115: Boundaries Are Not Mean

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Boundaries Are Not Mean

When I speak about the best ways to avoid burnout as an Autism parent, boundaries are always part of the conversation. However, too many moms think of boundaries as mean, like a reactionary consequence of somebody doing something that you don’t want them to do. But that isn’t a boundary. Boundaries are not mean.

Boundaries are not about controlling other people and giving them an ultimatum with harsh consequences. A boundary is a clear, firm, respectful statement that communicates what you will or will not tolerate, and what your expectations are. They protect your emotional and mental well-being, and they actually strengthen your relationships with the people in your life, which is what we all need.

Tune in this week to discover why boundaries are not mean. I discuss how boundaries protect you as an Autism parent and allow you to show up as your best self, and you’ll learn how to uphold boundaries that protect your well-being, even during the most challenging times.

 

 

If you are ready to take control of your Autism parenting experience, my Resilient Autism Mom Program (RAMP) is for you. In my 1:1 coaching program, I teach you the tools and strategies you need to conquer the Autism Mom Big 3 (stress, anxiety and burnout). To learn more about my program, schedule your complimentary consultation now.

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What a boundary is, and what it most definitely isn’t.

  • How a lack of boundaries leads to resentment of the very people you’re trying to look out for.

  • Why boundaries are vital for Autism moms and our children.

  • The burnout I experienced because of my own lack of boundaries as an Autism parent.

  • Some examples of boundaries that protect your well-being while also benefiting your child.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

>

 

Featured on the Show:

  • If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call ith me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here!
  • Sign up for my email list to get notified of coaching opportunities, workshops and more! All you have to do is go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up.
  • Schedule a consultation to learn about my 1:1 coaching program.
  • Join The Resilient Autism Moms Group on Facebook!
  • Click here to tell me what you want to hear on the podcast and how I can support you.

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 115 of The Autism Mom Coach, Boundaries Are Not Mean.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach podcast. I am your host, Lisa Candera. I am a lawyer, a life coach, and most importantly, I am the full-time single mother of a teenager with Autism. In this podcast, I am going to share with you the tools and strategies you need so you can fight like hell for your child without burning out. Let’s get to it.

Hello, everyone and welcome to the podcast. I am so glad you are here and I hope you are doing well. I’m just finishing up a very busy April of Autism events. I had the opportunity last month to connect with so many advocates in the Autism community. So many people who are doing such hard work to serve this community in so many different ways, from creating and running nonprofits that serve an entire region, to schools and enrichment programs specifically designed for children and young adults with Autism.

I’ve also had the opportunity to present to two different parent groups about burnout and self-care and that was so much fun. I’ve had these experiences in my own life and I hear these things all the time from my clients, but to take the show on the road, so to speak, and to be hearing more of the same feedback from more Autism moms has been really enlightening. I understand that as an Autism mom, our main goal, what drives us is that we want to be the best moms we can be for our kids. We want to give them the best life we possibly can.

We want to do everything to support them and their unrelenting needs. It’s really constant, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. You clear one hurdle and the next one is in the horizon and that is part of our reality. What I saw in all of these parents are people who are fiercely passionate about their children, love their children to the ends of the Earth, would do anything for their children, and they’re exhausted. They’re tired, they’re worn out, they’re afraid, and they feel alone.

So when I was presenting to them, I wanted to present to them in a way that they could hear because I know that no one’s coming to one of my presentations because they want to learn about self-care. I’ve got to tell you, it’s the last thing on my mind, it’s the last thing I ever cared about. I only cared about helping my son truly. And even to this day that is my goal. I want to be able to sustain my level of advocacy so that I can do what I do for him for as long as I’m alive.

And so knowing that we don’t really care about self-care, what we really care about is our children and doing the best for them and enjoying them and loving them. I wanted to talk about burnout and how that shows up in our lives and the very simple things that we can do to prevent it or to lessen it. And really in this presentation, I wanted to show these parents all the simple things that they can do, the things that don’t take much time, the things that take no money at all to move the needle for both them and their child.

Because all of the things that I was recommending to them, they’re for our kids. It’s so we can show up as the best versions of ourselves for our kids. And also model to them how to deal with adversity, how to manage their own behaviors, how to respect other people’s time and space. All of those things that are important to them in their life and as they grow. So one of the things that I talked to these parents about were boundaries. Boundaries are not mean and that was news to me, truly.

