Archive for October 2016

Monthly Archive

Ask Dr. Emily- Flu Shot Tips

Welcome to the October edition of Ask Dr. Emily!

We often receive questions that we want to share with all our readers. To help with this, Dr. Emily Rastall, a clinical psychologist at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, will share insights in a question and answer format. We welcome you to send us your questions and Dr. Rastall will do her best to answer them each month. Send your questions to theautismblog@seattlechildrens.org.

Q: I had to bring my 10 year-old autistic son twice to the doctor’s office for a flu shot. First time they couldn’t do it. Second time they gave him some medicine to calm him down which didn’t help. We ended up holding him down and doing it. It took 4 adults this time. I have no idea what we are going to do next time. My son is growing and I don’t think holding him down will work much longer. What can I do?

A: This is a great question and one that comes up every year around this time. There is a lot of work that can be done to prepare for events like these. These kinds of procedures can be scary for any child, but may be especially anxiety-provoking for children with limited language, cognitive, and/or emotion regulation skills. First, it is important that we are honest with kids about what to expect with shots; rather than telling kids that “shots don’t hurt,” we want to message that shots pinch at first, but that the pain is finite and only lasts a few seconds.

In preparation for the procedure, the use of social stories can help children understand what is going to happen and how. Additionally, frequent rehearsal at home using pictures and other visuals (like a toy doctor’s kit) can also help kids understand what to expect and can work to desensitize kids to the procedure and tools used.

You will also want to teach basic coping strategies within those social stories and rehearsals. For example, teaching deep breathing strategies (“smell the flower, blow out the candles”), positive scripts (like “I’m going to be okay. It only hurts for a second.”), or self-distraction strategies (like counting or singing out loud while getting the shot or procedure).

 

Autism and Coping Tools for Parents Part 6: Patience

Tricia is known at Seattle Children’s Autism Center as “the saintly mom of triplets”, two with ASD, ID, and significant behavioral challenges. While we’ve observed her demonstrate all our previous parent coping tools, we asked her to share with us the one we know her to be an expert in: patience!

 

 

Q: How do you define/describe this parenting tool? In your own words, what does it mean?

A: It means that you need to stop and think before you reactively say something or do something and remember that they’re not doing (insert challenging behavior here) willfully. It’s part of their disability. You won’t be able to be patient all the time because you aren’t perfect. No one is. But you can try each time and the more you try, the more it becomes your norm.

Q: How did you discover this tool for parenting kids with ASD? Did someone teach it to you? Did you see other parents modeling it for you?

A: I think it is partly genetics and partly the way I was raised. From the time I was twelve, we had elder relatives living with us who had medical issues. This had a big impact on me in that I saw my mom care for them with such patience. She taught me that this is what you do. Family members take care of each other and that requires a lot of patience. Having triplets by definition meant I had to be patient!

Q: How has this tool lessened your stress or made life a bit easier for you?

A: Being patient definitely lessens your stress. Getting worked up into a heightened state affects your mental and physical health. It also affects the vibes in your house and how your kids with autism and others relate to you. They feel your stress. If your kids are stressed, someone needs to stay calm. Patience helps you keep your cool and think much clearer.

Q: Did you find that the more you used this tool, the better you got at it?

A: Yes. In those early days, when things were new and I just wanted answers to help my kids be more capable, it was hard to be patient. You just want to help them as much as possible. As you go through the years though, you realize that nothing happens quickly – from getting return phone calls to accessing services. I learned that being calm and respectful worked better. If you’re impatient and rude, people may not want to work with you.

Q: What else would you like us to know about this parenting tool?

A: You can’t expect to be patient all the time. There were plenty of times I was not proud of myself for things I said or did. There were times when I felt I couldn’t take it any more when all three were upset. We’re only human.

