Archives for the month of: September, 2014

Note from Shane: HERE is the reason I’m so fricken passionate about working with Parents. You matter SO Much. Brenda Rothman puts it into words from a Mom’s point of view. Find her on Facebook MAMA BE GOOD

Adult Responses to Autistic Children Leads to Escalation or Calm

An adult’s response to an autistic child’s upset is the single, most important factor in whether the child’s upset is escalated or calmed. We must remain calm. We must understand – at a gut level – that the child’s reaction – whether to yell, hit, bite, or flail – is frustration and that is all. “Disorientation is one of the least bearable of all psychological experiences” (Neufeld & Maté). Our children are disoriented by their emotions, frustrated by communication. It is not personal. It is not hate. It is merely frustration.

When we begin to feel overwhelming emotions in response to our children’s actions – like sadness, upset, anger, fear, or resentment – we need to calm ourselves for the immediate moment. However you need to do that – by breathing, talking to yourself, repeating a mantra. For the long-term, you will need to do the hard work of exploring those feelings and the reasons behind them.

Our physical response is just as important. Because this is frustration, respond with calm and soothing. Our children are not trying to hurt us. If they see us reacting in disorienting ways – like crouching, putting up our hands as if to ward off hits, or crying – it will frighten them even further. Trying to control our child’s behaviors through physical restraint also escalates the situation. Imagine how you would feel as a child if you were already disoriented and your parent’s actions looked even scarier. Instead, we should calm, soothe. Remember that we are our child’s compass.

Know in advance what soothes your child. Physical things like running water, a fan, their bedroom, low light, a tent, blanket, a stuffed animal. But also, let them stomp, stamp, slam doors, hit pillows, throw stuffed animals – there are many safe outlets for frustration. And they do need outlets. We can’t just clamp down on them and negate all outlets for them. Imagine if you couldn’t vent – you’d feel like exploding.

One thing that I have to do regularly is keep everyone safe. And sometimes I say that – remember Neufeld’s agent (or angel) of futility and agent of compassion we talked about?  I say “I’m so sorry, but I have to keep everyone safe. I know it’s upsetting, but that’s my job as a parent. And you know, parents have to do their jobs. Sorry, that’s just what I have to do.” And I keep everyone safe, as keeping hands off each other. Without any type of punishment like ignoring, or separating, or high emotions, or anything. Just sigh, sorry, this is what I have to do.

The other thing I do regularly is playful parenting to stop the actions but in a very playful manner so it doesn’t escalate. Like very lightly saying “oh, ho, ho, mister, are you teasing your sister? Do you want some love taps, too?” or “I saw you do that, you wiley coyote, you.” If you haven’t read the books Playful Parenting and Hold On To Your Kids, I highly recommend both for ideas of discipline that are not punishing or isolating. 

After they’ve vented their frustration, you can try getting their sadness out. That’s the real emotion underneath frustration – because something isn’t working and that’s upsetting. After our children have experienced a big emotion, they often need a safe way out. Silliness is one way. “That stuffed toy smells terrible! Did he toot?” We often have to just try different ways of helping.

This fact that the adult escalates or de-escalates the child’s response is critically important. We have to realize how we are a compass to our children. We also need to hold the adults in our children’s lives accountable for their reactions and how those reactions escalate our children’s reactions. Teachers, therapists, behaviorists – do they put their hands on your child, even to direct them? Do they give your child ways to vent? When the child gets frustrated, are they forced to sit back at a table and do a task or are they given recovery time? Are they labeling your child violent instead of frustrated? Are they restraining, ignoring, secluding, punishing your child?  Are they demanding too many things?  Are they requiring quiet hands, quiet feet, quiet body?  Are they spending directing and redirecting all the time? Are they blaming the child instead of acknowledging their own role in the escalation?

Our children react to being forced. They react when there is too much direction and too little connection. They react with frustration when the relationship isn’t working. They react with their own will as they try out independence. When our child is not treated as her own person, with her own preferences, thoughts, opinions, and boundaries, she will put up resistance. This is a healthy part of growing up.

If the therapy our child does sets us up for conflict, no matter how beneficial we are told it is, we need to refuse it. If we are told our child is “violent” simply because he reacts to force with negative emotion, we need to reject that. We parents have the right to demand peaceful, loving, connecting ways to raise our children.

– See more at:

Why I Don’t Care What Causes Autism


I have a confession to make. Are you sitting down? OK, here it goes.

I don’t care what caused my kid to have autism. Not one bit. (Cue the dramatic music and GASP!)

