Demonic Monkey

As a follow up to the idea that we can observe ourselves when become agitated like a nervous monkey, I remembered this song my oldest son sang about 10 years ago.

The key to awareness is in practiced observation of ourselves. Just by observing and watching what our bodies feel and our mind thinks gives us the space to self manage.

The goal is not to attack the “monkey mind” but to see it, learn from it and adjust accordingly.

Sometimes we feel stress and anxiety but push it back and it builds up inside our bodies so much that we get physically ill. This repression will often come out later in situations that may not warrant the extreme behaviors that we may exhibit.

Getting upset at our reactions can actually make our anxiety worse. We must learn to observe, accept and listen to our bodies. Instead of fighting the demonic monkey we must learn to love it.

Fears and Mental Perseverations


Recently , I attended a conference hosted by Martha Beck. She shared the idea that we often react to a problem like a nervous monkey letting our reptilian brain run wild .  We can also observe ourselves and say , “the monkey is nervous”. If we allow spirit to speak we might say, “Awe, monkey ” with love and acceptance. These three mental thought perspectives are possible and we can train ourselves to use the higher perspective that helps us to be happy and productive.

This idea is challenging for adults but most spiritual development recognizes the value of this inner work.

Persons on the spectrum often experience exaggerated responses to fears and triggers. Recently , my son was alone at our home when he saw someone at our gate. He tried to call me but I was at a meeting and did not hear the phone ring. His mind went wild and he felt threatened so he grabbed a weapon and hid in the closet.  By the time I saw his phone calls and was headed home, it was over but he was still very agitated. 

At 16, this may seem unusual for most people but I bet other parents can relate. I felt so bad for him and I felt bad for myself. 

I started thinking of replacement behaviors of deep breathing and alternatives to teach him to try. (The person in the driveway turned out to be his older sister and her friend.) I have realized that I can not predict every possible scary situation that he will be faced with in life and I can not always be available to fix his problems.

The best I can do is to reinforce his own ability to observe himself and maybe recognize “the nervous monkey” and try to calm himself. Acceptance of his emotional state is important. 

Martha Beck did not mention the mamma monkey scenario. At some point we can’t carry out baby monkeys any more.  My heart hurts to see his struggle.

All I can say is , “Awe monkey…” to both of us. 

Awareness

I think that people on the spectrum are great teachers to us mere neurotypicals.  Just this weekend, my son was invited to a friend’s home for a sleepover and to work on a group work project for a school assignment. This is usually stressful because he considers the weekend his off duty time. He really really loves to stay in his room and relax after a week of meeting school and social demands. He justified the experience because:

 1. He needed to go for the assignment.

 2. He has been to this friend’s home many times before and his parents are always supervising and provide foods he likes- pizza and breakfast burritos.

3. He took my cot- tent so he could have his own bed and privacy (he just sets it up inside).

4. He had a 5 pound bag of Jolly Ranchers that I bought him to share.

This may seem odd to NT teenager parent but these plans help him to alleve anxiety and help him to focus.

The family threw a kink in the plans because they wanted to take the boys to a flea market. This was an unplanned event      but Ridge went. He came in with some antique backpack and an “I Love Dachsunds” sign. 

He said he had had a good time and that he even relaxed his normal “work tyrant” attitude. I asked why and he said that even though he has tried in the past to make the group stay on the project , it never worked and just made him angry. This time he said he just tried to go with it. What?????? Did I hear this correctly??


So here is what I think we can all learn to do more of-

  • Be aware of your needs and plan accordingly .
  • Notice your own behavior and how it affects others.
  • When your attempts aren’t working, change.
  • Love what you love!

Thanks Ridge. 

LAUGH

When you experience opposition along the ASD path, it is very normal to feel anxiety, mistrust, bodily pain and fear. It is easy to feel that life is against our children and our families. Be careful of this dark trap!

I could not see it at the time of my son’s most challenging behaviors, but looking back ,I can see that what happened was NEEDED in order to learn and grow-for all of us.

No one wants to watch their children suffer at the hands of a seemingly uncaring world. However, we as parents can prevent progress by our own negative attitudes.

In my experience, I have learned that force doesn’t work well.Once we fight and win one thing, we have to keep fighting to keep it.

The truth is that there are many people in the world that want to help our children be successful-not just us. Finding those special people makes life much better!

The world really isn’t conspiring against us. Our kids often believe this and we must meet this test with acceptance and optimism of a good ending so that we can counter balance “catastrophizing.”

At times we may feel isolated and alone. Sometimes I really was. But not really because this pushed me to listen to Spirit and follow a path that was new to me but definitely the right one. We can always lean on the support that is not seen by our human eyes.

Life is more joyful when we can lay aside feelings of mistrust. I had to question myself many times before I could accept that my son’s teachers were not trying to hurt him.

As parents, we have more power than we realize. Our willpower alone can move mountains. Because the path is filled with surprises and fear, sometimes we become too meek or sometimes we become too forceful to bring true progress. If we can continue to look for the good in others , be tolerant, and use gentle goodwill we will steadily move forward.