I always thought of boundaries as a consequence for someone doing something you didn’t want them to do. And actually that’s not a boundary at all. That’s an ultimatum, an ultimatum about trying to control other people and what they do and don’t do. And then giving them a pretty harsh consequence. That’s not what a boundary is. A boundary is a clear and firm and respectful statement that communicates what you will or will not tolerate or what your expectations are.

Boundaries are a way of protecting our emotional and mental well-being, and they’re also a way of strengthening our relationships with the people in our lives. Because those of us who don’t have boundaries know this, you become resentful of the very people that you are doing all the things for. You’re not saying no. So in all of your efforts to please them, you actually end up resenting them and this includes our children.

So I’m just going to talk a little bit more about what boundaries are. And then I’m going to talk about why they are so important for Autism moms if we want to be the best moms that we can be, if we want to show up for our children at the highest level.

So first, boundaries are about what you will do in any given situation to protect your well-being. They’re not about controlling other people or their behaviors or their choices. So for example, if you yell, I will hang up the phone. If you become aggressive, I will call 911. During work hours I will not respond to text messages. So if you text me during work hours, I will not respond. Boundaries can be physical, they can be emotional. And they can be time based.

Examples would include not accepting phone calls after a certain time. Asking people not to comment on your child’s weight gain on meds. Asking people not to offer you any more sleep suggestions. Those are examples of boundaries. Now, here is the thing, boundaries don’t need to be communicated to other people. You don’t have to go into their room and announce to your child or to the public what your boundaries are. The point about the boundary is you know what it is.

So I have a boundary, if a person were to hit me, I would call the police. I don’t go around announcing that. I have a boundary that if people are smoking in or around the outside of a restaurant when it’s open during the summer, I won’t eat outside. I don’t want to be around the smoke. They can do what they want to do. It’s not about me controlling them, but it’s about me deciding what I will and won’t tolerate and where I will and won’t go based on that.

Boundaries come with consequences that we enact such as ending a conversation or leaving a room or not answering the phone. And the key to boundaries is consistency and following through because the boundary doesn’t exist unless we enforce it. The idea that I have a boundary and other people aren’t respecting it isn’t the thing. The boundary is ours and it’s ours to respect by enforcing it. Boundaries are not harsh. Boundaries are not in your face, gotchas, nothing.

Boundaries are just about us honoring our own needs, our own choices, our own values. They are set out of love for us and love for the other person. So let’s talk about why boundaries are particularly important for Autism moms and for our children. First, as the parents, as the caregivers to a person with Autism, it’s really easy for our lives to become hijacked by Autism and our child’s needs. Parenting a child with Autism is very demanding on so many levels.

And without creating boundaries, it would just be really easy or really inevitable that our kids’ needs would just engulf our entire lives. And so what does that mean, their needs engulf our entire lives? There’s no line between where they end and we begin. And that is a recipe for burnout, for irritability, for resentment, for diminished capacity to manage the day-to-day.

And also when we’re not creating boundaries for our children, well, they don’t learn to respect boundaries. They don’t learn the line between them and between us. And as a result, there’s a lot of enmeshment that can happen. I know this because this was me for years. I did not have boundaries when it came to Ben. From the time he was little, three years old, when he would cry, when he would be upset, he would come run over to my lap and he would pull at my hair, just very gently, almost like he was petting my hair. And I let him every single time.

I knew that I needed to let him learn how to self-soothe, but, one, I really liked the idea that I could help him because I felt very helpless at the time, very powerless to help him. So if this one thing was soothing to him, I was going to let him do it. And I was afraid of letting him cry it out. It created so much anxiety for me that I’d rather avoid it. So I let this go on longer than I would have liked. Now, I’m not trying to judge myself in hindsight and I don’t want you to do that either.

I had reasons for why I allowed that to go on and part of it is just being busy and tired. Sometimes we do take the easier way out. I also viewed letting my kid cry it out as mean on some level. It really hurt my heart to let him cry it out when I could just soothe him myself. But still, that was an opportunity for a really small boundary. If you’re dysregulated, I will self-soothe with you for one minute or two minutes but then I’m going to let you have the rest of the time to work it out yourself, but that was never me for years.

I was always in the room with my son. I was always trying to work it out with him. I was always trying to comfort him. I was over-talking a lot. I never just walked out and let him have it. I never walked out and just let him have his fit, let him have his meltdown and let him get over it. And the consequence of that to me was a lot of stress, of feeling very responsible for my son’s emotions. And the consequence to him is that he came to rely on me to fix his emotions.