I don’t give one flying fig why my kiddo is autistic. It’s just is what it is. I don’t need someone or thing to blame. I don’t need closure. I may need a nap, but I don’t need to know the kit and caboodle and all that autistic jazz. To paraphrase Bob Seger here, I have “turned the page.”

Why this self-centered attitude? Simple. It’s survival. I have a lot to do, and I’m going to leave science to science. None of those researchers ever come here and start a load of laundry and empty the dishwasher. So I’ll let them do their jobs and use Google for researching new crockpot recipes.

What about the other future families you may wonder? Yes, I get what you are saying. I have known a few families now that have become members of Club Spectrum. It’s hard to see it happen to those you care about, and Hallmark has yet to make a greeting card suitable for the occasion. At the same time, I can’t take that all on too. I’d rather just have tunnel vision on doing what I got to do for my kiddo. I’m all about helping out others and sharing basic tips. Don’t get me wrong. I just think it’s way better for any parent’s psyche to spend 20 minutes shooting the breeze over the game last night or this season of “Boardwalk Empire” than having an in-depth conversation on medical research. Sometimes we have to turn off the “All autism. All the time.” part of our brains because, dammit dude, my brain just needs a break.

The kiddo is 10. I have bigger fish to fry. We have a middle school transition that is quickly approaching. Last week I discovered some hair growing on some places on him, and he is starting to have teenage-boy stink on him by the end of the day. Puberty is coming, and I will need to be sedated the day we have to figure out how to shave his face. I can’t even get this kid to trim his toe nails without having to sneak it in while he sleeps. Can I shave him as he sleeps? Is that doable? He still can barely write his name. You want me to read a hundred different articles and blogs online that folks keep sending me to see about what caused autism to show up?  That has to take a number. He’s growing rapidly here, and I have too much to worry about than adding that. I can’t even remember to take out something to defrost for dinner, much less figure out when I can comb through miles of medical research on this subject. My family can’t eat research.

So I am sorry if the question what caused your child’s autism is still knocking at your door. I just decided to close the door on that subject, and I’ve been a lot happier for it. Despite a life filled with routines and schedules, more freedom came with that choice too. I’m not saying for you to do it. I’m not saying this is the only way of thinking that is right. Like we say in Jersey, “You do you.” Just be open to the idea of shifting your energy off this one thing. You might just thank me for it.

This post originally appeared on Autism With a Side of Fries.

Agree? Disagree? Send us your opinion. Email us


A few months ago, when we finally thought things were getting better, he started vomiting excessively. We got him tested and it turns out he is not only allergic to milk; he is also allergic to soy and wheat. Great!

Regardless of all the allergies and all the other little health issues throughout, we’ve dealt with everything without worrying too much. For some reason we haven’t been fazed by any of it.  However, amidst all the issues, one stood out.

My baby boy was not speaking.

Julian is now 21 months old. He says a total of eight words.  By two years old or 24 months, children should say at least 25 words. I hear stories from my mommy friends about their children’s rich vocabulary:

“My son says ‘ninosour.’”

“Laila sings along to songs on the radio.”

“My daughter says ‘jet.’”

“Alberto said ‘I love you’ for the first time.”

I usually just stay quiet during this part of the conversation. Smiling and nodding. And although I’m happy for them, I can’t help but question myself.

I’ve been asking myself: Do I expect too much from Julian? Or am I not pushing him enough? Am I not speaking to him enough? Am I confusing him by speaking to him in English and Spanish? Maybe I shouldn’t have skipped reading time some of those nights.

I’ve been worrying about this for several months now, which is too long. The weird thing is that professionally, I know it’s too long. But personally, the truth is that I’ve been allowing doubt and passive parenting get the best of me. I’ve let myself question whether or not I’m overthinking the situation.

But yesterday all that changed. I officially embarked on a scary and somewhat unknown journey.

I began the process of getting my son evaluated.

I know it’s strange that it took me this long to start. When parents call our resources line or family members ask about evaluating their children, I never hesitate when telling them to just do it.

“It’s better to know than to wonder,” I say.


And I can feel their resistance on the other end of the phone. Now I know what they feel like.

What kind of advocate would I be for my son if I continue to let self-doubt take over when it comes to my own child?

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Questions are bombarding my thoughts and I am filled with anxiety.

But I am thankful that such knowledgeable people surround me here at RCSN. I know I wont embark on this journey alone, and I look forward to sharing my own process along the way.

– Hilda

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