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parenting

Autism Q&A

Dating For People With Autism

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the 2018 series of the Louden on Autism Q & A . As many of you know, I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.

 

Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.

 

This week, I received a question about a child with autism who is having difficulties talking with females and his parents are worried about his dating life.

 

QUESTION

 

My son has a rough time talking with girls. He will tell them how much he likes them. He will try to interact with girls in the ways he sees on TV and in movies, but his quest to find a girlfriend has caused issues at school. I don’t think he is trying to upset people, but he just doesn’t understand relationships in general. Any advice?

 

ANSWER

 

This is a very difficult topic even for neurotypical kids – dating is something you have to try and fail at repeatedly before you sort of get the hang of things. Some things are just going to come slower for those of us on the spectrum. That being said, I do feel it might be best for all directions on the topic to come from one source. Contradictory directions can be very confusing. As well, if one person knows how to communicate ideas to him better, that can be important, because with the habit of taking things more literally or more absolute, good advice can sometimes backfire.



My biggest recommendation would really just be focusing on the question “why?” As you said, you think he just wants friends, and just wants a girlfriend. Focus on exploring those ideas. Not just stopping at “because that’s what other people are doing” but into “why do you think they’re doing it?” And the idea that such things are a two-way street, it’s like the idea of sharing. You’re sharing something, the relationship, and when you’re sharing you don’t tell someone “I want this” but rather “would you like to share this with me?” And if someone says no, you accept that.

 

But really, focus on “what does he hope to get in a relationship.” So often it’s the answer you said above, “because others are doing it” or a similar “because you’re supposed to” and without a foundation of a realistic reason for being in relationships, it’s hard to build a good set of ideas about how to go about starting and maintaining one. It will come with time, but learning experiences are all part of the process for all humans, especially those of us on the spectrum.

 

Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.

Autism Q&A

Children Becoming More Defiant

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the 2018 series of the Louden on Autism Q & A . As many of you know, I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.

 

Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.

 

This week, I received a question about a child with autism who is becoming more and more defiant and difficult to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

 

QUESTION

 

My 24-year-old daughter on the spectrum has suddenly refused to do some things that were givens for years that she was so good about doing. She used to be very nice about doing chores and the day-t0-day life responsibilities. But recently, that has changed. Any advice?

 

ANSWER

 

It’s hard to say, exactly. Changes in behavior can come from a lot of things. Often behavior like that, which may be seen as a “regression” suggests that there’s some new challenge in her life, something that’s taking mental energy, and leaving less for being able to do things that may have seemed “easy” for her before.

 

This can be something like physical distress, such as illness or pain from co-morbid conditions, or it can be emotional distress, such as reaching those mental “teenage years” where she’s wanting something else out of life, but doesn’t know how to express it or relieve some of that stress. She’s most likely doing it as the only way she knows to help preserve her mental health, but it may be hard to observe and see if you can figure out whether something has changed externally or internally, or if it’s just a change in personality as she grows.

 

A lot of the challenges we face in raising children with autism is that situations are all so different for each person on the spectrum and as we all get older, things impact our lives differently. Some situations that typically did not bother a child, might bother them in the future, or in the present. Overall, it’s important to know that she is likely working hard to preserve a feeing of safety and she’s just growing as a person. As we grow, we all change — we need to allow people with autism that opportunity as well and not jump to any conclusions about defiance.

 

Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.

Autism Q&A

Autism and The Adolescent Years

560 315 Paul Louden

Welcome to the Louden on Autism Q & A. This week, I’m back to answer a question submitted by a website visitors to shed light on some of the most important questions about autism. I receive questions every day, and I want to make sure that the answers to these important questions are being shared with all of you.

 

Please know that these are my opinions and my answers come from my research and my own personal experiences. Of course, each situation is different. All of us as people are different. And no two people with or without autism should be treated the same exact way.

 

This week, I received a question about autism and the younger years. These can be very difficult for many parents, so let me know if you ever have any questions. Here it is…

 

QUESTION

 

My son is 10 and was finally diagnosed at age 6 with ASD. We have overcome many obstacles and have many left. My son is fortunately high functioning and quite intelligent. It has been quite the learning experience. For the last 5 years, I’ve had to fight the biggest battle that I never realized I would have: Education. The community of school is so unknowledgeable of how to reach ASD children as well as manage behaviors that it can be detrimental. I have learned so much that I have become a strong advocate and am happy to say have finally forced the school district (took me 5 years) to make some small changes that will help not only my son but others.

You are on the spectrum so what difficulties can be expected during his adolescent years? How can I help my son accept his diagnosis, be proud of who he is and reach his fullest potential? How can I advocate more and help him do the same?

 

ANSWER

 

One of the biggest challenges I faced during adolescent years was a desire to have more friendships and date, without really understanding what that was or why I wanted it. A lot of popular culture shows high school as being a certain way – close friends, dating, etc. One thing to work on is making sure there’s an open communication channel. Help him discover what he really wants, and reason through why he wants it, and what he hopes to gain from it. I felt there was a way I was “supposed” to be, and it led to me trying to hard for things I didn’t really want.

 

After that, it was also the increased independence in later high school and early college. I wasn’t really prepared for the significant shift from “clear daily schedule” to “manage my own time” and it led to some poor outcomes. My best advice is just to do your best to forge whatever bond you can so that he feels he has someone to share his emotional state with – what he wants, why he wants it, and what he’s struggling with.