When those moments pop up that trigger our doubts and fears, try to stay focused on the task at hand rather than letting the situation engulf into the evidence of a bigger problem.

It is not easy to stand up for your child’s rights without feeling defensive. The cost of the negativity is that it impedes progress.

We must continually cultivate inner independence and trust our inner guidance system for creative solutions. Keep a balance in your life by finding your own innocence and playful nature that needs to be replenished.

Take a break this weekend and climb a tree, play in a bathtub of jello, make mud pies, jump on a trampoline, or some other stress free game. Be an innocent child for a few minutes and bask in the freedom from responsibilities. Fifteen minutes can do wonders to restore your soul.

Here is a great example:

Empathy

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Yesterday we had a sudden storm with lots of lightning! The animals were afraid and so was I.

Ridge and Tim were driving down the road when a dachshund ran out. Ridge jumped out of the car and tried to comfort her. He was afraid that she was going to be hit and so he brought her home. I posted photos of her on Facebook in our local community page and he made signs to put up.

Later , he put a leash on her and walked her around the area that he found her and she went to a particular gate. They left a note and the owner called to come get her.

Ridge was afraid for the dog but when the owner came, “Sage” went wild. He was very happy to have reconnected them. He came home and said that he had to go to bed because he had gotten so emotionally involved that he was wiped out!

His mind could think of nothing else but trying to protect this dog and the stress of his worry had exhausted him. I think it is evident that he has empathy. If anything he is more sensitive to animals and others.

I am very glad that he was able to recognize his own need for rest too. He is learning to navigate in this world living in his own way with truth and love. Maybe we can all learn from this special group of people.

Infinity

There is no question of the greater amount of stress experienced by parents of these unique children. My son is now 16 years old and it has not been an easy road in raising him.

Recently he refused to leave his room to go with us to see a movie. He was tempted by the candy he could get there but he said it was not worth the three hours “wasted” outside of his room. I don’t always force issues because his grades are good, he is actively engaged with football and CrossFit and does help around the house occasionally. He covets his alone time and this seems to charge him up for the next week.

A friend of mine invited me to a college lecture on Pluto and she brought her 9 year old neurotypical child. He listened to the presentation, played around with another kid he had just met and then allowed the adults to chat and play with telescopes for another 2 hours. I was so shocked and felt a little sorry for myself. She had no behavior plan in place. There was no set reinforcement schedule, no prompting, no planning, no data collection and no stress. She just did what she wanted and he was fine left to his own accord. I was sort of jealous.

I was not sure what to do because I kept checking on him and was on edge waiting for some issue to happen. What melt down was about to happen that I needed to fend off? When did we need to change the focus? How long could this child endure compliance and social integration? I realized that even now, I am on edge when around children. For so long my agenda was secondary to meeting the needs of my son that it is difficult to gear down and relax!

Unless you are the care taker, you really have no idea what the short term and long term impact is. The few studies that have been conducted show a bleak picture of the high levels of stress and even rage parents experience. The health issues are real. We know this but what choice do we have? Even if you have the money to hire full time help, this does not guarantee a happy outcome and dependency never feels good.

Maybe you can relate to some of these common issues?

  • blaming self for chid’s behavior
  • blaming spouse for not being supportive or helpful
  • blaming the school system for inappropriate programming
  • blaming medicines and doctors that are irresponsible
  • lack of social group for child
  • lack of social connection with adult friends for self
  • loss of career or lack of ability to dedicate self to personal interest due to child rearing demands
  • incorrect diagnosis
  • difficulty in transportation and time to shuttle child to therapies, schools, doctors, etc
  • difficulties in scheduling with other family member needs
  • lack of positive immediate family activities-peaceful shared meals, outings, vacations
  • lack of positive extended family activities due to chid’s anxiety or behavior problems
  • feelings of being blamed and judged by schools, family, and peers for child’s behavior
  • anxiety overload and melt downs by child
  • embarrassment when child is rude to others
  • lack of time or energy for self interests
  • physical exhaustion
  • loneliness
  • frustration when “experts” know less than you do about medicine, behavior plans, academic issues, etc
  • stress of constant problem solving and energy depletion in management of child and family
  • fear of the unknown future each day- dressing, eating, behavior at school, homework, lack of compliance, social issues, sibling issues, grades, disconnection, college, career, independency in the future?

I am not trying not add fuel to the fire but I just want you to know that I know what you are going through. I have been there, done that, but didn’t buy the t-shirt because I don’t like any of them I have seen so far. I don’t like “Autism Awareness”, blue light bulbs, and groups that “speak” for me. I am living it and I am struggling to keep my head above water and keep my family afloat at the same time. I am also tired. Very tired of worry, work, and anxiety. I thought life was supposed to be fun and beautiful. I still think it is but I have had some detours on the path.

