(I wouldn’t change you for the world, but will change the world for YOU!)
April is Autism Awareness Month and today (April 2) is World Autism Awareness DAY. This month is a global movement to help increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism — across the spectrum and throughout the life span.
World Autism Awareness Day, sanctioned by the United Nations, starts off the month with signature events including Autism Speaks‘ ninth annual Light it Up Blue campaign. The goal during the month of April is to amplify the message: increasing understanding and acceptance of children, adults and families worldwide who are affected by ASD (autism spectrum disorder).
Autism affects each person differently, and what you see is often just a piece of the full picture, or a piece of the puzzle. Behind each face is a story of challenges, abilities and strengths. These stories are at the heart of Autism Speaks‘ new global campaign, GET THE FULL PICTURE. Together these stories, along with photos, videos, events and a new public service campaign, create a fuller picture of the many things AUTISM is.
I didn’t choose this journey, but have learned to embrace that it has chosen me. Today (and every day), I salute you my daughter : Arizona Ray Lovell. May your voice, spirit and essence continue to shine bright — without edit, permission or filter. You are perfect, whole and complete, exactly as YOU are. Mommy loves YOU.
(Me & You, KID!)
I have been a long time advocate for children to be taught (and made privy to) an EMOTIONAL language; one that allows them to fully express their feelings (all the depths) and more importantly, feel safe in doing so.
Arizona, my almost 12 year old, has BIG feelings a lot. She expresses them, without filter or social awareness around who is going to have a reaction to those feelings and HOW.
It’s not easy to hear what she has to say sometimes. A few year ago, while upset with her behavioral aide at school, she said: “Maybe you should come to school tomorrow with a gun, and two bullets — so if you shoot yourself and miss, you’ll have a second chance at success.”
And, sometimes on a daily basis, equally expressive conditions have been directed toward me, her residential punching bag (parent life!) —
In these moments, I am grateful for the training I received while Arizona was attending Cheerful Helpers Child & Family Study Center. I learned to look past the words and have compassion for my child’s feelings. To this day, I still respond to her (sometimes shockingly) big words, “Good to know. Tell me why.”
A dialog beings, things soften, we get to the root of things.
I am grateful for an emotional language — both as a way to express AND receive.
Most importantly, I have learned that talking about our feelings and expressing ourselves = HEALING.
Recently, I’ve made some significant changes in my life to slow things down a bit. I’m an extremely capable multi-tasker, and even when I think everything is going smoothly & effortlessly, I am still being worn down.
Physically, I’ve been off for a few months. I came down with a bout of shingles (ZERO FUN) in December and have experienced some other annoying health episodes that have kept me in a state of irritable discomfort. I will spare you the details, but it did make me look deeper into the spiritual significance of it all. Clearly, I needed to take a step back, SLOW DOWN and step up my self-care game.
But more importantly, I felt called to be more focused and intentional with the things I WAS committing to. Always a people-pleaser and very keen on having an active social life, I had to take a closer look at what I was being invited to, the events I was planning, the business meetings & clients I was scheduling for myself …
And then, for each item already on my calendar or on the verge of being committed to, I had to ask myself a few questions:
*Is this something I really want to do (right now or ever)?
*Is this something that will serve my higher good?
*Will this move me forward?
*Will this feed me?
*Is this something I can reschedule for another time?
*Will this help me with MY NEEDS right now?
I have to say – quite a few things hit the chopping block. The result, so far, has been energetically satisfying. I feel more present in everything I’m doing. I’m taking a minute to call myself into each moment, full of gratitude and appreciation for this life I have created. As a huge bonus, Arizona and I have been connecting on a more fulfilling level. I don’t feel stretched thin or pulled in a million directions at once. She feels this shift, and we have been experiencing a deeper connection with each other.
Interestingly enough, even as I worry that I am not “doing” enough to pound the pavement, build my client & project pipeline, hustle and grind with networking and meetings, I just know that this temporary RETREAT will create the space for so much more abundance in ways I cannot imagine.
Now, how cool is THAT?
(With my teacher, Suzi Lula)
I am a firm believer: I teach what I most need to learn.