It’s challenging to have patience with people in public who are rude. I often try to educate them and thank people who do try to understand. We recently went on vacation where the hotel room had the beds on right side of the room and one of my kids insists beds be on the other side. The staff was very patient and accommodating in getting us another room. I always show my appreciation and gratitude. When we go to the car-wash, a favorite activity, some people are patient and understanding and others are not. I explain that my son is not being rude – he has autism. I hope that doing this makes it better for other families who might be in the same situation.  I have come to accept that they are where they are and we might get some progress but being impatient isn’t going to help them progress or make life easier. Being impatient will only make it harder for all.

I also think that for siblings without ASD, it is a valuable lesson for them on how to deal with people throughout their life. My son without ASD used to freak out when his siblings would tantrum but he’s gotten much better. This is something that will serve him in life.

For parents new to diagnosis, remember it’s a journey. Patience will come with time as you get to know how ASD affects your child and what battles you want to fight and what’s best for your mental health to let go of. Believe that they (to whatever extent) will make progress and you can’t rush it or force it. We can do lots of things and not see quick or noticeable progress. Don’t give up. Move on. You will learn to know when it’s good enough. You can’t force it and can’t fight it. You have to be realistic. If you’re unsure, ask for help from your child’s providers.

We’d like to thank Tricia for sharing this parent coping tool with us. Tricia is also featured in the September 2016 issue of Reader’s Digest.

Trick or Treat at the Autism Center!

 

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Trick or Treat at the Autism Center!

Seattle Children’s Autism Center holds an annual Trick or Treat practice party in the welcoming halls of the Autism Center. A (very) autism-friendly event for the entire family. Bring friends! All welcome at this relaxed fun-filled event designed for your family. 

 

Come enjoy door-to-door trick or treating, costumes, treats, games, prizes, and our memorable sensory room.  Dr. Travis Nelson from  The Center for Pediatric Dentistry will be on hand with toothbrushes and non sugar goodie bags.  Saturday Oct 29th from 10 am – noon.  Seattle Children’s Autism Center  4909 25th Ave NE, Seattle 98105.  Plenty of parking in front.  Lots of volunteers to play with your goblins.  Come feel at home in the hallways of the Autism Center. 

Hope to see you there! 

 

 

 

Benefits of Mindfulness – This Month’s Autism 200 Class

apple1This month’s Autism 200 Series class “Benefits of Mindfulness” will be held Thursday, October 20, 2016, at Seattle Children’s Hospital in Wright Auditorium from 7 to 8:30 p.m. These classes are designed for parents, teachers and caregivers. The topics associated with the majority of classes are applicable to all age ranges and for a wide variety of children diagnosed with autism. This class will be led by Felice Orlich, PhD, Director of Community Outreach at the Seattle  Children’s Autism Center.

Mindful Monday- Don’t Try to Fix It!

We’re so accustomed to trying to fix things but also moving on to the next bigger and better thing (is that expensive new phone truly that much better than your last one?).  This human propensity tends to lead us to try to fix emotional challenges and when that doesn’t work, we often give up.

 

 Say, you’ve had a rough day at work or with the kids and are sharing with your partner whose good-intention answer is to problem-solve your feelings. We all know how well that usually works. We don’t want to quit the job and we can’t quit the kids. I know. I’ve tried. We simply want someone to validate feeling badly. So we offer polite thanks-but-no-thanks for the advice or get more upset for not feeling understood.

What we are asking for, in so many words, is a mindful awareness reminder that we can have bad or hard moments (okay sometimes hours) in our days without needing to declare the entire day a disaster and without needing to do anything at all.

Here’s an easy mindfulness exercise for when you’ve had/are having one of those days.

  • Get comfortable – this may be sitting or lying down or moving your body.
  • Take three deep breaths in and out.
  • Say to yourself – I had some hard moments today. I felt/feel (name the feeling(s)).
  • Stay with this for a couple-three minutes. You don’t have to relive the day but also don’t resist if it pops up.
  • Say Hard moments are part of life.
  • Say Tomorrow is a new day.

 That’s it. The point is to validate your feelings without exaggerating, resisting, or judging and with recognition that we all have hard moments. No one is spared.