Parenting Autism Summit

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Parents with Disabilities

Today, my guest writer, Ashley Taylor, is writing to support those with disabilities who want to have children, read on!  

What Anyone With A Disability Needs  To Know About Becoming A Parent

Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, so it’s understandable why new parents have the jitters for the first few weeks. Among the scenarios that cause nervousness, fear of tripping or dropping the baby tops the list — this is likely top of mind for parents with disabilities, too. But considering there are approximately 4.1 million disabled adults managing parenthood, you’re not exactly exploring uncharted territory. With a little preparation and self-care, you’ll be able to begin the next chapter of your life with confidence and safety.

Make Any Necessary Home Modifications

It’s likely that you already have some home modifications in place, but just in case, projects that can help a parent with a disability include:

  • Expandable hinges to widen doorways for easier wheelchair accessibility
  • Replacing steps with a ramp
  • Placing safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs
  • Installing skid-resistant flooring to prevent slips
  • Creating a clutter-free playroom with anchored furniture
  • Making kitchen countertops and the stove at an accessible height
  • Installing a loop lever faucet in the bathroom to make it easier to use from a distance
  • Keeping cleaning and changing essentials on a rolling cart so they’re easy to access at all times
  • If lower, specialty cribs are too expensive, do a DIY version by cutting the legs off a regular crib and then placing it on risers

Make Time To Relax

Numerous studies indicate that stress and (in some cases) depression can kick in after the baby is born. Finding time to relax — even just five to ten minutes a day — can make the difference between a slightly stressful day and an unbearable one. Even just five to ten minutes a day can help. The same techniques that are used to help relax individuals with a disability can be applied to parenthood. From visualization and meditation to yoga and self-hypnosis, here are several options available to you.

Before baby arrives, make sure there’s an area in your home that you can designate specifically for downtime. Outfit the space with oxygen-rich plants, drapes and wall coverings in soothing tones, a dimmer switch for lighting and a comfortable piece of furniture to rest on.

Don’t Neglect Self-Care

While you’ll be busier than ever after your little one arrives, don’t use that as an excuse to neglect self-care. Work with your spouse/partner on a schedule so you can take time to go to exercise, return phone calls, or meet a friend.

Another important factor that sometimes falls to the wayside with parenting is personal hygiene, to include brushing and flossing, bathing, doing your hair, and getting dressed — even if you don’t leave the house. From a psychological standpoint, you’ll feel better about yourself while feeling prepared to take on the day with confidence.

 

Eat For Energy — And Stress-Relief

What you put in your body affects what you’ll be able to handle physically and mentally, which is crucial for anyone let alone a busy parent. When considering what to eat, don’t neglect nutritious foods including nuts, red peppers, oatmeal, spinach and salmon as they also have stress-relieving benefits.

 While you may want to handle everything on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help — and don’t feel guilty for doing so. Along with tapping your loved ones, make sure you’re aware of the resources available to you as a disabled parent, to include everything from financial support to support groups where you can share your feelings and frustrations.

You’re embarking on an exciting journey so take care of yourself so you can effectively take care of your baby.

Ashley Taylor is a freelance writer, photographer, and advocate for people with disabilities. She created DisabledParents.org to provide information and resources to other parents with disabilities. When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

Therapy’s Transformational Moments

In times of difficult emotions, it’s important to know that psychotherapy can offer transformational change and emotional growth.

I wanted to share this moving article from this week.

By Barry Duncan – Reprinted from Psychotherapy Networker online

A recent consult I did illustrates the intrinsic rewards of healing involvement and intimate connection. It also taught me that anything is possible—that even the bleakest sessions can have a positive outcome if you stay with the process.
— Read on www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/698/therapys-transformational-moments

MIXED MESSAGES

21453265 - young boy tries to do his homework  the problem with learning

After the heartbreak of letting the kids go off to school, your parent worry brain will start focusing on new possibilities:

  • Will my child like their teacher/s?
  • Will the teachers like my kid?
  • How is my kid progressing?
  • Does s/he like the way the material is being taught?
  • Is the teacher going to be sensitive to (fill in the blank):
    • Timmy’s allergies,
    • Joanie’s shyness,
    • Max’s fine motor struggle,
    • Sophie’s pushiness is a mask for her anxiety,
    • Allegra’s wandering but creative mind
    • Heidi’s previous bullying experience
    • And always: is there too much homework or is it just my kid?????