Even more so, I believe that GOOD COACHES, have great coaches. We are equally teaching and learning at the same time; equally comfortable in both a student AND teacher role. In other words, I can be humble and SHINE at the same time. I am grateful that I can participate in these dual roles …
All of that to say, I have been SO enlightened in this recent online course I’ve been taking: “Conscious Coaching” with MY long time coach and mentor, Suzi Lula. A 4 month long, 2 classes / month course, “Conscious Coaching” has completely transformed the way that I am BEING in my business of coaching. FUN FACT: when we put 90% of our energy toward our spiritual growth / life, the business part will happen easily, gracefully & abundantly.
If you are : willing to stand in your calling/ gifts, willing to stand in your contributions, willing to be OF SERVICE on this planet: desiring to leave today / this planet / EVERY CLIENT better than how you found it? This course is for you.
Great news: you can still join! The first 2 classes have been recorded / archived – and available to you as soon as you sign up. Please join the remaining 6 live classes between now and end of April (or watch class recordings when you are available). A pretty phenomenal community has been built from this – and we are here to support, uplift, inspire and co-create with YOU.
In addition to the course, private FB group and tons of material via PDF / downloads also available. Please join us! You will be inspired and transformed!
Susanna Peace Lovell, Life Coach for Special Needs Families
“Jumping helps many kids with autism regulate their bodies and this special sensory night was all about them…!”
Thank you, HollyRod Foundation for partnering with SkyZone and Outback Steakhouse to host a SENSORY FRIENDLY night exclusively for autism families in the most DELICIOUS of environments : lots of jumping fun, ease of mind for parents and lots of support and encouragement for kids with autism to JUST HAVE FUN and let loose.
I have been a long time supporter of the HollyRod Foundation, and tonight was a reminder of WHY. “Jump with RJ” was truly a sensory friendly event : the lights were dimmed just SO, the music wasn’t pumping outrageously, it wasn’t crowded : Arizona was excited from the second she stepped foot into SkyZone until the second she slapped RJ a “high five for autism” and headed out 2 hours later.
And by the way: 2 hours is a ridiculously long time for Arizona to endure ANYTHING, let alone an environment with people : sounds : lights : mostly boys and not many girls!
We were driving home and Arizona said, “Mama, I can’t wait to invite my friends to JUMP with me.” “What a cool idea,” I responded. “And you know what, Mama,” she continued, “it’s fun to have Autism sometimes, isn’t it?”
Yes, my love. LIVE YOUR LIFE. There are NO limits. Jump to your heart’s content!
Arizona and I were invited to participate in the AT&T and HollyRod Foundation event hosted by the American Airlines Abilities Employee Business Resource Group at LAX this past weekend.
“It’s Cool to Fly American” is an “airport experience and rehearsal” event, having already taken place in airports across the country and finally coming to Los Angeles. The event was created to provide a full airport travel experience to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Arizona has been a pretty consistent airplane passenger since the age of 2 months old; we still get on a plane at least twice a year and sometimes more. Over the years there have been issues and anxieties surrounding her food allergies (and special snacks and liquids making it through security), waiting in long lines, general sensory overload (sights + sounds + crowds), being seated next to strangers, loud and unexpected noises at the airport or on the plane, crowded accommodations, fear of airplane toilets, claustrophobia, ignorant passengers with unkind words along the way …
I am grateful to American Airlines for designing a program to highlight the challenges and issues that come with traveling with an individual with special needs. I wish we could have experienced an event like this years ago.
Here’s a snapshot of how it works:
“It’s Cool to Fly American” is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. The event will be realistic and provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security, and boarding the plane. The aircraft will taxi around the airport for a short period of approximately 30 minutes.
There will be familiar faces that will take part in this event such as uniformed gate agents, pilots, and flight attendants so that your child becomes familiar with the typical airport and onboard experience. This also gives our American Employees, Transportation Security Administration professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact and deliver their services in a structured leaning environment. This experience is equally useful for families that have a member with other intellectual or developmental disabilities that are concerned about the ability of their family members to travel. Our goal is to create an environment with all of the sounds and sensations your child could experience in flight – without ever leaving the ground.
When RSVP’ing for the event, we were encouraged to bring any items that would be helpful to alleviate any stress out of the travel experience: bringing technology devices, service dogs, ear plugs / head phones, books, sensory items, comfort items and more so that it would be as successful experience as possible for our child.