 

As for being a better advocate? I don’t really know. To be honest, I’m completely flying by the seat of my pants here. I think in some ways it may be harder to be a parent advocate. I’ve found that revealing some of my worst moments have been very helpful in framing for people the idea that although I speak well, I’ve had some significant struggles still, and help them understand where I’m coming from when I talk about my experiences.

 

Unfortunately, as a parent, it’s not really ideal to be hanging your son’s metaphorical dirty laundry out for others to see. It’s a balance of preserving his trust in sharing things with you, to help him get the help he needs. Honestly, I’m really hoping to make more materials available that may help in an educational context that might be useful for parents to share with educators, but that’s just one of those “I hope to do” plans right now.

 

I would say be clear and don’t take “no” for an answer if you know it’s something he really needs. The ADA requires reasonable accommodations, and it also lets the people asking for the accommodations define what they need, *not* the person giving them. The person giving them only argues whether or not they can offer that accommodation at reasonable expense and inconvenience for those involved. Your son has a right to the same educational opportunities as everyone else, don’t let the schools forget that.

 

Thanks for reading. Check back soon for another Q&A.

Hurricanes, Disasters and Autism

700 450 Paul Louden

In 2015, I wrote an article about Hurricanes, natural disasters and planning for these disasters with people with autism in mind. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey devastating my hometown of Houston, I wanted to re-share some of those thoughts, so that people preparing for future unexpected natural disasters and those working to survive through Harvey can best understand how to communicate with people with autism in these situations.

 

Most importantly, it’s key to remember that people on the autism spectrum are hypersensitive to changes in routine. Not knowing what comes next can be panic-inducing.

 

Here are a few ways the we can prepare for disasters and the impending road trips they may cause:

 

Read a Book About It

 

Create a visualization of what the trip will be like and what your family’s plan will be if rough weather is encountered. A picture book can serve this purpose, or make a chart with picture icons of the steps you will take if a weather emergency arises. Your child can keep the book or chart in a backpack along with an itinerary of the trip and other personal preparedness items. That way the information can be reviewed whenever your child would like.

 

Include Your Child in the Emergency Prep

 

Your child can help put together the basic items for an emergency kit that can be kept in a weather proof travel container inside the car. Knowing that the family has the items needed to handle common injuries, illnesses and safety situations is a vital reassurance for children with autism.

 

Do a Practice Drill

 

Before the trip, practice what your family will do if there is a severe weather emergency while you are driving. Act out the steps you will take if there is an accident or if you are forced to seek shelter. Listen to a recording of the sounds of thunder, tornado sirens and high winds so that these are less of a shock to your child if they occur. Show your child photos or video of what first responders look like, and how to contact them or react to them if the situation arises.

 

Pack Smart

 

Remember to pack all medications as well as a list of your child’s prescriptions. If your child is non-verbal, a medical bracelet or I.D. tag is important. Pack plenty of your child’s favorite non-perishable comfort foods, as well as favorite toys and familiar clothing so that your child will feel more secure in an unfamiliar environment.

 

Know Your Child’s Sensitivities and Triggers

 

Anticipate your child’s anxieties and what you can do to head them off. Technology provides structure and comfort for many autistic children. Bring along noise-canceling headphones that can be connected to a portable device loaded with favorite music, apps, movies and games. I also suggest investing in a portable battery charter and, if your child uses the Internet regularly, a mobile wi-fi hotspot. These items take on even more importance if you’re forced to take an evacuation route, because you could be in the car for many hours.

Parent talking to child

My Advice for Parents of Autistic Children

900 600 Paul Louden

Parenting is hard. I, personally, do not have experience parenting. But I know how much effort it takes and the work that goes in to raising a child. It’s a ton. The USDA, according to a new study, projects that in 2016 a middle class, married couple will spend about $250,000 to raise a child from birth to age 17. These figures don’t include college-related costs. But still … wow.

 

On top of the financials involved, raising a child through the ups and downs of just being a kid seems extremely, extremely challenging. And that got me thinking … “what advice would I give my parents, if I knew they’d be raising another autistic child?”

 

Explain the Why

 

Spend as much time as you can listening and learning. One thing that often helps people on the autism spectrum is being able to answer the question “why?”

 

Any time you do something, be ready for an autistic child to say, “why did you do that?” And if you want them to develop the same habits as you, or the same values as you, be ready to actually talk about why you do things. The understanding of ‘why’, is so important to autistic children. I can’t stress that enough. Why do you clean when you do? Why do you have the schedule that you have? Why do you watch TV when you do?

 

Watch and Observe

 

Watching and taking notes on actions can be a huge help. Try to pay attention to why your child does things in certain environments. Try to also pay attention to which environments bother your child, and in which environments he or she flourishes.

 

Watch what they do for fun, find out what their interests are, and try to, if you can, (if they’re verbal) engage in dialogue about why they like and dislike certain things.

 

Understanding through Communication

 

You may listen, observe, take notes and still feel disconnected as a parent to an autistic child. But keep in mind, the biggest tool you have for getting along with your child is your understanding and empathy. It takes more than just knowing what they like and observing them in certain social environments. You must strive to communicate, which will help you truly understand the deep-rooted causes for actions.

 

Overall, parenting is hard. I couldn’t imagine the difficulties that came with being my parent. But if you truly try to explain the reasoning for your own actions, while trying to observe, listen and communicate with your autistic child, then I know things will start to get easier.

 

Understanding is the key.

 

Thanks again for reading. Please feel free to post any questions in the comments section below.