As I sat down to write this post, I thought about when I went to write last month’s post. It seems like years ago now. How different all our lives were then. Mere weeks ago, we were embroiled in our routine of work and school; able to go places we needed to go. Our days were filled with our usual activities. Then, all of the sudden it seemed the virus was upon us. At first, I didn’t think much about it. Did you? Did you imagine that the world would essentially shutdown? I certainly didn’t. All our lives have drastically changed. From full speed to full stop within days. No wonder we’re all struggling.
It brings back the moment when we learned our daughter Maci was not going to develop neuro-typically like her peers. She was diagnosed with Autism. Like the Coronavirus outbreak today, that news brought with it a very drastic and devastating realization. It brought our tiny world to a standstill. We were stunned, wondering “what do we do” and “what happens next?” I remember feeling alone, isolated and very overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to process the feelings and emotions, much less where to start helping my daughter. Before long, however, I realized we were not alone and learning from others really helped us find a new way of living. It hasn’t been easy, and at times (maybe more than I care to admit) it really sucks. But now as I look back, I wouldn’t want our lives to be any different. I truly believe that with each struggle and moment of suffering we gain a greater appreciation in all things and an inner peace takes hold.
So here we are in this global shutdown, a virus taking over our world and our lives turned upside down. I submit to you that this time gives a tremendous opportunity for all of us to evaluate our daily lives and make some positive changes. Don’t get me wrong, in the beginning I was freaking out! How am I going to manage? This is way too much! I have my husband home, Maci home, I can’t go anywhere, what are we going to do?! Breathe Marikay. I slowed down, took those deep breaths and said to myself “you got this, you have done this before and what will be will be.” Most importantly, we are literally all in this together!
So, with a lack of school and therapy sessions to attend, I pondered how to make the most of our togetherness. I wanted to find interesting ways to spend time that also provided value and continue Maci’s development. As luck would have it, March (which is almost behind us) is National Nutrition Month. I decided to use the time while we are cooped up at home as a wonderful opportunity to learn, experiment and cook with Maci. Beyond just the nutritional and life-skill benefits, cooking and baking are fantastic experienced-based ways of learning. Think about it; both involve motor skills, reading, writing, math and science. Plus, we can do it together. Maci and I search online for recipes. She loves the ones with great photos and visuals. So far, we have been focused on dinner recipes.
Once we know what we’re cooking, I make a list for Maci (she loves her lists!) of all the steps from start to finish for us to complete the recipe. This helps her practice sequencing – a challenge for her. The list helps keep her focused on what we do first and then what comes next. She’s now involved in helping me make the list. This encourages her executive functioning skills; I am not telling her what to do but asking her what she thinks should come next. It gives her time to come up with her own ideas. Any parent knows what a struggle it can be to let go, but I am always amazed when I do, I see the confidence she gains by having the opportunity to express and share her solutions. It allows us to work together as a team.
Here are some of our favorite recipes so far:
Yummly Chicken Tenders – love this site!
Fresh air is always good for the soul and getting outside is a great way to spend our day, allowing us to move our minds and bodies. We are fortunate to have a big yard. We play with our dogs (always entertaining), play tag, swing, roll down hills and, most importantly, laugh. When it’s too wet to be outdoors (we live near Seattle after all), YouTube has a number of videos that feature yoga for kids and parents (I search for “mommy and me yoga), check out Yoga with Adrienne and for young ones Cosmic Kids Yoga. Of course, there are always puzzles, lots of playdough and sand. I recently bought an activity set for decorating Easter eggs! The key is to keep it varied and make it fun – for you and your child. Allow yourself the grace to embrace this time together.
My resource suggestions this month are focused on activities and learning at home.
Please visit my website for more resources and information.
I hope some of these suggestions help bring you some peace of mind – and activity ideas – during this time of us all being at “stuck” at home. It’s important to remember that we have much to be thankful for even when we have a major crisis facing us. We are all in this together!
We are just about to roll into April. A favorite month of mine! Maci will be turning 15 (OMG!!), my mom turns 83 (OMG!!) and it’s National Autism month!! Wishing you all the best in your day to day health and wellbeing! I’ll be back soon in April!
Marikay Cuthill is mother of Maci, a vibrant, curious 14-year-old on the Autism Spectrum, and the founder of Maci And Pebble, a community dedicated to helping people navigate autism by finding answers, direction and peace of mind. Learn more at www.maciandpebble.com
Get vetted autism resources delivered to your inbox every month. Subscribe to our free newsletter!