YOUR CONCERNS ARE REAL: VOICE THEM!

Most parents  have specific concerns about their child.  Many parents complain to me that when they voice concerns, they either get no response or vague responses from school administrations.

My advice:  Schedule a meeting time (not the standard back to school meetings) to discuss your concerns and ask what can be done?  Don’t wait for them to call you.

What happens if you wait? Well, sometimes, teachers do not notify parents in a timely way that they are concerned.  Other teachers will voice concerns too early and later, when the child adjusts, the concerns seem to fade.  One of the most common issues I hear is that parents learn (too late) by May that their child needs to (fill in the blank): repeat a grade, get tested, have intensive tutoring, is having social problems or they have no idea how to help and s/he can’t come back next year……

HERE IS WHY YOU CAN GET MIXED MESSAGES:   

  1. Schools: Most schools (don’t flame me for this statement) are designed to be efficient conveyor belts of education.  In comes a group in September, out they go in June.  In-N-Out.  The curriculum is devised to meet the mainstream kids.  While many schools have resource rooms, learning centers, and social groups, they are usually crowded and not individualized.  There are some wonderfully individualized and nurturing schools with small classes and a low ratio of teacher:student but these are rare gems.
  2. Teachers: Most teachers I know are lovely dedicated people who could easily be doing jobs that are higher paying or easier.  They are in the trenches with your kids daily.  It’s such a hard job! And unfortunately, your ‘one and only’ is not the teacher’s ‘one and only’.  Teachers teach to GROUPS, not individuals.  They are also not specifically trained to identify problems, nor are they allowed to suggest diagnoses (as much as they may be tempted to).  Also (and here is the biggest one): teachers do not want to scare parents.  To suggest that something is problematic about your child creates a situation where they may have to stand by what they said, even when it is just a hunch.
  3. Principals. Most principals are busy juggling efficiency, friendliness and maintaining a high school standard.  They also have a lot of budget responsibilities.  Acknowledging that a child has an issue leads to IEP, testing and costly interventions.  I understand their reluctance.

COMMON MIXED MESSAGES:

SAMPLE #1:

February:  (teacher): we are concerned about your child’s level of attention and participation in the class

May:  (teacher):everything is fine

Next September:  (teacher):didn’t we ask you to have your child tested for attention last year?

SAMPLE #2:

November:  (teacher) Jonny is not catching on to his academics easily.  Let’s wait and see.

February:  (teacher) Jonny should maybe get a tutor

May:  (Principal): we think jonny needs a different school (too late to apply to other schools!)

SAMPLE 3#

September: (parent):  I am worried about my child’s anxiety about academics

October:  (teacher): everything seems fine

November:  (parent):  I am still worried and now my child hates school

December:  (teacher):  let’s wait until after winter break to see where we are at

January:  (pediatrician) he looks fine to me, what does his teacher say? (teacher): he is doing fine now

February:  (parent:)  his grades are terrible and he has stomach aches every morning.  How can he be doing fine?

May:  (principal and teacher):  we think you should have Jonny tested

Parent:  I called every neuropsychologist in town and they all have waiting lists of 3 months! Why didn’t you tell me this in the fall?

BOTTOM LINE:

TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCT ABOUT YOUR CHILD.  HAVE YOUR CHILD TESTED WHEN YOU ARE WORRIED.  MIXED MESSAGES OR TOO LATE MESSAGES ARE COMMON FROM EVEN THE BEST SCHOOLS.    GET YOUR CHILD CHECKED OUT AND GET THE HELP THEY NEED.

21453265 - young boy tries to do his homework  the problem with learning

IQ TESTING: A PERSONAL STORY

I DID IT.  I CONFESS…..

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 I took an online IQ test.

Before I tell you how I did, I need to talk to you about why I did it.  As a neuropsychologist, I administer myriads of IQ tests to all ages, so I’m always thinking about intelligence as a construct and how poorly understood IQ is.

And as summer closes, IQ season opens in my office;  it is definitely IQ testing season here is Los Angeles, where more and more schools are asking for IQ tests as a pre-admission requirement.

