Thursday, December 15, 2011

the two faces of anxiety

The fragile growth of the mind- Chapter 5 The cradle of thought

In this chapter, Mr Hobson looks at the growth of the mind and the different roles parents take, and how development unfolds. When I was finished reading this chapter, I concluded that the growth of the mind is definitely FRAGILE! For our kids on the spectrum, we are literally rebuilding their mind. What we want to make sure that we are doing is rebuilding their mind in a developmental sequence!

I am going to take a few things from this chapter to springboard on the topic of Anxiety. I am doing this because the chapter goes into detail about the parent/child relationship, how no two caregivers are alike, obviously, and the many factors that are taken in with child development. There are many components to the nurture part of our parenting, but because Autism comes along, that all gets turned on its head. The LACK of reaction from our babies and toddlers set us up for a spiral of different emotions and reactions to what is going on with our kids. Obviously our anxiety level is through the roof as we feel *lost* in how to *help*. Our days can become all about preventing anything that would set out child *off*. We become super parents because we can determine what is needed ahead of time in the hope that all will stay right in the world IF we can forecast every possible situation that could occur…and own it so we can control the outcome!

In essence, I am going to base much of what I am writing for Chapter 5 on a sentence on the first page of Chapter 5.  " In order to understand and perhaps help with difficulties in parenting a baby, we need to find out what creates and what Militates against harmonious relationships."  As always, I recommend you read the "The cradle of thought" by Peter Hobson as I am just taking a piece of the chapter and talking about a specific topic.

So the question- What creates a harmonious relationship? And what force influences against a harmonious relationship? Huge question…That could go on forever! Thankfully I only want to talk about the foundation…the basics…the VERY beginning of this concept. In others words, what creates a harmonious relationship between a baby or toddler and their caregiver/parent. To know what creates this harmony , then what influences, can give us the answer to help when the relationship is not in place.

Thankfully, when relating this information to Autism, we are learning more and more how to help our kids. Cutting edge therapies based on relationships far exceed the previous notion that our children are just a sum of their behaviors. That said, behaviors do matter! With both a behavioral approach to Autism or a developmental approach, success is noted by the Behaviors of the child. The difference is of course,  knowing the foundations that are needed for the understanding of relationships, part of dynamic intelligence, compared to static intelligence which is rules and rote information.

When I visualize my baby or any baby, those first few weeks the harmony comes from supplying their need. Meanwhile, we all as parents were awaiting that first connection…going from you give me food to Hey well… Hi there. The first smile that we refuse to believe is gas! The lack of sleep, pain, it is worth it for the feeling we have when the *relationship* starts. Couple the relationship piece with giving our children their needs…and you have the makings of trust and security. Those two topics will be for the next chapter because for right now, we are concentrating on the breakdown of the *relationship*, caused by Autism. Infantile Autism or regressive Autism alike, are both linked to the breakdown of relationship, just at different ages.

What I LOVE about exploring the origins of thinking, is that we can ask ourselves questions like, ok so, what takes a relationship to the next level….in the most basic form!? For me, the answer to that question is something inside me, allows me to take the relationship further, ANY relationship. It has NOTHING to do with the other person…YET. Some of you may have guessed already…its resilience! Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from change. With babies, we know not to overwhelm them…to build up their resilience. We know that the back and forth goo goo and gaa gaa is creating in them resilience that we answer them when they are with us…that there is that back and forth. BUT take an environment that is overwhelming, noisy, etc and their lack of resilience is hard to miss ( a screaming child). I know I keep repeating myself, but we all know that a screaming baby means an overwhelmed baby. Within typical development, this *uncertainty* actually builds up resilience ( as long as it is not extreme). Most of you can relate that we can give the Mom a reassuring look when her baby is screaming, overwhelmed, etc.

Here’s the thing, for our children with Autism, their *state* of uncertainty did not build resilience for them when they were has the complete opposite effect. It makes them crave sameness…in an effort to prevent the uncertainty that is just too scary. On page 142, “ There is so much that a young child acquires through others that there are real disadvantages for the infant or toddler who is unable or unwilling to engage with other people in their dealing with things.”

Of course we, as parents of children with Autism, understand this difficulty. Taking it that step further, understanding resilience, and uncertainty that builds resilience…. is KEY!

Time magazine did an article last month on the two faces of anxiety.

The definition of Anxiety is .A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties

The article talks about how Anxiety can be good for us… helping to sharpen our senses! Yes, I do agree with this…because again, this comes back to resilience. We can grow in resilience by productive anxiety, or too much to cope with, unproductive, we shut down.

If you have a child on the Autism spectrum , reflect for a moment why they are inflexible, controlling, passive, inattentive, anxious…. Consider their resilience (bank).

Consider what their therapy/Intervention is doing for their resilience? IS it making deposits in their resilience bank, giving them the tools they need where you see improvements with flexibility, etc ( without reinforcers)… or is it making your child MORE controlling, More anxious ( sure signs that something needs to change). Children on the spectrum are on anxiety medication at a record rate…and as one study suggests, behavioral therapies can help a child learn skills…but increase their anxiety. That is too high of a cost!

For my 2, addressing how they handled uncertainty by addressing developmental milestones…taking how they *feel* from unproductive to productive, began in them a chance to build up resilience. Especially for my older son who was around 8 at the time when we officially started RDI, going back to address this made the difference between an anxiety filled child, who was inflexible and controlling, to a 14 year old today who no longer has those core deficits of Autism, in our neighborhood school, has friends, etc..  Side note- In 1st grade my son controlling behaviors and anxiety were off the charts and there were times he would need to be restrained by his Aides.( heartbreaking!!)..and for 2nd grade he was shipped to a school for children with Autism!!