the bin, bookbag on the hook, homework in the file area). Daily schedules are predictable and posted. Daily schedules are discussed. Extra time is given to get ready so we are not rushing out the door. Twenty minutes to get shoes and socks on works for us. Allow him to wear the same shirt to school twice in a row if it is clean. Give choices. Allow for the children to have input. Friday night is family movie night. We make homemade pizzas and watch a movie together. We will miss other activities to do this. Wednesday is pancake night. It is looked forward to tremendously. I pile huge piles of mini wheat/corn/peanut/soy free pancakes on plates and they are allowed to eat as many as they want. Try not to schedule too many things in one day. More than one thing does not create calm. Trim unnecessary things from the daily schedule. Do not accept every birthday invitation. In creating calm I have had to not accept invitations to certain activities, thereby possibly hurting other people’s feelings. This has taken some getting used to but the more I do it, the easier it is for our family and the less stressed everyone is. Give healthy snacks often. Allow school work to be done on the floor, on any table with food and drink nearby. Allow crayons, colored pencils, pens or markers to be used in homework/schoolwork. Allow my child to wear the same holey sweatpants to school each week. Understand that familiar and old is comfortable and for a very sensitive child, if this is what is needed to be calm and focused, it is worth the sacrifice. Healthy diet free from allergens and added dyes/flavors. Maintain a key network of supportive professionals, both traditional and non traditional, for the kids and us who support us in our endeavors to create and maintain a calm home. Stopping nagging about chewing on shirt sleeves and jersey collars. If there is an organizing need for this, these things can be washed. Extending my creativity and out of the box thinking. Trying to be compassionate as much as possible thinking of each child’s needs and why they do the things that they do. Opportunity for morning exercise each weekday prior to school through walking, swinging, jumping, wrestling and/or running. Physical outlets are very important here. Trying to be responsible for myself and my own actions. Clear consequences. Follow through on consequences no matter how tough it is or how easy it would be to not follow through. Allow for down time and free time where there is no pressure and they can create or play creatively. Offering as much play time and exploring options outside as possible. Quality time with nature is key.
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Melissa said...

I can't say that there is one thing that we do. It has become a whole lifestyle change. We eat only whole, organic foods. We have a trampoline and swingset for outside play and sign our son up for soccer. When we can't get outside we have gym mats and big therapy balls to get some excess energy out.
For when he is mad or upset we go by his mood. If he is very angry he likes to run or go to his room and scream. Hugs helps on occasion and anytime he calms down after a fit he gets a hug and snuggle time. When he wants to be alone and is on sensory overload, we have a tent in the corner of the playroom and he goes in it to be alone. This has been a great help. For fidgeting, during school work we use therapy putty, squishy balls or other small objects to keep his hands busy. It seems to help him pay attention. All 4 of our special needs children love listening to classical music and it has a very calming effect. It has been a lifestyle change but one that benefits the whole family.

Penny Williams said...

Having a child with ADHD is a journey and I learn new things about how my son and myself every day.

It's a mother's instinct to tell their child "it's ok" when they come running in tears. But my son has taught me that it's not ok; at least not in that moment. The key is to try to see a situation from what I know of his perspective.

If a friend suddenly tells him he wants to play with someone else, I have the wisdom to know that there will be other kids to play with at some point and maybe even that same friend again, but my son is truly living in the moment. In that moment, he has been rejected and rejection is not ok. So I have learned to not say "it's ok" to him. It causes him to repeat "it's not ok" over and over again and gets him more worked up. It makes him focus on the hurt.

Instead, I take him in my arms, hold him tight, rub his back in a circular motion and accept that he's hurting. For I can't take away the hurt as much as I ache to do so. Accepting that I can't fix it keeps me calm too.

Knowing our children, really knowing our chilren, is the key to a calm and happy home for all.

Anonymous said...

My almost 7-year-old son has sensory processing disorder and speech delay. He was initially diagnosed two years ago and our lives have taken many twists and turns since then. Each day is a chance to learn more things and we really do take every opportunity to learn how to enrich our families lives, individually and collectively.

My biggest advice to parents of special kids is what I call AAA (like AAA comes to the rescuse of our cars, AAA can help us rescue our families).

The first A stands for Anticipate: as parents, we need to anticipate our childrens needs. When my son was first diagnosed, he was unable to communicate his needs, wants, feelings because of his speech issues. He is still fairly effected with his speech delay, but not nearly as much. So, anticipate for us means to schedule, plan ahead and be able to read our sons cues as he how he is feeling. I would love to say that I have perfected this, but I haven't. I still fail, but my true success lies in the attempt.

