autism and coping

The Reason I Jump: Understanding Autism - "A Must Read"

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida (translated into English by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida)

Have you ever wondered why those with autism jump, flap their hands or make high pitched noises? This book answers all those questions that I once had as a student in this field. Rarely do I read a book all the way through in a week, let alone one night, but this one I just could not put down. I first heard about this book through social media posts, and then when I saw John Stewart interview co-author David Mitchell on The Daily Show.  I ordered the book on Amazon the next day.

I wish this book was available to me when I first started my career as a music therapist! This book offers tremendous insight into the inner world of those living with autism, and does a great job explaining the reasons for various behaviors and reactions.  This book gives answers to questions that took me many hours to understand with my clients.  This book will serve as a refresher for those with lots of clinical experience with this population.  For everyone else, this book is a great read and a real eye opener about what it means to live with autism.  

This book answers many questions many of you have likely pondered including:

  1. Why do you make a huge fuss over tiny mistakes?
  2. Why do you flap your fingers and hands in front of your face?
  3. Is it true that you hate being touched?
  4. Why don't you make eye contact when you're talking?
  5. Why can you never stay still?

One of my favorite sections from the book relates to how people talk to those with autism. The interviewer asks the question, "Do you find childish language easier to understand?"  Naoki, a 13 year old with autism replies , "whenever anyone treats me as if I'm still a toddler, it really hacks me off."  I observed this many times in my practice, and this was mostly done by their parents! I have long encouraged parents to speak in an "age appropriate" manner, both with language and expectations. There are lots of gems like this in the book, and I highly recommend this book to all professionals working with this population.

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You can also find other books on understanding autism below:

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Parents: This 5-Minute Ritual Can Change Your Life!

Parents of children with special needs usually adhere to a strict schedule of appointments that follow a set routine.  But sometimes even the best-planned schedule will require last minute change ups, and when this happens, chaos often follows, which can last throughout the rest of the day. 

Athletes use a visualizing process called, “mental rehearsal” to help them achieve their best performance. Have you ever tried visually planning your day first thing in the morning?  

I promise you that if you practice this 5-minute ritual on a regular basis, you’ll find you're mentally better prepared for any eventuality, your general outlook improves, and you’ll feel much more grounded when things do go “off the rails.” 

There are 5 simple steps to this ritual, one for each minute.  I suggest you do this as soon as you wake up when your mind is in its most relaxed state. (This doesn’t work if you oversleep your alarm of course!)

First Minute: 

Find a quiet place and breath deep. (Maybe play some slow classical music as background to help you relax) One of my favorite places to do this is in the shower.

Second Minute:

When you are feeling relaxed and calm, mentally start listing things for which you are grateful (e.g., I am grateful for my family, I am grateful for my health, etc.)

Third Minute:

Mentally forgive yourself and give yourself permission to make mistakes today. You can even visualize yourself in a stressful situation and guide yourself to a relaxing place of peace and resolution.

Fourth Minute:

Visualize your day's schedule and imagine that each item on your list is working out perfectly for you and your family.

Fifth Minute:

Acknowledge and appreciate that you are doing your best, your partner is doing their best, and your children are doing their best.

End with a deep breath and give thanks for the gift of Life.

Once you complete this morning ritual, you can go about your day knowing and trusting that things will work out for the best. You’ve given yourself some time and space to mentally plan as well as to guide your subconscious into planning and preparing your day to be a success.

Here are some books I recommend to parents who have children with special needs.  These are great resources to help you find balance – taking time for yourself and your children to create a happier and healthier home life.

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Help Your Child With Autism by Changing Their Routine

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 Routines are important for most of us. We typically wake up at the same time, find the keys in the same place, and all the dishes are properly put away. We create routines and consistency in our lives to reduce stress and to keep things going smoothly.

This is particularly important for children with autism because they process information in a different way than most children.  Keeping things predictable can help reduce stress, filter out distractions, and help them to focus on the task at hand.

But what happens if our keys go missing? Or we find our car has a dead battery? What would we do? Panic? Fortunately most of us have developed healthy coping skills to deal effectively in situations like this.

I’ve seen therapists as well as parents create strict routines for their children with autism, and they keep those routines going for far too long! I often ask, what happens if the school bus is late? What happens if the fire alarm goes off  at school? What would your child learn from these strict routines about dealing with the unpredictable things in life?

Yes, I agree, whenever we start something new, we must first adhere to a strict schedule to eliminate distractions and keep the stress level down.  But I do believe that once your child has learned this routine and can manage it without stress, then we need to start implementing changes to their routine.

For example, I begin and end each session with the exact same tune, but with different words (“Hello” and “Good-bye”). Depending on the child’s functioning level, I will slowly incorporate a few changes to the lyrics and sometimes the order of which the song is placed in the schedule to see if there is a response to this change.  This can be a powerful tool in helping teach a child with autism how to cope when things don’t go exactly as they might expect. Then we explore options about what to do next, where we can go, how we can change things, what our options are and most importantly, how to manage the stress caused by the change.

How are you helping your child cope with changes in their routines or in everyday life? I hope you find this helpful and are encouraged to experiment by implementing subtle changes into your child’s routine.  This will better equip them to deal with the realities of life. Every moment something changes and something is different. Their success in life depends upon how well are they able to cope with change.

I’d love to hear how you incorporate subtle changes into your child’s daily routine to help them cope with change. Please leave a comment below.

Here are some resources I recommend to help you and your child cope with change.

 

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