And this backfired big time in my face as his anxiety began to peak in his tween years and he fully expected me to fix this because in the past I had found a way to soothe him, to fix it, to convince him of whatever it was so that the crying or the meltdown would stop. Boundaries are also so important for our children because they create safety. They create predictability. They create a container in which they live. And so if they know the boundaries very clearly, they might not like them but there is comfort in knowing what the boundaries are.

And I found that with my son as I began to create and enforce the boundaries over and over and over again, behaviors changed. And doing this with a 13 year old was not fun, I have to tell you. I really wish I had done it with my five, six or seven year old, I didn’t. The issues were bigger and the boundaries had to be bigger.

For instance, if you hit yourself, I will walk out of the room. Now, this was when I understood that my son was hitting himself to get my attention because it horrified me and it got my attention. But when I saw that this was the purpose for which he was doing it, I had to walk away as hard as that was, I had to do that. And guess what? He stopped hitting himself.

Similarly, another boundary that we had. If you lunge at me, try to hit me or destroy property, I will call 911. This was a really hard boundary to make and to enforce because I never wanted to call 911. I always wanted to see if I could work things out, if he would calm down. If the threat that I would, would be enough to calm him down because he certainly didn’t want to go back to the hospital. And in doing that there was so much uncertainty for me and that created so much anxiety.

So when I started to enforce it, it was a pain in the ass and that you actually have to do the thing, you have to call 911. You have to go through the whole thing. But it also created predictability and safety for me in that I knew what to do. And my son also knew I wasn’t playing anymore. So if he was truly that out of sorts and he truly needed intervention, he was getting it. And if that wasn’t the case, this was not something to play with anymore.

And these boundaries were for both of our protection. I didn’t want my son hurting himself and I didn’t want him hurting me. And I’m going to be honest with you, not because I was worried about him hurting me. I was worried more about the consequences of him hurting an adult in his household. What happens if I really did get hurt and it was by him, what happens to him? I was more concerned with him and how to protect him from himself. And so that’s where the boundaries came in.

But look, you may not be dealing with anything close to what I just described. But there are situations in your life where I’m betting you can create boundaries to benefit both you and yourself. I’m going to give you some more examples of my boundaries and the boundaries of my clients.

So for example, one of the boundaries that I created with my son is that when he came home from school, I was still working and so I would say, “I am going to stay in my office until 4:00pm. You can come in. You can say “Hi, how was your day?” But that’s it, you have to leave and I’ll talk to you afterwards.” And that was a really difficult boundary to enforce because he knew I was in the next room and what if he just knocked? And what if he came in with a funny story but then he shifted it to something that he was perseverating about?

So I had to continually redirect him and redirect myself. Here’s what was happening before. I let him come in. He’s talking. I’m trying to finish my work. I’m getting distracted. The work is taking longer. I’m getting frustrated with that so I’m getting frustrated with him and escalating the situation. By creating that boundary and finishing my work and being done with it I was able to give him my full attention. So I was able to stay regulated and that made such a difference in how the night went, homework went a lot faster.

Actually at this time I don’t think he had homework, but just after school activities, getting ready for dinner, getting ready for bed, everything went more smoothly because of that small boundary.

Now, I want to give you an example from a client with a seven year old little boy. Every time he came home from school, he would just lose it as so many of our kids do. They are working so hard all day. Some of them are masking so hard all day and they come home and they just explode. And sometimes his explosion included throwing his toys at her, punching at her, pinching her leg. And so her boundary was to keep space from him, that when he came in, she would keep space from him so that lunging couldn’t happen, and that if it did, she would walk out of the room.

And look, she didn’t announce this to him ahead of time, but she would leave and she would go to the bathroom and she would just hang out in the bathroom for a few minutes and then come back. And inevitably he would self-regulate himself. This boundary kept her from freaking out at him, getting upset at him, taking his behavior personally. And it also gave him the ability to settle down and also took away his ability to put hands on her or to throw things at her because he was upset. He had to figure out another way of handling that.

Alright, so those are some examples of boundaries. I’ve told you why I think boundaries are important for us if we want to show up as the parents we want to be. If we want to model the type of behavior that we want our children to have, if we want to have the energy to show up each day to this very demanding role that we have as Autism moms, boundaries are critical. They’re also important for our children because they create predictability, safety and a container for them.

