Author: Lynn Vigo, MSW, LICSW

Autism and First Responders

 

 

 

PoliceLast week I received this comment on our blog about Dads and Autism:

“Ben’s Dad here. I really connected with the above article and others’ reaction when they got the diagnosis. I think my concern for my son was (and still is to some extent) about his safety. My son is really high functioning, but when he was first diagnosed I heard of all kinds of horror stories of kid with autism eloping. I had a friend whose son had autism and they had to put an alarm on the door because he would leave the house at night. They said they found their son one night on the entrance to a freeway. As my son began to grow and develop I became less concerned because he seemed to cope well with change and could adapt. Now that he is 11 my main concern is his interaction with others especially the police. My son is African-American and my concern is that if he is approached by the police and they request something of him (i.e. put your hands up, freeze, etc.) and he is unable to understand he may be perceived as resisting. I continue to guide him and instruct as best as he can comprehend, but I am still concerned for his safety and well-being emotionally and physically. Thanks for allowing me to share.”

The next day my colleague Katrina shared with me a nerve-racking video of a teen with autism and his behavior therapist in a tense situation with police in Florida. The young man had run away from his group home and his therapist went after him. Cell-phone video shows the therapist identify himself and the client, follow police instructions to lie down and put his hands in the air, explain that the teen had a toy truck in his hand. The teen doesn’t respond to the therapist telling him to lie down too as instructed by the police. The therapist is shot three times by police and the teen is handcuffed and taken away. The worst nightmare for many a parent of a teen with autism.

What can we learn from this incident? Is there a way to avoid or prepare for something like this?

While there’s no way to prepare for every possible incident, there are steps parents can take to increase awareness. When our daughter was young, she would oh-so-stealthily sneak out of our home to neighbors’ homes. She knew exactly where Miss Linda’s cookie jar was. We made a point of getting to know our neighbors and asked for their help if they ever saw her outside of our home without an adult. For older kids, particularly young adult males, it may be a good idea to get to know the local first responders in your area. I know several parents who are on a first name basis with theirs. If your child lives in a group home or supported living, you might want to make sure staff have a recent photo and information sheet about your child at the house, in the car, and in their backpack. For more on safety ideas, check out the following:

Smart911 allows you to develop a detailed profile of your family members that pops up when a phone linked to it is used to call 911.

ID cards

The Big Red Safety Box

Booklet for First Responders

Here’s one mom’s story from the Seattle Times.  

What measures have you taken to keep your child safe and to inform first responders of their diagnosis and behavior? Share your ideas and stories with others!

 

Mindful Monday- Ten Mindfulness Tips from an Olympic Runner

Ten Mindfulness Tips from Olympic Runner Deena Kastor

While most of us aren’t bronze medalists, we all have goals and a desire to be the best we can be. I found this article by Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee on mindfulness in HuffPost. Here are Deena’s ten tips. 

 

  1. Live a Quality, Purposeful Life
  2. Live with an Attitude of Gratitude 
  3. Practice Positivity and Purposefulness
  4. See Challenges as Opportunities
  5. Focus on Your Passion
  6. Live with Continuous Improvement 
  7. Be Excited about Life
  8. Get Enough Rest
  9. Turn Nervousness into Excitement
  10. Take Things One Step at a Time

 

Click here for the link for the entire article.  It’s worth reading. I love this line: “I truly believe my fastest days are behind me and my best days are ahead!”

Mindful Monday- Loving Kindness for All

Metta and Tonglen

Loving Kindness for All

The practice of metta, loving kindness, as taught in Buddhist tradition, begins with self and radiates out to all. This may be easy when life is good and things are going our way. But what about when life is hard and things are not going our way? The challenge is to act with compassion no matter the circumstances.

Metta Exercise

Sit comfortably and quietly and take a few deep breaths in and out. Hold in your mind all the people you are sending unconditional love. Feel it extending from you to these people and then throughout the universe. Say to yourself, “May all feel peace. May all be happy.” Or come up with our own good wishes.

Tonglen

Tonglen is Tibetan for “giving and taking” or “sending and receiving” and is practiced as a meditation focused on developing/nurturing compassion and the unselfish regard for others.

Tonglen Exercise

Sit comfortably and quietly and allow your mind to be still yet open. Take some deep breaths in and out. Call to mind someone (can be an individual or group of people) who you know are struggling. With each inhalation, take in their struggle and in doing so, provide them relief. On the exhalation, wish for them peace, sleep, relaxation, insight, patience, courage, love – whatever you think they might need. Do this a couple, three times.

Quote of the Week

“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”  ~Albert Einstein

Autism and Coping Tools for Parents – Part 2: One Mom, Two Boys, Three Tools

 

Tool Time (2)

 

Courage, Intelligence, Support

When I first met Nikki, her eldest son had recently been diagnosed with autism and she was doing well adjusting. I was concerned about her though, when her youngest son started showing familiar red flags and was also diagnosed. How would she handle adjusting to the realization that both of her children were on the autism spectrum? I know for certain, it was not easy, but she made it look so as I observed her in groups, skillfully demonstrating three powerful tools for coping. I asked Nikki to share more with us and this is what she had to say.