My passion lies in helping other parents because you are the most important piece of this “puzzle” of autism. You are the key to true therapy. We can hire all the professionals we want but when it comes down to it, you are still the responsible one. You are being pulled into a black hole at times with too many demands, not enough answers and not enough support to get out!

I have been through some scary places– facing cancer and near death was not pleasant and the anger I felt is nothing to be proud of. I tried to negotiate with God that if I could try again, I would dedicate my life to help others and to not waste my life with so much negativity. So here I am. I want to follow through on my end by extending myself to people in the same dark places by offering some light to navigate better and move towards a more positive spot. I don’t have all the answers but I know the territory and want you to know that you are not alone. I also know that things can change without much warning.

We need the social network of schools. Our children need social reinforcement and connection to prepare them for the world. We aren’t doing them favors by enabling them to stay in their rooms forever.

We need special professionals that can help us see our children with different lenses. There are many gifted specialists that we need along the way. We must learn how to manage and delegate these services to maximize our window of opportunity of learning.

Most importantly we need to protect our very souls from being battered, bruised, wounded and beaten down. The problems don’t stop. You keep fixing the leaks that never end. We must find a way to dedicate ourselves but not totally depend on our children’s success as our own. Chaos never ends. I believe there is more to our lives than chasing the wind and hanging on. We have to breathe right now. Our spirits can be lost in the confusion.

We have to learn how to train our minds into accepting higher guidance. The answers may feel uncomfortable. We have to allow a new system in. Change is not easy. In fact the ego hates it. That is why we have to reboot and use a new system. Others have done it. They have taught it. Jesus, Buddha, and others have shown us how to see differently.

There is a reason that we can not see.  We can get through this and fulfill this calling to find answers where there appears to be darkness. We can help each other. We are the heroes in our own lives. We have to save ourselves in order to save our kids and save the world. You are flawless. The real you deep inside knows what to do. We just need to remove the blocks that have gotten in the way of seeing the deeper truth.

I am creating an online class that may be helpful. “Parent Survival to Thrival”will offer support, structures, and activities to help you find your own path with more positive outcomes. Please send me an email if you are interested. (The first 4 people will get the program free.)

Why Wolves?

As a mother of an Asperger child, I have experienced a different path than I ever expected in childing rearing. I was a teacher for many years and had two children before our third came along. I was even a bit proud of my ability to work with difficult students and extended my certifications to include special ed, gifted, ESOL, elementary ed and early childhood. When Ridge came along, even with all my experience and knowledge, I fell short. He struggled in school with true dyslexia and the social skills were always lacking. He was in 2nd grade before we finally got a diagnosis that fit of Aspergers. The school he attended did nothing but make his life worse and finally his behavior had escalated out of control. Luckily, my niece told me about Applied Behavior Analysis and we hired a very gifted therapist that helped us. I went back to school and became a BCBA and started a new paradigm in the way I learned to parent.

It was not an easy road and I battled schools, depression, and cancer along the way but at this point all of our lives are more settled. Ridge is now happily navigating in a public high school, playing football and making good grades. I have started writing to share ideas to other parents that may be on the same journey. My hope is to offer information that could make lives better and to create a supportive community of hope.

I am not a fan of many of the organizations for autism. I don’t want theory, walks to raise money, or blue light bulbs. I want to share information that can be related to and hands on activities that can be used right now. I am keenly aware of the statistics that show a bleak future for people on the spectrum to ever live independently. It is my goal to “raise wolves” that will be successful in the world.

Imagine if you got a new puppy thinking it was an Akita. It looks like all the other pups but you start noticing differences as it grows. This could be scary and frustrating until you find out that the domestic pup is a wild wolf! Suddenly the behaviors make sense because you understand that your pup is different.

I chose the wolf as a symbol because like our children, wolves don’t like eye contact. They have sharp intelligence and highly advanced senses. Wolves won’t be trained with force or coercion but can learn with positive reinforcement and respect. They are ritualistic in nature and friendly. They are wild with a spirit of freedom to live in their own way without caring what the rest of the world thinks. Wolves don’t trust easily. They run in clans that all share in upbringing of the young. The pups are highly valued and catered to. They greatly depend on the pack for their food and teachings in order to survive.

The wolf path requires freedom, toughness, endurance, and strategy. As parents we want to prepare our children for what lies ahead. It is an unknown world with many challenges and crisis. We must raise our children to have the strength and audacity to brave it all. We may howl along the way- sometimes in pain, sometimes in celebration.Our cries can be primal and penetrating.

We all must learn to hear and follow the voice within ourselves and use our intuition to find answers that we won’t get anywhere else. Discovering our inner power is demanded in order to walk this path and much will be given in return. We aren’t looking for fights but will not be overrun. We can be loyal to the pack but not give up our own identity. We must take risks and face our deepest fears as we walk at times a lonely path , undeterred by the beliefs, judgements, and views of others. Let us go forward as we learn new ideas and then teach them to others. Our pack can become strong and cunning as we follow our passions to help our pups thrive.

Ahhhwoooooo!