They know what to expect. They know if x happens, then y happens. They might not love it. They might go apeshit over it, at least at first but it is providing a container for them. So I want you to take a look at your life, at your day with your kid and think about where a boundary would be helpful. It could be as simple as, if my daughter asked me for a drink of water. I will tell her to get the drink herself. Very simple things like that. If my child throws their iPad, then I will take it away.

You don’t have to announce these to your kid, but you do have to enforce them so that they will start to see the line and understand what happens when they do certain things. And it will also create for you, more feeling of being in control. Because the one thing I hear all the time from Autism moms is, “I feel so out of control.” Creating boundaries is a way for you to take back some of your control because again, boundaries are not about what our kids do. They’re about what we do in response and we get to control that.

Alright, that is it for this week’s episode. I hope this was helpful. If you struggle to set boundaries with your child, you probably struggle to set boundaries in all areas of your life. If you struggle to set boundaries for your child now is the time to schedule a consultation call with me. There’s going to be a lot of time with us and our kids and now is the perfect time to start to learn how to create boundaries and enforce them.

If you want to have less stress this summer, I can help you with that right now in my coaching program. After just a couple of sessions you will feel like a new person. You will be showing up more powerfully in your role as an Autism mom, and that is the greatest gift that you can give to your child. If you’re ready to up-level your parenting skills, go to my website theautismmomcoach.com and schedule your consultation now. Thanks everyone for listening and I will talk to you next week.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you are ready to apply the principles you are learning in these episodes to your life, it is time to schedule a consultation call with me. Podcasts are great but the ahas are fleeting. Real change comes from application and implementation and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one coaching program. To schedule your consultation, go to my website, theAutismmomcoach.com, Work With Me and take the first step to taking better care of yourself so that you can show up as the parent you want to be for your child with Autism.

Enjoy the Show?

 

114: Respite Resistance

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Respite Resistance

There are some very real constraints that prevent parents and caregivers from taking proper respite. However, respite resistance is the reluctance or refusal from caregivers to take a break, even when the ability to take some time away is an available option.

I see respite resistance in Autism moms all the time. Even when parents accept that they need to take a break, it still brings up conflicting thoughts and feelings that stop them from experiencing the benefit of their respite. Taking a break from the intensity of parenting a child with Autism is vital, so what can you do to overcome your respite resistance?

Tune in this week to discover why you’re reluctant to take respite, even when the option is available to you. I explore why respite is vital for Autism parents, and you’ll learn how to shift the way you think about respite so you can flip the script and approach the idea of respite from a more helpful angle.

 

Join me for IEP Bootcamp! This is a three-day event happening in my Resilient Mom Facebook Group. Click here to join!

 

If you are ready to take control of your Autism parenting experience, my Resilient Autism Mom Program (RAMP) is for you. In my 1:1 coaching program, I teach you the tools and strategies you need to conquer the Autism Mom Big 3 (stress, anxiety and burnout). To learn more about my program, schedule your complimentary consultation now.

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why, as the parent of a child with Autism, you need regular respite.
  • My own experience of resisting respite and the negative impact it has on our lives.
  • Why you feel resistance to taking respite, even when the option is available.
  • What respite can look like and why it doesn’t have to be some big vacation.
  • How to shift your thoughts around respite, so it’s a real option for you.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

>

 

Featured on the Show:

  • If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call ith me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here!
  • Sign up for my email list to get notified of coaching opportunities, workshops and more! All you have to do is go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up.
  • Schedule a consultation to learn about my 1:1 coaching program.
  • Join The Resilient Autism Moms Group on Facebook!
  • Click here to tell me what you want to hear on the podcast and how I can support you.
  • 5: Think-Feel-Act Cycle

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 114 of The Autism Mom Coach, Respite Resistance.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach podcast. I am your host, Lisa Candera. I am a lawyer, a life coach, and most importantly, I am the full-time single mother of a teenager with Autism. In this podcast, I am going to share with you the tools and strategies you need so you can fight like hell for your child without burning out. Let’s get to it.

Hello, everyone and welcome to the podcast. I am so glad you are here and I hope you are doing well. For this week’s topic we are going to talk about something that I have experienced firsthand both as a sibling and a parent of a child with Autism and of course now as a coach, respite resistance. So what is this? It is quite simply the reluctance, or the refusal by caregivers to take a break, even when the ability to take a break is available.

I certainly understand that there are constraints to respite that are very real, financial constraints, finding a suitable provider. However, that aside, I am still seeing respite reluctance in Autism moms who have the ability, who have a spouse, a partner, a family member, a team, whatever it is. They have the ability to take a break, but they still won’t do it or they hesitate to do it, they resist it. And then even when they do it, they have such conflicting feelings about it that they don’t get the benefit of the rest or the respite.

