Monday, January 5, 2015

10 Ways to Make 2015 a Great Year

by Lindsey Lewis

2015 is here whether you are ready or not! It is crazy to think that we are just as far from the year 2000 as we are close to the year 2030. We hope that you and your family enjoyed the holiday season and that you were able to enjoy the company of the ones you love most. Over here at In Stepps, we are back to business as usual! Vacations have wrapped up and our office is bustling with activity again after the holiday lull. We can’t wait to share all of the exciting things coming up.

A New Year is always packed with potential; each of us vowing that this year will be better than the last. For many people that can include a new exercise regimen or eating healthy. For others it means kicking addictions or repairing relationships. For those that have a child with autism, or any other special need, the goal for the New Year may simply be to make through 2015 smoothly. Many of you may find yourself at a point where the hope the New Year brings also brings anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Will this school year finish successfully? Will the next IEP go well? What will we have to fight for? Will my child stay safe? Will we have any progress? If you find yourself feeling less than enthusiastic about the New Year, here are 10 ways that you can make 2015 a great one! 

1. Be Good to Yourself
As a parent, it can be difficult to put yourself first. Making your needs a priority often takes a back seat to the needs of your spouse, your children, your job, and anyone else that counts on you. Remember, your needs count and your needs matter. Believe it or not, the health of your family depends on you making time to care for yourself. We know it is not easy, and it may seem like there are not enough hours in the day. So start small. Take a few minutes during the day to do something for yourself whether it is enjoying a cup of coffee, calling a friend, going for a short walk, or simply sitting down. Eventually, increase the amount of time and take an hour to go for lunch, an exercise class, or get a haircut. Life can feel like a whirlwind, especially when you have a child with special needs, but it is okay to need a break. It is okay to take a break. If you spend a few moments every day doing something that you want to do, you’ll find your mood is better and you’ll have more energy and motivation to keep going. The payoff is huge and your family will reap the benefits!
* Note: In Stepps offers Parent’s Night Out once a month to allow families the chance to go on date night or just have a few hours off. We take the kids and you take the time for yourself!

2Change Your Own Behavior
This one is tough, but it is important. A lot of times we can find ourselves in ruts or up against the wall and have no way of knowing how to fix it. Start with you. Recognize the things that trigger you, that frustrate you, or that you see as a deficit and really look at how you can change your own behavior to get the outcomes you are looking for. This is taking the ABA approach that therapists are using with your child and using it yourself. Identify your behavior that needs to change or a skill you need to develop, make a goal, and go for it! We even encourage the use of reinforcement (think your favorite chocolate or a Starbucks latte). Don’t forget to collect data and so you can see the changes yourself. Ask your In Stepps parent consultant or supervisor for help on this one!

3. Make Lists
To-Do lists are great and you should use them! There is no way to predict what kind of things are going to come your way and that can be incredibly anxiety provoking. By writing down what needs to be done, you’ll feel a greater sense of empowerment each time you cross something off of your list. By the way, list making doesn’t have to stop with to-do lists! You can make lists for everything from grocery lists and meals for the week (you’ll save a lot of time and money) to organizational tasks. Write out the goals for yourself, your child, your family, and your career. You can cross things off as you accomplish them or put them away and come back to see how far you (and your child) have come!

4. Take Things One Day at a Time
Life is going to offer up good days and not so good days. Instead of worrying about what tomorrow is going to bring, focus on today. Identify the great things that happened or fix the things that didn’t go so well. If you think of the big picture all at once, you are going to feel like there is no way to get a handle on everything. By staying in the present moment, you’ll find that you are less overwhelmed and you won’t miss the moments from today that would pass unnoticed if you are worrying about tomorrow.

5. Ask for Help When You Need It
There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, we demand you do it more often! Remember, you are only one person and you can only do so much. You are balancing the needs of your family, your marriage, career, yourself, and your child with special needs. That is a lot for one person to manage. Go easy on yourself and if you need something, ask for it. We often forget that the others around us are not mind-readers (especially those living under the same roof), yet we can be extremely resentful when people aren’t doing what we expect or need from them. This can cause an excess of unnecessary tension in a household and it has a ripple effect. So instead of feeling like you have to take on everything on your own, ask for help. Create a chore chart, hold a weekly family meeting to divide the tasks for the days ahead, and ask others to help out when you need it. If a friend or family member asks how they can help, instead of saying “I got it” or “It’s fine”, take them up on the offer! That feeling of being stretched extremely thin will be long gone once you feel you aren’t doing everything all on your own.

6. Try Something New
You probably feel like you have the “circus routine” down with all of the balancing and juggling you are doing every day. It may feel like every day is just a repeat of the last. The best way to get out of a mundane existence is to change things up once in a while! Want to redecorate? Move your furniture around or pick up colorful new sofa pillows. Did you find a great recipe on Pinterest you have been wanting to try? Get in the kitchen and make it! Is your local community center offering an art class you would be interested in? Sign up! Is there a new restaurant your spouse mentioned? Plan a date night! Get the kids involved, too. Try a new movie, a new food, or a new activity. For little ones with autism change can be scary so start small if you need to, but use it as a learning opportunity! Never underestimate the power of introducing new things and activities to your life. The excitement can be contagious!
*Check out the In Stepps Pinterest page at and get inspired!

7. Appreciate the Small Victories
Have you seen that quote floating around that says something like “enjoy the little things in life because someday you will realize they were the big things?” That is what this resolution is all about. When you are living day in day out with a child that has special needs, days can easily blend and fade into each other. When one thing is accomplished, how quick are you to overlook it and focus on the next thing that needs to be accomplished? But wait a minute, that accomplishment was a big moment! Celebrate it, document it, appreciate it, and revel in it. Think of what it took to get to this point and how much work was put in. If you miss all of the seemingly small triumphs, chances are you won’t fully appreciate the major successes you and your child encounter.

8. Take More Pictures
This one doesn’t need much explanation. Take more pictures of your kids, the world around you, and the places you go. The most important reason why? We are in 2015; think about how fast we got here. Your life and your kids are going to grow and change so much, and photos will be your window for memories. Take videos while you are at it; you’ll want to remember the sweet voices of your children when they were little. If you have a child with autism or special needs, photos and videos will be what reminds you where you have been and a great way to document progress over time. Photos are the best way to remember the highlights each passing year!

9. Spend Less Time Comparing
It is so easy to fall into the trap of comparison. Especially when you are buried deep in the world of autism and special needs. How many times have you compared your child to typical developing kids? How many times have you compared your child with autism to another child with autism? How many times have you compared yourself to the “put together” mom? How many times have you compared your marriage to another? We live in a society that likes to share just about everything on social media and that can make it easy to browse through your newsfeed and get a glimpse into another person’s world. Remember, no one’s life is perfect and everyone has their own struggles. There is no benefit or productivity in comparing what you have to what someone else has, especially when it comes to your child. You will just find yourself discouraged and empty. Instead, channel that energy and focus on all the reasons you have to be proud of your life, your family, and your reality (hey, make a list: see #3). Love, appreciate, and be compassionate of others but quiet that voice of envy.

10. Spend More Time Enjoying Your Life
You have a plate full of responsibilities and obligations you must fulfill every day, but let that be just a small portion of your daily living. You will inevitably face a great deal of challenges at the hand of autism, but make a resolution to not allow autism to define you or your child. Give your children the gift of a childhood that includes laughter, play, and fun. Remember the reason you fell in love with your spouse. Share in gratitude for the home you have built and the life you have created. Be good to yourself and those around you. Get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and spend lots of time loving each other. Your world is unique. Embrace the journey because life is too short to waste on wishing you were somewhere else.