Thank you, American Airlines, for bringing more awareness to our world!
(Playa del Carmen : getaway with my girl)
Certainly, the New Year 2018 is well under way. After a 3 week break from school, Arizona finally returns tomorrow. We’ve been on a few trips during this hiatus, a mix between work and play. Oh: and let’s not forget about my unexpected bout of shingles (SHINGLES?) – eek.
All of this to say, I’m excited to return to my comfy routine of life : motherhood, coaching, writing, creating. I thrive with “to do” lists and a calendar that’s fully booked. I’m motivated to get stuff done when I see how much I still need to accomplish. There’s lots to do and no time than the present!
Now, all of THIS to say : there is a theme / mantra / word that becomes crystal clear to me before the start of each new year. This becomes my foundation and theme for the next 12 months of my life.
This year’s word? Surrender. SURRENDER. Exhale. Release. For sure, it is my life’s work to LET GO of the things that no longer serve me; to bless + release anything and everything that is not in alignment with my higher good. I welcome relationships with THINGS and PEOPLE that will uplift, inspire and motivate me to GROW + FLOURISH.
So on this note, I am taking a step back, observing the flow of this life, leaning into the BEING in this life, rather than the DOING…
Matthew 6:28 “…consider well the lilies of the field, how they grow. They do not toil…”
I am grateful to just BE. I hope your 2018 is off to a peaceful & productive start as well!
(Susanna Peace Lovell : Speaker, Writer, Coach, Advocate!)
I have enjoyed, so much, speaking about my experiences, sharing resources, uplifting my community with stories I have lived through .. it is truly a blessing to LIVE such a rich life of fulfillment and purpose.
I’m looking forward to engaging with more of you in 2018. Here is my official announcement on my 2018 speaking topics. Note : customized talks, workshops and seminars are also available.
Susanna Peace Lovell is a certified professional life coach and advocate dedicated to the health and wellness of special needs families everywhere. Her own daughter, Arizona, has multiple challenges and diagnoses, including autism spectrum disorder, ADHD and food allergies. On her journey of navigating through the worry and heartbreak of raising a special needs child of her own, Susanna found her true life calling : to help other parents find and realize joy and passion in their own lives. It is a gift to realize that your child’s potential doesn’t have a limit; but to realize YOUR possibilities are also unlimited is a tremendous breakthrough not to be missed! Susanna can help you unleash this potential within and start soaring in your own lives.
Susanna is currently booking for speaking engagements and panels in 2018. She has presented to universities, schools, Fortune 500 firms, special needs organizations, mom groups, health & wellness forums and more. Based in Los Angeles, Susanna is available for both local and nationwide bookings. Please contact email@example.com for rates & availability.
Knowing Your Rights in California
What are your child’s rights and what resources are available to them and you? Susanna Peace Lovell will help you understand your needs as you navigate through the world of being a special needs family. The state, school district and even private support systems (including schools, therapeutic services and other interventions) can be covered, 100%, when processed through the correct channels.
My Top 7 Tips for Self Care as a Special Needs Parent
Self care has been at the forefront of Susanna Peace Lovell’s journey as a special needs parent. She shares the top 7 tips that have helped her along the way : 1) Speak Your Truth, 2) Just Say No, 3) Release the Guilt, 4) Receive Help, 5) Let Go of Expectations, 6) Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable and 7) Finding Your Joy. What are the ways in which both YOU and your child / children can thrive?
A is for Arizona
Susanna Peace Lovell shares her journey in raising her now 11 year old daughter, Arizona, and her navigation through the worries and heartbreak of understanding the various diagnoses her daughter was given along the way : allergies, asthma, auditory processing disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, anxiety and more. Noticing that all of Arizona’s diagnoses happened to start with the letter A, Susanna had an epiphany : these “labels” didn’t define her daughter. A is for the perfect, whole & complete Arizona.
Conscious Uncoupling & Harmonious Co-Parenting
A staggering 75% of special needs families end in divorce, and the reason why that number isn’t higher is because it is so expensive to manage multiple households when funds are largely allocated toward your child’s needs. Having a child with special needs is stressful on a marriage, and it requires a conscious and specific path, from both parties, to navigate through life together. As a divorcee who tried to keep her marriage intact, Susanna Peace Lovell had to make conscious choices about moving through life, effectively and intentionally, with her ex-husband – keeping their daughter’s interests at heart. Susanna speaks about the power we have within to make CHOICES for a better life.