Q: How do you define this parenting tool?

A: Courage means taking the world on when it comes to your child. Being a strong advocate for autism and using social situations to teach people about what autism looks like. Standing up for your child in school and not hiding from autism. It’s here to stay and courage means you can become a veteran and help others.

Intelligence means using your gut instinct. You knew something wasn’t quite right and you used your intelligence to get a diagnosis. Whilst you didn’t want to be right about this you were and your common sense was right so use this for future instincts. Intelligence is realizing that you know your child better than anyone and when professionals try to educate you on your child, remember that you live autism 24 x 7!

Support means taking all the help you can get. A new diagnosis is tough, no – it is brutal. It requires us as parents to become super parents overnight. If you have understanding family and friends that offer to give you a night off, or time to finish a hot drink (we’re used to cold coffee anyway right?) or to go to the store by yourself then take it. Take all the help you can. You need to look after number one and by that I mean you, not your children. There’s a reason they tell you to fit your own oxygen mask first.

Q: How did you discover this tool for parenting kids with ASD?

A: I’ve always had courage; it’s from my Mom, however this taught me a new level of courage. I also look to my “autism elders” and see that they are still managing things and that helps propel me forwards.

Common sense is something I’ve always had of course but I now have much more confidence in my gut instincts.

Support is something I have had to learn and that self-care actually became my sanity. Being around other autism moms turned my life around.

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

A: Courage doesn’t always make life easier, as you might have to have conflict but it ultimately means progress as I continue to advocate, and that makes me happy. Common sense or my gut instinct doesn’t necessarily make my life easier but means I have the tools to not over-analyze and to realize I am right – most of the time! Support 100% makes my life easier as I allow myself to lean on those around me.

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

A: My courage continues to grow as my children grow. Intelligence grows as the children grow too and I learn more and more about THEIR autism. Support – yes I continue to improve on taking and giving help.

Q: What else would you like us to know about these parenting tools?

You don’t have them all on Day One of your diagnosis (and you’re not meant to!). They come with time and experience. What helps is getting to know parents of children slightly older than yours. That gives you hope and guidance.

We’d like to thank Nikki for taking time to share her coping tools with us. Many of you know her as the founder of Seattle Autism Moms, an online parent support/information group on Facebook and from her blog:  

Autism Moms of Seattle

Autism and Tea

 

Mindful Monday- Meditation

 

Meditation

 

No More Excuses

If you’ve told yourself you want to give meditation a try but find you have more excuses than mindful moments under your belt, here are some tips from Redbook magazine and Timothy McCall, MD:

“I don’t have time.”

You don’t need to do 10 minutes a day. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Start somewhere! It’s easier if you pick a time of day and stick with it. Upon waking or at day’s end are the most common but you can meditate any time of day.

“I can’t turn my brain off.”

You don’t have to! The goal isn’t to stop thoughts. That’s impossible. Don’t fight them but also don’t dive in. Just let them pass through like traffic in the background.

“I tried it once and nothing happened.”

Not every second of a ten minute meditation needs to be deep. Even if you only get 30 seconds of that time immersed in the process, you still have benefit. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing will slow and you are becoming more mindful.

Beginning Meditation Exercise

Sit comfortably but with your back straight – on the floor against a wall, in a chair, even in bed but sit upright. Have a watch or clock or phone (turn it off!) nearby.

With eyes open and a soft focus, take a few deep breaths, feeling your chest rise and fall. Breath deeply so that if someone were next to you they could hear you breathing.

Gently close your eyes and notice the sounds around you. Don’t try and block them but also don’t hyper-focus on them. Just notice them.

Notice how your body feels, scanning from head to toe. Any discomfort or tightness? Don’t block it or hyper-focus on it, just draw your attention to wherever you feel it. You may find your self taking a deep breath or repositioning yourself as you do this.

Breathe naturally and as you inhale, think “in” and as you exhale think “out”. Your mind will wander, thoughts will intrude. That’s A-OK and to be expected. Don’t try and block the thoughts, just notice them and return to “in” and “out”. Some people prefer to focus on a mantra, a word or sound that is repeated over and over. If you prefer a mantra, choose a word or sound that doesn’t have an association for you. For example, if I think “love”, I will automatically call to mind all the people I love and lost love and why we love and on and on. If I choose a non-word, a sound such as “umba”, there is no association to divert my attention.

A key component of meditation is nonjudgment so if you have thoughts or feelings such as “What’s wrong with me, I can’t do this right!” just notice them and let them pass. Remember that the first time you do anything, you are learning and it will take practice.

After a few minutes of focusing on your breath, draw your attention back to your body. Do a body scan and note how you feel.

Notice any sounds or smells.

Gently open your eyes and stretch.

Quote of the Week

“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free