I also was curious about these quickie online IQ tests, are they valid? What do they measure? Because, as you may or may not know, intelligence is a tricky thing.  No one has really begun to come up with a great definition of what intelligence actually is, let alone begin to describe someone’s intelligence with a single number.  (Parents, please take note!)

NUTSHELL SUMMARY OF IQ HISTORY (AN INCOMPLETE STORY)

The elusive single number to quantify someone’s intelligence was developed by Spearman, it was called a “G” or general G for estimating someone’s overall intelligence.  Alfred Binet, in France originally developed his own intelligence test to see if children were ‘educable’.  David Wechsler captured the field with his Wechsler tests (WISC, WPPSI, WAIS) and Woodcock and Johnson capitalized on the Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory of intelligence which is a highly complex and nuanced version of different aspects of your cognitive brain.  More recently, Reynolds, Kaufman and Naglieri came up with their own equally valid and interesting IQ tests.  I am sure I am missing some wonderful tests in this paragraph (Hey, Stanford Binet, when is your new edition coming out?) Howard Gardner came up with “Multiple Intelligence” (bless him) and stayed away from trying to quantify intelligence as a single number.

(Sorry, that is a very brief nutshell summary of a fascinating topic)

MY DEFINITION OF GIFTED:

As for me, I consider a child who is INTENSELY CURIOUS TO LEARN to be highly intelligent.  Some kids are clearly precocious and may score high on these tests, but if they aren’t curious or if they are too placid, they may score the big points, but I don’t consider them truly “GIFTED”.

“Intelligence is both genetic and experience dependent. That means it take the golden key of exposure to an enriched environment to “turn on” your child’s gifts. TO BE GIFTED IS TO INTENSELY WANT TO LEARN AND TO KEEP IMPROVING ON YOURSELF, YOUR TALENTS AND BE AWARE OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT IN AN INTENSE AND CURIOUS WAY.  NO ONE IS GIFTED IN ALL AREAS”

SO BACK TO MY OWN IQ TEST:

I bit the bullet and took the 10 minute online IQ test.  It was timed.  And surprisingly the timing made me nervous so I rushed.  That’s not the only surprise.  The test was completely non-verbal, and mostly composed of solving either visual-spatial puzzles or math riddles in matrix form.  “Hey! That’s not fair!!”, I shouted to the screen.  These are not my strengths!! To say that the verbal linguistic left hemisphere side of my brain felt discriminated against, was an understatement. So in the end I did ok,  but I ended up feeling judged.  unfairly.  ha!

NOW BACK TO THE OFFICE.

Where I realized that I do this to kids. Every. Single. day.  They are timed and measured.  Thank goodness, I measure every part of their little brains and give them every opportunity to shine.  They are also praised a lot and leave feeling pretty good.  At least I hope so!  ( I sweeten the deal with a nice cup of hot chocolate…..

AND NOW HERE IS MY SOAPBOX TIRADE:

Kids come in all sizes, shapes and learning styles.  Whether they are strongly verbal, street smart, creative, physical, artistic, intuitive, personable or visual spatial will determine a lot about how they do in school, their self worth and the way teachers view them.  YES it pays to have your child tested if you have concerns or need validation about your child’s learning style, because hopefully your tester won’t allow you to ride on a single “G” score but will highlight your child’s natural intelligence gifts.

For example, gifted students with visual spatial strengths and weaker language skills are often over-looked in school.  Such thinkers as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Leonardo Da Vinci were all noted for gifted spatial reasoning skills.  Verbalization often plays a secondary role in the spatially oriented student’s thinking style and is not necessarily integral in the process of his ability to reason.  Occupations that rely on spatial rate reasoning include engineering, architecture, physics, chemistry or medical surgery.  Unfortunately, so many students who are identified as being gifted spatially are disproportionately weaker students relative to their ability level compared with gifted verbal students.

I’m not sure i would call these kids “2E”: twice exceptional.  I would say they are exceptional for sure!  Quiet packages with lots going on in their brainy minds, visual spatial kids need to develop both their strengths as well as their verbal skills.

So next time you start to think of yourself and your kid as an IQ number, think again!

STAY CURIOUS, KEEP LEARNING AND KEEP SHARING THIS BEAUTIFUL WIDE WORLD WITH YOUR CHILD!

ps. If an ad for an online IQ test pops up, don’t do it! Put your phone down and go hug your child instead!