So before we even talk about respite resistance, I want to talk about why it’s important in the first place. The ability to take a break, even small breaks from stressful situations is so important for Autism moms because most of us are living pretty intense lives. Our children have big feelings, they have a lot of needs and so often it is mom who takes on the lion’s share of all of it.

And my experience from not taking respite for many years or resisting it is that the more you resist it, the less you actually enjoy the time that you do have with your child. You’re always on edge, you’re irritable. And at some point you actually do become resentful of the people who you say that you aren’t taking the rest for, they become the reason you’re not getting the rest and that can lead to a strain in relationships. Rest is important for us, like it’s important for every human being on the planet.

Rest is even more important for us now, given all of the responsibilities that we have and the intensity of our parenting experiences. So with that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the reasons that moms aren’t taking respite even when they can.

The first thing that I see is the guilt. As women and mothers, we are socialized that good mothers are always there for their children and the idea of taking a break is selfish or somehow a disservice to our kids. And then you add to this the guilt of burdening someone else, whether it’s your spouse, whether it’s a family member. I’ve even seen it with people that my clients hire for this very reason.

I have clients who don’t ask husbands or other family members not to help out because they don’t want to be viewed as not being able to handle everything, or they don’t want to be viewed as lazy. I have clients who have hired people to assist in their home and they feel guilty resting or taking a nap while that person is in the home for fear that the person they’ve hired to help them will think that they’re lazy.

There is also that guilt that dad or grandma or the sitter won’t do things exactly the way the child wants, or exactly the way the child is used to, that there will be some disruption in their level of service. And the fact is, there probably will be and that’s actually a good thing.

It’s always a good thing when our children are challenged to have to manage with other people, with different expectations and different styles, all of that creates flexibility. But for the moms, I’m just seeing so much guilt about the fact that they’re not going to have it the way they want and they should, and that this is somehow a bad thing.

The second thing that I see is that there’s worry for the child that they won’t be cared for at the level that mom would do it. Maybe the dad or grandma will get annoyed faster and they won’t know how to deal with the situation. And so I always see the moms worrying about their child not being cared for again at the levels that they think.

And then finally what I see and I have experienced this both as a parent and a sibling of a child with Autism is the fear of taking a break and not knowing what I’m walking back into. I have definitely had those experiences of not wanting to take a break and get all relaxed, only to walk into a screaming child, a distraught family member or sitter, a messy house or not having their routine started. To me that would have just been creating more stress and then the respite wouldn’t even have been worth it.

I remember this from my childhood. When my parents were in middle school they won a trip to Aruba and my dad was so excited to go. And I was so excited for my parents to go because my grandparents were set to watch us and my grandma was going to be sleeping over every night. I thought this was going to be so fun and I was so excited for this to happen.

But in the days leading up to the trip, I was really worried that my parents weren’t going to go at all because my mom kept on saying, “I don’t know if we should go.” And she wasn’t sure it was a good idea. And this made absolutely no sense to me. I knew how stressed out my parents were. I knew how much they wanted the vacation. So the idea that my mom would say, “We aren’t going or we shouldn’t go”, just blew my mind as a 12 year old.

Now, looking back on that situation and conversations I’ve had with my mom since. From her point of view, while the vacation would have been great, it was the coming back from the vacation that was creating so much stress for her. The idea of walking into a high anxiety situation, wondering what my sister had done. Perhaps my grandparents being annoyed or being upset or thinking that she was being disrespectful and not listening, created so much stress for my mom that she didn’t want to go on the vacation.

And then when she did not enjoy it nearly as much because she was stressed out about all of these things. So it’s like a chicken and an egg thing, too. If you’re stressed out about going on vacation because you don’t know what you’re going to be walking into and you spent all of the vacation being stressed, you’re not going to look at vacation as a way of actually getting respite. And again this becomes a vicious cycle but it’s not because taking a break is stressful.

The break in whatever form, does not actually cause that exhaustion, it is all the spinning in our brains that does this. And so often this ends up in Autism moms either doing the thing and feeling depleted because they’re feeling guilty about it, or they’re worrying about their child the whole time, or not doing the thing and feeling depleted.

In order to shift from this respite resistance, I’m going to share with you the work that I’ve done and the work that I do with my clients. And this might surprise you, but I’m not going to tell you how to take respite, what you should do or how you should do it, because taking the respite isn’t actually the first thing that you need to do. Because you could take the break technically and spend all of your time during the break being stressed out about it so you don’t get the benefit.

