Author: Lynn Vigo, MSW, LICSW

5 Good Reasons to Participate in Autism Research

 

Research imageWhen my daughter was diagnosed at age two, I so wished there was a test that could tell us more than the fact that she met criteria for autism spectrum disorder. “Is autism in our family tree?” I wondered, thinking back to a quirky great aunt or two. “Did I do or not do something to cause this?” and “What specific treatments offer her the best chances for an optimal outcome?” were the other two questions that for years haunted me.

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Mindful Monday- Resilience

Resilience

We hear a lot about resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity whether it is a devastating loss or the many smaller stresses we live with each day. TIME (Bounce Back, Mandy Oaklander, June 1, 2015) cites the work of two psychiatrists, Dennis Charney, dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and Steven Southwick, a professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine. “Resilient people seem to have the capacity to appropriately regulate the subcortical fear circuits under conditions of stress,” says Charney. The article cites research in the area including recent studies on the effect of mindfulness practices on building resilience.

 

Expert Tips for Resilience (from TIME Bounce Back)

  1. Develop a core set of values that nothing can shake.
  2. Try to find meaning in whatever stressful or traumatic thing has happened.
  3. Try to maintain a positive outlook.
  4. Take cues from someone who is especially resilient.
  5. Don’t run from things that scare you. Face them.
  6. Be quick to reach out for support when things go haywire.
  7. Learn new things as often as you can.
  8. Find an exercise regimen you’ll stick to.
  9. Don’t beat yourself up or dwell on the past.
  10. Recognize what makes you uniquely strong. And own it.

 

Quote of the week:

“Very few highly resilient individuals are strong in and by themselves. You need support.”  ~Steven Southwick, MD

Top 10 Questions Parents Ask Us at Seattle Children’s Autism Center

newtopten

 Questions? We get questions! With so much still not understood about ASD, our answers often don’t come close to what parents want to hear, yet we do our best to share what we do know and what we don’t know. Today we share some of the questions we hear most often at our center.

 

1. What caused my child’s autism?

We don’t know for every child. We’re working on it. But we do know that genetics is playing a very strong role in what causes autism. In fact, scientists can now identify the genetic contribution in nearly half of all children with a diagnosis of autism.

2. Did I do anything to cause it?

No. Although many parents feel guilty and worry about this, it is important to realize that you did nothing to cause autism.

3. Can autism be “cured”?

No. Treatments aim to improve functioning, but will not cure autism.

4. Will my child ever talk?

We just don’t know. Some kids with autism do, some never do. However, we do know that there are fewer children with autism who are minimally verbal than there used to be, likely a result of earlier intervention and behaviorally-based treatment?

5. What will my child’s future be like?

Unfortunately we are not able to predict with certainty what a child’s future will be. However, we do know that kids with ASD do make progress in skill development and overall functioning so continuing to help your child learn and grow is important. It’s hard to imagine your young child as an adult but keep hopeful your child and you will be different in years to come. Parents of teens and young adults often attest to this?

6. Do I have to do everything you’ve recommended to us?

No. You’re the expert on your family and the best recommendations are those that fit with your family’s values and capabilities. We provide you with a number of recommendations knowing that only you can decide what you can and cannot do. You might ask your provider to prioritize those that you feel you are able to do. There are many variables that come into play such as insurance coverage, access to services, financial ability, and competing demands in your life.

7. How do I get my child to stop (fill in the blank with your child’s challenging behavior)?

You may never get your child to completely stop. The core behaviors associated with ASD are stubborn and difficult to treat. However, behaviorally-based interventions can be effective in addressing challenging behaviors, reducing those disruptive behaviors, and increasing appropriate behaviors.

8. Is there a medication to help my child with (fill in the blank with your child’s challenging behavior)?

Maybe. There are a number of medications that have been supported by the scientific literature to help address behaviors that are sometimes associated with autism. For example, to reduce self-injurious and aggressive behavior, medications have been shown to be effective. Similarly, many of the medications that are used to treat depression and anxiety in children without autism work may well for children with autism. Medications to reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity can also be effective at reducing those behaviors in autism. Keep in mind, there is no medication that cures autism or that works for every child in addressing challenging behaviors. Work with your provider to assess your child’s unique issues.

9. How do I get my child’s school to (fill in the blank with what you wish your child’s school would do)?

Educate yourself and them, pull together resources for yourself (i.e.: an education ombuds, Wrights Law, fellow parents), approach them with a spirit of collaboration and partnership, be realistic in your expectations, and be respectfully persistent, citing precedents if possible.

10. How do I explain autism to others?

You can tell them that it is a developmental disorder that affects social and language skills and often includes repetitive behaviors, specific interests, and/or sensory sensitivity. Our blog is also a good resource to help people understand ASD. In particular, two blogs on why our kids do what they do might be helpful. (Why Do Kids With Autism Do That? Part I and Why Do Kids With Autism Do That? Part II)

Have a question about autism? Write to us and we’ll do our best to answer.

 

 

Mindful Monday- A Higher Sense of Self

mindfulA Higher Sense of Self

In a year of Living with more Compassion, Michael Yapko, PhD uses the term,” a higher sense of self” to refer to the small but important gestures we make when showing compassion for self and others. This might be getting up a few minutes earlier to make a lunch for your spouse, taking the time from your busy day to acknowledge a friend or colleague, or  “catching yourself” when upset with someone before saying something unkind. All of these are demonstrations of a higher sense of self.

Exercise

Write down examples of the small gestures you’ve extended to yourself or others this week. Note your feelings. For example, you might have felt upset with someone but later proud that you refrained from saying something unkind. Or you may have felt stressed about being able to do something nice for your spouse but after getting up earlier and still getting to work on time, glad that you made the effort. Another exercise is to pay attention to the gestures of others and if appropriate, let them know your observation.

Quote of the week

 “If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance.”    ~Tribal Saying, Zimbabwe

Mindful Monday – Expectations & Possibilities

Expectations & Possibilities

Phillip Moffitt, in a year of Living Mindfully tells us that “the (mostly unconscious) expectations that fill our mind direct what we pay attention to and how we interpret things, preventing us from living from our intentions”. Expectations can lead to disappointment, defeat, and a heavy burden to carry around. Where do these come from? All over! We’re bombarded by messages that tell us to be this or do that and much is focused on achievement in some way. Read full post »