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Bonding with your autistic child

When you receive your child's autism diagnosis, it's normal to mourn the loss of the parenting experience you thought you would have. You won't share things with your child that you always dreamed about.

But maybe you will.

Last week, Tosh and I spent the day at Sea World, celebrating his friend's birthday. We had fun looking at dolphins, penguins, sea lions and manta rays. Our friends even treated us to a Dine with the Orcas experience!

As much as Tosh loves animals, the thing he enjoyed most at Sea World was riding rollercoasters.

Isn't it funny how when it comes to autism, motivation is everything? Tosh struggles with positional words (over, next to, inside) but when he's at a theme park settling into a rollercoaster car, he can follow every direction perfectly.

He raises his arms to allow the over-the-shoulder restraints to lower into place. He always remains seated and keeps his arms in the car. He can even wait in line when he needs to.

Sea World wasn't very busy so the...

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Perseverating! Perseverating! Perseverating! Perseverating!

When Tosh gets upset, he gets caught in what I call “the loop.”

For example, when he gets hurt, he needs me to tell him “it’s okay” over and over and over and over again. Long after he feels any pain, he still needs to relive the experience and be reassured that everything is okay. 

I know when he’s in the loop when I have to repeat myself three times. Two times may not be the loop, it could be impaired receptive communication.

But three times? We’re screwed.

Now I know there’s a psychiatric term for that behavior: perseverating.

My description of preservation as “the loop” is actually pretty accurate. Tosh’s brain, and the brain of many people with autism, get stuck on a particularly phrase or activity long after the stimulus has passed.

Imagine driving and getting stuck in a roundabout. You're going around and around and around, unable to exit to the correct street or any street, for that...

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The right approach to learning

This summer, I've been listening to business podcasts while I take my morning walks. This morning, I heard a great business concept that can be applied to autism parenting.

The concept was "learn and do" versus "do and learn."

The first idea, learn and do, is the traditional way people approach success. It requires training from someone who shows you exactly what to do. Then, once you've learned the strategy or task, you do it. 

This business concept worked well back when the world moved at a slower pace. This was before our current era of relatively quick technology adoption, global economies, social media and market of one service. 

Today's world requires a more nimble approach. One size does not fit all and even if it does, it doesn't last for long.

That's why the concept of do and learn is more effective. Yes, you begin with some idea of what you're doing. You might even receive some training before you begin.

But that's not the end of your...

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