The second A stands for Advocate: So many people in the world have no idea about sensory processing disorder. They are judging from the outside-looking in. I have had meetings after meetings with teachers, principals. I have talked to coaches at the YMCA about programs my son would like to participate in. I have talked to strangers who just see us experiencing a meltdown or who's child has just been pushed by my son. I have stepped out of my comfort zone so that people can begin to get an understanding that there is an underlying neurological disorder that is causing these behaviors and just as you would not penalize a wheelchair bound child who cannot run a foot race, you will not penalize my SPD child for his handicaps. You will, however, celebrate as we take each step on this journey and by being educated you will celebrate even more joyfully, because you will truly understand the hurdles.

The third A is Acceptance: Acceptance not only of my son, because SPD does not define him, it is just a part of who he is. But, acceptance of myself and his dad. Acceptance that our "failures" do not define us and though we do not get this parenting thing perfect every day, it is a marathon and not a sprint. The true successes lie in the attempt. And we try every day to become better.

Also-just one last thing- I end my son's day every day with the following bed time ritual. I tuck him in and say "I love you and you make me proud of you every day and I know that you are going to grow up to be a big strong man and do all of the wonderful things God made YOU to do." Our kids struggle with so much, they need to know that we love them, are proud of them and that we always will be.

joleennc said...

I teach my 9 y.o. son at home and frequently experience explosions during our lesson time. When the explosion happens, he normally storms off to his room and will scream at the top of his lungs. He usually ends up finding a book to read and sits down with it. While he is going through this process, I wait at the table and think through what I said right before the incident. I also evaluate and note any common triggers from the past so I can formulate how to approach him when I go to talk to him.

I allow at least 10 minutes before going into my son's room to talk with him. At this poing, I go in with the goal of discovering what caused his frustration. I begin my conversation by asking a question about the book he is reading or about some fabulous LEGO creation I see sitting in his room. This engages him and distracts him so he can think more clearly. It also allows him to recognize that I am on his side. I then slowly begin to bring the conversation around to the "incident". By asking him for more details about his frustration, he knows that I am not there to give him a consequence for blowing up, but I want to figure out how to help him. We will talk through some different ideas on how to make it less stressful for him and I give LOADS of encouragement that I want to help him in every way and he can trust me to do what is best for him.

The last part of the process is to firmly explain that although it is frustrating to do lessons at times, he must perservere. For the most part, he will be in total agreement and will even apologize for losing his temper and acting ugly to me.

Once we return to and complete the lesson, I again give HUGE amounts of praise. The next time he is frustrated and has a meltdown, I also use these past processes to remind him that he can succeed, because he has done it before.

The entire process takes me at least 30 minutes. It is not a quick and easy fix. However, I see small improvements every day and am confident that the time I am putting into him is worthwhile.


Jessica said...

When my son seems to be spiraling out of control, the first thing I go to right away is giving bear hugs. I get down on his level and give him a deep, long hug, covering as much of his little body as I can. I can feel him begin to relax after the third hug, and after that it's like he just soaks in the relaxing pressure and focused attention from his mama. It's a sweet time where we both feel good because we're connecting, and we both know I'm helping him feel "right". After 10 bear hugs, we pull away and the relieved smile on his face lets me know he's ready to handle whatever the situation is again.

Kim said...

First, I make sure that I am calm. If I'm not calm then he can't be. Then I speak with him in a level calm voice. Gently slowly explain what is needed in a clear defined manner. I watch his eyes, if he seems confused, I wait and see if the confusion clears. If it doesn't then I break it down further until I can find the source of confusion.

If he's on hyper, I have found that 5 to 10 minutes of "super hyper" play will enable him to call down enough to focus.

If he's grumpy, then 5 to 10 minutes of snuggle/tickle/wrestle/play will defeat the grump enough to focus.

If none of the above qualifies, a Long hot shower and snuggle time cures all ills.

But most of all, create an environment at home that accepts him for what he is and loves him for what he is. I don't expect him to be anything or anyone else, just himself - to be determined as he grows and learns.

This post was reposted for Kim because we needed to remove the email address.

Jessica said...

We are a military family with three children, a dog, and a cat. Our home is like a three ring circus. My son just started Pre-K and the school is sending notes home saying that his behavior beyond unacceptable, and he needs to be tested for a disorder. I find that when chaos strikes my home, we will do a special imagination session, where everyone gets a say on what we are doing. We will start acting our a story that we have made up, and eveyone inputs parts of the story. They normally make me do something really silly, and that is what makes it really fun. After this we will have a cool down session or watching a movie together and eat popcorn, or going for a walk if the weather is nice. This way they get their imaginative actions out, and then can get onto thier tranquility. To be completely honest though, sometimes time is not always on our side and frustration gets the best of us. This is why I am seeking the path to celebrate calm.

Jessica said...

Sorry I forgot to add my email address,for Jessica

Jenn said...

Hi Jessica,
I am sorry if it wasn't clear but the contest is over in case you were applying to win. I do thank you for your comment. That was really creative and I truly hope you are saving all those notes. He may qualify for special ed some day and those notes, as painful as it is to read, can help your case.

Unknown said...

I listen the songs its really nice and super.Thanks for sharing the post.
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