So in order to get the benefit of whatever breaks that you can take, it really starts with shifting how you think about respite in the first place, flipping the script. When we’re thinking about respite and all of the ways that it might disrupt, annoy or inconvenience other people, it’s always going to be stressful for us. So I want you to think about this in terms of the think, feel, act cycle. We talked about this in episode four or five and I will link it in the show notes.

Think, feel, act cycle is simply posits that the thoughts in our brain create feelings in our body and those feelings fuel our actions. So if we are thinking that taking a break is stressful and we’re feeling stressed when we actually take the break. Our actions of spinning and worry and guilt and checking in on the child, all of that is not going to result in us feeling refreshed. And so we really do need to look at how we’re thinking about the respite in order to shift our experience.

And so that is the question you need to ask yourself. How do I need to think about respite so I can actually enjoy it and reap the benefits of it? For me, my default thought about rest or before even when I could do it, it was something along the lines of, it’s not enough or it won’t matter anyway. And when I was thinking it wasn’t enough or it won’t matter anyway, I was in no way motivated to actually make it happen so then it didn’t happen. As a result, I’m not getting rest, I’m getting more stressed, I’m not having a break, I’m more irritable.

And I really needed to check that thought, it’s not enough or it’s not worth it because it wasn’t helpful for me. So when I did go from, I don’t think it’s enough to it’s enough, no positive affirmations, no trying to convince myself of something I didn’t believe quite yet. But what I did believe about respite was that it was important. I believe that rest is important just generally speaking, I can get behind that.

And so just that thought, this is important, focusing on it being important and then focusing on it being important to me and focusing on how it was important to my child that I got this rest. By being able to shift myself and my thinking to the benefits and to why it was important, it felt so much different for me. It no longer felt like a nice to have or a luxury, it felt more necessary.

It was part of just my daily life, my medicine, being able to have food, to being able to hydrate myself, to being able to have rest and respite. These were all of the things that actually helped me and enabled me to support my child. And just that shift in thinking made the experience of taking the rest, restful. I actually took a break.

But when you’re looking at taking a break as being an inconvenience to other people or something that you shouldn’t be doing because you’re making somebody else suffer, it’s not going to be a break at all. And it also requires you to really check-in with some of these thoughts that you’re thinking. When I hear the word guilty, I think of it in terms of we feel guilty for things that we’ve either done wrong or go against our morals and our values. And do you really want to feel guilty?

Do you really want to believe that you have no right or ability to take rest for yourself? Would you really want to feel guilty about that? Do you think that you’re wrong or you’ve done something bad? And most of my parents will say no, they don’t feel like they’ve done something bad, but they do feel uncomfortable. That is normal when you have been socialized to believe that being a good mom means being completely selfless, being essentially a martyr, doing something that benefits you will feel weird.

And what I want to encourage you is to let it feel weird, it will feel weird to shift your thinking. It will feel weird to create new patterns. That’s not a problem. That’s actually part of the process. Your ability to notice that it feels weird is part of the process. It’s not a reason not to do it. And so when it comes to respite, when it comes to rest, it’s really important for us to get clear on the value of it.

What do you believe is the value of you having rest and respite both for you, your child, your family, both today, tomorrow and in the long term? When you start focusing on thoughts like, for me it helps me stay calm. I am responsible for taking care of myself. This is my responsibility. When I feel calm, I’m able to model calm for my son. All of these thoughts, all of these beliefs that I have about rest, make taking the action of creating time for myself feel very necessary. I feel determined. I feel motivated. I don’t have a moral judgment about myself because of the rest that I take.

And so when you can take that away, when you can take away the judgment, when you can take away the guilt, when you can take away the should, you can actually get the benefit of the small breaks. And so again respite doesn’t mean a vacation. Respite means small breaks. And those small breaks can go a long way when you’re not beating yourself up, when you’re not telling yourself you shouldn’t be doing it, when you’re not telling yourself that you should be doing something for other people, or that you’re failing other people. You can get the benefit of even the smallest of breaks.

So that is what I encourage for all of you, take a look at your thoughts about rest and respite. If you see the thoughts that aren’t serving you, that are making it harder, check-in with yourself, are these thoughts true? Do I want to believe them? Are they helpful? All of this is part of the process of creating new patterns for you that will help you stay regulated, that will help you stay present and will enable you to navigate the ups and downs, the roller-coaster of Autism parenting with so much more grace.

