Friendship…How many do you really have?

  The meaning of friendship to me is a person who is there for you through the good and the bad.  The people who call you for no reason to see how you are, catch up with you on current events and making sure you are doing well.  I have had my fair share of what I would call Friendships for the Moment because people have taken advantage of how generous I am and use me for the what they can get out of me.  Or the friendships that come from having something in common like one friend-those never last for me because everyone eventually goes off and is separated from the new person in the group. 

    Friendships are made when you are younger and also when you are older.   Personalities change and interests come with most friendships.  Most relationships can withstand the test of the time with living in the same neighborhood and sharing their lives together.  Friendships long ago used to last years but given the changing of people and the technology, it becomes increasingly harder to maintain a solid friendship these days. I have seen people on Facebook and Instagram rate their friendships by likes and comments on their posts and it causes people to unfriend.  Friendships are not based on likes, it is all about how we support one another through the good and bad times.  Supporting one another through achievements and failures is what is needed to show love to another.  

Friendships come in many forms from pets, family and couples.  Loyalty is the number one in friendships…which is so hard to find these days.  Love comes in many forms and recognizing it can be the beginning of a long lasting friendship.

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    In the past year, I have had the privilege of meeting some incredible people and am thankful everyday for their friendships.  I met a man 20 years ago who started out as my boss, then an acquaintance then….we all know how the story goes.  My husband of 20 years, we are best friends for life.  About 23 years ago, when I was 18,  I met a women who I never knew would make such an impact on my life to this day. We understand each other and have watched both our lives unfold -the good and the bad.  She has been there for me and still is.  Although we live miles away, she is my BFF for life and nothing will ever change that.  

To answer my question: How many friends do you have?  I have 2 Bff’s I love dearly .                                  

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Living with Autism…the child, the parent and the friend

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   Welcome to my world of Autism. This is my story told through my eyes as a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
   My name is LaFrieda Smith and this is my son Devon Alexander Smith.  He is now 18 years old and he is one of the most extraordinary people you will ever meet.  By looking at him, you would not be able to tell that he has a disorder but from the time he was 6 months old we knew he was special.  He has been diagnosed with a Spectrum Disorder, mental retardation with an IQ in the 50’s and is a high-functioning Autistic Teen.

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As a Child:
  When he was 6 months old, I started to notice that he was not able to keep up with his developmental chart with growth and milestones.  He sat up at and crawled at 8 months old and started walking at 13 months.  He developed a way of walking on his tipsy-toes and didn’t start to run until he was 2 years old.  With Autism, as a child, he would get frustrated with not being able to communicate with us..his speech was delayed to 5 years old…lots of babbling. He showed signs of anxiety almost everyday when he would have to learn new things.  A child with Autism is all about routine and keeping things in order.  When we would change his feeding schedule or would be somewhere he wouldn’t know where he was, he would cry alot.
As a Parent:
   When he had his 2-year check-up, I told the doctor about some of the things I was seeing.  I had an older son who was 2 years older and he did not seem to have any of the same concerns.  The doctor referred us to neurologist where they did some hearing, psychological, and senses testing and they diagnosed him with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  As a parent, you are confused and blame yourself for your child having a handicap or illness but we shouldn’t, every child is special in their own way and having limitations doesn’t make them any less special.  In the early 2000’s, Autism wasn’t very popular and people really didn’t know what this was so I took it upon myself to research it and make adjustments to my daily routine to help my son get better.  As he grew, we started seeing that not only does this disorder affect their brain processing but it also interferes with their internal organs.  One of the most common things is the processing of Dairy and Wheat.  Devon was not able to tolerate dairy and at times and wheat would cause stomach issues.

Substitutions had to be made even with products containing Gluten.  Dairy, Wheat and Gluten affected how he behaved and made his processing slow down so knowing this we replaced milk with orange juice, we went wheat-free, cereal was dry, no cheese and Popsicle instead of ice cream. In addition to being allergic to these, when he got older we had him tested for other allergens and they found outdoor, pet and other food sources.  He will always have to check labels for garlic powder and hazelnuts along with staying away from grass and all trees here in Florida.  He suffered for years with this and it is one of the many things you have to watch for in their behavior.

As a friend,

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   Through-out his school years, it was very difficult for him to make friends with the language difficulty.  He is in Special-Education classes, takes speech therapy and has been one of the most popular kids in his schools.  Straight A student, well-behaved, and loves his teachers.  So much, he used to sit with them all the time at lunch because he was non-sociable with everyone.  In his High School years it changed, he started being more vocal about being friends with others who share his interest.  He loves football, wrestling, and cooking.  Most of the time he is a loner even at home sometimes.  It is not that he doesn’t like others or us, he prefers to be by himself and take his imagination places.  He tells us all the the time he wants a girlfriend and we tell him…”In time it will come, be patient”.

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As a Child:
   Understanding his feeling growing up as teenager…why he can’t do what others do as a grown man.  Having feelings for others, being angry is common. Sense of time is lost, he is unable to figure out when something really happened.  Using phrases like, “happened last year” or “went last week” .  The time frame really was years ago or 2 days ago.  We are his time machine.  I suggested to him that he keep a calendar on his wall so he knows the days of the week and month.  As a grown man we decided that he get out there and get a job.   He got a job 3 years ago and has done exceptional at it.  He keeps his scheduled times of work on his phone and calendar along with his work-out schedules.  Being organized from day to day keeps him from being confused about what to do daily.