(Throwback photo to my 5 year old cutie, just because)
I was gutted to tears when I read a recent New York Times article about a 3 year old boy who died after being (irresponsibly) given a grilled cheese sandwich at preschool. He was severely allergic to dairy and died from anaphylactic shock.
Aside from the glaring reality that food allergies can be LIFE THREATENING, I am feeling validated in my inflexibility when it comes to protecting my child from adverse reactions to food.
On that note, here are the top 5 ways I help support my child in living a thriving life, despite her allergies & restrictions around food :
- SELF ADVOCACY :
- I have drilled into Arizona’s head, over and over, the seriousness of eating foods that are “not good for her body.” She knows, now, to ask me every single time if she can eat something she’s unfamiliar with. Although processed foods are few and far between in her diet; there are occasions where she has to read through a list of ingredients to determine whether she can partake of a certain food. She feels empowered by being part of the process.
- EDUCATION :
- It is my job as a parent advocate to enlighten everyone about Arizona’s food allergies including possibilities and risk for cross contamination. I write notes to Arizona’s therapists, spend time talking to her classmates about the importance of food allergy awareness, talk to my friends & family about the importance of keeping Arizona’s contact to allergens at a minimum, prep visits to other’s homes ahead of time, bring Arizona friendly snacks everywhere we go and make sure she has her own set of cookware & utensils for food preparation when we make trips out of town.
- THE IMPORTANCE OF HAND WASHING :
- One of the most important interventions for avoiding allergic reactions to foods : hand washing! When you are in a household or proximity of someone who has reactions to certain foods, washing hands after touching allergens can be highly effective. I had to teach my friends and family to wash their hands thoroughly after touching cheese, cracking open eggs and popping nut snacks into their mouth.
- DIET POWER :
- It’s not so fun to be told, all the time, about the things you CAN’T eat. So, I try to empower Arizona with all of the fun benefits to her healthy eating options. Understanding how certain foods can make Arizona’s body stronger, more focused and boost her mood make eating them even more compelling.
- FOOD IS MEDICINE :
- Lastly, and most importantly, food is medicine. Our bodies, regardless of allergies or intolerances, will thrive when we are putting the healthiest options in them. I practice eating healthy foods for my body as a model for Arizona to witness. We talk about living long and healthy lives together!
(Fun + Friends : Halloween 2016)
I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween and don’t have a particular attachment to the holiday, but since it is Arizona’s FAVORITE celebration of the year, I have a few tips to share on how to make it a safe and memorable one for her.
- Make A Plan – As with most children in general and certainly those on the Autism Spectrum, having a plan for the day / evening (including a visual schedule and trying on costumes ahead of time) can make all the difference for a smooth experience.
- Keep It Simple – No need to over plan, a simple schedule is usually the most effective. Usually, we make a plan to walk a few blocks around the neighborhood with a friend or two (familiar faces and relationships are comforting). Overstimulation is a real thing and Halloween includes possibilities for sensory overload in all areas. Limiting your “celebration” time can help offset any meltdowns due to sensory dysfunction.
- Plan for Sugar / Treats – Arizona is allergic to 90% of the treats passed out on Halloween. I blogged about The Teal Pumpkin Project last year, as an alternative to passing out candy and food goodies. It is an easy way to allow for children with allergies to feel successful in their trick or treating efforts.
- Practice Social Skills – Because of Arizona’s allergy to most candies, we have focused on Trick or Treating as a way to walk and talk with friends, ring neighbors’ doorbells and make a connection with them (look with your eyes) and have a script : “Trick or Treat!” Typically, additional conversation will ensue, with Arizona engaging in questions such as, “Tell me about your costume!” “What are your favorite candies?” “Are you having fun?” Social Thinking is a huge part of Arizona’s therapeutic plan these days. Knowing when to start and end conversations including staying on topic is a fun practice while walking the neighborhood.
Whatever your plans for the day (perhaps an LA Dodgers win for World Series Game # 6??), enjoy each minute and be safe!
I would love to hear from you : please share any additional hints and tips for making the day a successful one!