Alright, that is it for this week, I hope this was helpful and I will talk to you next, take care.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you are ready to apply the principles you are learning in these episodes to your life, it is time to schedule a consultation call with me. Podcasts are great but the ahas are fleeting. Real change comes from application and implementation and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one coaching program. To schedule your consultation, go to my website, theAutismmomcoach.com, Work With Me and take the first step to taking better care of yourself so that you can show up as the parent you want to be for your child with Autism.

Enjoy the Show?

 

113: Parental PTSD (Part 2)

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Parental PTSD (Part 2)

Last week, we dug into the reality of parental PTSD and how it plays out in our lives as parents of children with Autism. This week, I’m here to share my personal journey and some of the strategies that have been the most effective in managing my own experience of trauma and PTSD.

What I’m offering isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s had a profound impact on both me and many of my clients. If you’re looking for ways to find your own sense of calm, even when your child is spiraling in anxiety or rage, these tips are small, easily implemented changes that can make a big difference in your overall experience.

Tune in today to discover a list of simple practices that keep me grounded as I navigate parental PTSD. These are small shifts you can begin incorporating right now to move from fear-based relations to intentional and purposeful responses, and I’m showing you how the daily practice of these tips has the power to transform who you are.

 

Join me for IEP Bootcamp! This is a three-day event happening in my Resilient Mom Facebook Group. Click here to join!

 

If you are ready to take control of your Autism parenting experience, my Resilient Autism Mom Program (RAMP) is for you. In my 1:1 coaching program, I teach you the tools and strategies you need to conquer the Autism Mom Big 3 (stress, anxiety and burnout). To learn more about my program, schedule your complimentary consultation now.

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • A list of things I’ve found helpful in managing my experience of parental PTSD.
  • What my experience of parental PTSD looks like.
  • The routines I’ve found to be incredibly powerful in regulating my nervous system.
  • How boundaries can counteract the feeling of helplessness that’s often associated with trauma.
  • The importance of self-compassion and purposefully creating a sense of community.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

>

 

Featured on the Show:

  • If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call ith me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here!
  • Sign up for my email list to get notified of coaching opportunities, workshops and more! All you have to do is go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up.
  • Schedule a consultation to learn about my 1:1 coaching program.
  • Join The Resilient Autism Moms Group on Facebook!
  • Click here to tell me what you want to hear on the podcast and how I can support you.
  • 112: Parental PTSD (Part 1)

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 113 of The Autism Mom Coach, Parental PTSD (Part 2).

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach podcast. I am your host, Lisa Candera. I am a lawyer, a life coach, and most importantly, I am the full-time single mother of a teenager with Autism. In this podcast, I am going to share with you the tools and strategies you need so you can fight like hell for your child without burning out. Let’s get to it.

Hello, everyone and welcome to the podcast. I am so glad you are here and I hope you are doing well. If you have not already, take a listen to episode 112 of the podcast, that is part one of a two part series on parental PTSD. In part one I talk about what parental PTSD is and how it shows up. And in this episode I am going to share with you my own experience, my own perspective, and the things that I find helpful for me in managing my experience of trauma and PTSD as a mother of a child with Autism.

To be clear, what I am sharing is not prescriptive, this is my experience. It’s what’s been helpful for me. It’s been what’s been helpful for a lot of my clients. So while I do have a very positive experience with what I’m going to share with you and I’ve seen my clients have really positive experiences as well. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not telling you what to do, but I am sharing with you what’s been really helpful.

Okay, number one. At the height of my anxiety, at the height of the most difficult situations that I was navigating with my son, I felt like I was having a panic attack all of the time. There were points where I felt like my heart was being squeezed, I couldn’t breathe. I was just in a really high state of anxiety. So when that was going on, I sat with a psychiatrist who prescribed an SSRI to me. And that was helpful for me on lowering the volume. I was no longer feeling like I was having panic attacks, although I was still very stressed and very anxious, it wasn’t as intense and that was really helpful.

I also for a time did see a therapist and to be really honest, the reason I saw a therapist was because everyone around me was saying, “You should see a therapist. You should go to therapy.” And I did and it was nice to be able to dump out what was going on to somebody else. And at some point it actually became a stressor for me because things with my son were pretty intense and they were evolving so quickly. And I would spend a portion of my time with a therapist catching him up on what was going on and answering his questions.