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As a Parent:
   Keeping him safe when crossing the road to making sure he doesn’t lose his money out of his wallet out in the world. Most children and adults with Autism are unaware of their surrounding when they are interacting and existing in the world. Devon has always been taught to look both ways before crossing the street since he was old enough to understand.  My son has always looked at the ground to avoid eye to eye contact with others which was very scary for us.  He is about to get his driving permit and we are excited for him to get it but worried about how he will do on the road. Kids with Autism avoid eye-contact. We always thought that in school, children should be not only taught the essentials for life but also the real-life survival skills needed to get them through their adult life along with the parents help.  Examples of this: How to grocery shop, cross the street without getting hit, counting money, holding a job and opening up a bank account.  Now that Devon works a mile from his house, he has been able to learn how to cross the streets properly.  Something else that came up after the job, was his ability to save money and have a bank account.  He is doing well with it and is even grocery shopping on his own watching pricing and labels with Walmart Pickup.  He was so excited to do it, it shows him his independence, which is very important for those with this disorder or any handicap.

As a Friend:
   As I said earlier, Devon is one of the most popular guys at his High School along with my other two teens.  He doesn’t go outside of school and hang out with these students, he keeps his circle small to protect himself-which is something most people do to keep from getting hurt or involved in bad things.  We are his friends for now and hopefully as he gets older he will meet some great people along the way when he gets more interests and goes deeper into adulthood.
As a Parent:
   Realizing that my teen may have difficulties in life due to his disability, has made me look at the world a little differently.  I found out alot about myself and some of the things that are flawed in myself,  watching my son learn things at a slower rate than others.  He has excelled at everything he has tried such as cooking, playing little league sports, working a job and electronics.  He has impressed me greatly on how powerful his mind works and how he can notice certain things an average person wouldn’t.  We all have things that makes us different and we must embrace them instead of hiding behind them.  If my son Devon can ask a girl out on a date or talk to a girl and carry on a conversation, we should be able to face our fears and difficulties.  Devon is going to be graduating High School May 2020 and is at the top of his class, We are so proud of him.

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Driving with safety first…2 down 1 to go!!

  When your teens reach that age where it is time to let them mingle with the rest of the world, it can be a little scary for most parents😮….but for me…Nope.

   I couldn’t wait to get my teens out there experiencing the world but they have to be comfortable doing it on their own first then you push them out the nest…so on that note, I will tell you what I am most proud of right now…My teens are driving!!

   First came my oldest son 👨‍💼Brian Jr. who is almost 21 years old-he got his license at 16 years old. Second my daughter 👸Briana who has her permit at 15 years old and will be getting her license in December and my youngest son 👦Devon who is almost 19 years old is in the process of getting his permit. He was delayed in getting his license because of the Special Education program which doesn’t allow for him to take drivers Ed. online …which I thought was ridiculous. 

   Two years ago, when Jr. started driving I came up with a way to ensure that my teens practiced safety everytime they got in the car. Of course, it is pure coincidence that our name is Smith and it helps them remember this before they pull out the driveway…

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 S.M.I.T.H is our way of making sure that our teens know what is important to check when driving a car every time. 

  Along with the S.M.I.T.H, we make sure to teach our teens about distractions behind the wheel, like the radio, eating food, friends and most importantly texting or looking at your phone while driving…anything could jump out of nowhere and cause many casualties.  

Year one rule: No radio use during driving. Always tell us where you are going and text when you get there.  When you are leaving text us to let us know when you are coming back. 

   Teach your teens about the responsibility that comes with the keep of the car such as gas, insurance, registrations, keeping license current and most importantly what to do if they are involved in an accident.

  I know this is alot but teens have to realize they need to get a job and take the next step in being responsible for being an adult. 

 

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Family meeting…..letting the cub be a bear

Previously on the Smith Family meetings…..
   Last three months, the Smith Family has been implementing a new chore system consisting of random selection of numbers and choosing the Employee of the month.  In the month of February, we had me as the winner, then Brian jr. and Devon for March…now the question is who was deserving of the Employee of the Month for April!

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   Since Jr and Devon were exempt from chores last month, they voted and the winner was…….
  Congratulate Briana!!🎉( She showed great care when it came to her dog Sage and was able to balance schoolwork and after-school sports at the same time. 

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  Now that is not the end of this story….In doing this monthly meetings, we did start off with Zoom and while it was fun to do this…every felt that it wasnt effective to do our meetings this way. So, I came up with having a round table meeting where we all can look at each other with copies of the meeting agenda in front of us. At first, I was very upset at the fact that the family knew about the meeting time but did not show up when requested so it was late.

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  After we did finally get started, I compiled an agenda on paper for our topics so everyone could follow along.

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   Everyone this month got to look at what chores were on the paper and chose what they wanted. Devon picked #1, Sr. picked #2, Jr. picked #3 and I got what was left which was Sage. Briana being Employee of the Month was exempt so she will be monitoring everyone to see who gets rewarded for May.  Now after we had our meeting…the next day it was brought to my attention by Devon that dishes⛾🍴🍽 were not assigned as a chore. Uh-Oh!!😮
  After thinking about it I decided that the 3 guys should split it up but it took all but 1 day and they were piling dishes like the water had been cut-off..lol. I decided to split Sun-Thurs and I do Friday and Saturdays, that way it gets done👍
   Another topic which was important to cover was shopping for the teens. Me and my husband are getting older and want to make life easier for ourselves. I proposed that the teens start to compile their own lists and the three of them go shopping for their needs instead of relying on us to do it for them. Basically, I have let go but my husband hasn’t…so this had to be forced on the table. The teens will learn how to bargain shop and look at prices and maybe they wont be so quick to pick up as many items when they have a budget. So this month is when they start the program…I know it will work out just fine. 

*Very Important: Have family meetings so that everyone can be on the same page. Especially when your kids are grown-up….it makes a big difference when they go out into the real world🌏

Stay tuned to see who gets Employee of the Month……

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