And that to me was really triggering because of what was going on with my son. I was talking about our situation, what was happening and the blow by blow with multiple professionals a week to get them up to speed in order to get insurance coverage and filling out different applications for different placements. And so to have another person who was asking me questions and I was explaining things to and I was catching up on, that to me wasn’t helpful.

And I was really honest with my therapist about it. I told him, “This isn’t helpful for me.” And I was very clear on what would be helpful. And so I highly recommend that for you too, if you’re in therapy, as the clients we get to tell them what we need, we get to tell them what they want. And so when I did that, I did find being able to just spill out to somebody, very helpful.

I always say the thing about therapy and coaching is that when you’re able to unload on somebody else, your friends get to be your friends because you’re not relying on them so much for that outlet. Not that you can’t do that with your friends. But sometimes when you’re in these chronic situations where it’s day after day, it can feel exhausting to do that with a friend. And then there’s also the fear of possible judgment or that you’re wiping them out and that maybe they’ll even avoid you. Not that any of this is true.

But I will tell you, when I was in that intense state of stress and anxiety, that’s where my brain went. I’m not going to have any friends. Nobody’s going to understand. They’re going to think I’m weird. So to have a totally neutral person to just unload on, very helpful. So medication, I think that helped me get to a better baseline to do the real work that has been the most life changing for me. And that all centers around nervous system regulation. At its core post-traumatic stress disorder is a disorder of the nervous system.

When we experience trauma, our brain and our body gets stuck in a state of hyperarousal. So we’re constantly scanning for threats. We’re living with our heads on a swivel. And we’re reacting as if the danger is still present and that makes it really difficult to have any calm. This was how I was experiencing it. And so I was trying to look at this from the perspective of, if I can’t change anything in my environment in terms of my son and what was going on with him, what could I change in my internal environment to create the safety?

And so that is where nervous system regulation comes in. So what I did is pretty much what I do with everything is I did my own research. I bought a couple of books. I took a couple of courses. I got certified of course. And I hired my own nervous system coach which have really teach me how to identify the triggers in my body, how they came up, to identify the experience of stress and being in fight and flight. And to be able to have that experience and create safety around it so I could lower the temperature and be less reactive.

So imagine being in a situation where whatever is going on with your child is still happening. But you’re able to show up in a different way because of the work that you’re doing on your internal landscape to create safety for yourself. One of the things that really helped me with my nervous system regulation and creating safety are routine and predictability, routine, habit, predictability, those are all signals that we are in control. We know what to do. We know how to do it.

And I needed that desperately in my life because I felt very out of control and pretty helpless to do anything about it when it came to my son. And so my ability to create routines and create boundaries was really helpful for me in feeling like I was more in control. And when I felt more in control, I was a lot calmer. When I was a lot calmer, I was able to respond and show up much differently than when I was feeling completely out of control, and like life was just happening to me and there was nothing I could do about it.

So one of the routines that for me was really helpful was waking up before my son because one of my big triggers is noise. So being awoken to yelling or screaming or slamming, that was enough to jolt my nervous system into overdrive and impact my entire day. And so just the simple routine of waking up before him, of being out of bed, of having my coffee, of being able to mentally and physically and emotionally prepare for him waking up, for him possibly being dysregulated. When I was already awake when I was already prepared it was a really different experience and I was able to handle it so differently.

Just that simple routine made such a difference in how my day went. And the thing was, when he did wake up and he was dysregulated or protesting going to school, because I was already awake, because I was already regulated, I wasn’t responding to him in the same way. I was able to stay calm. I was able to redirect myself. I was able to stay out of the worst case scenario thoughts.

Whereas before I might have gone down that rabbit hole of, oh my God, he’s not going to go to school. If he doesn’t get on the van, then I’m going to have to drive him. But maybe he won’t get out of the car. And if he doesn’t go to the school, then I’m going to have to stay home. And if I have to stay home, I’m going to miss more work. You see where I’m going. And that would all be happening in my brain. That would all be happening in my body, creating more stress and more irritability for me. And then I’m reacting to him with that stress and with that irritability and then it’s like a combustion.

And so just the simple act of waking up, being regulated, being prepared helped me lower the temperature on my reactivity. And in turn, I wasn’t escalating when he didn’t, I was staying grounded. And by doing that, he calmed down faster, or at least saw that he wasn’t getting the reaction he wanted from me.

Another thing that was really helpful for me supporting my nervous system regulation was creating boundaries. Boundaries help create a sense of safety and control and predictability in the environment. And boundaries can counteract the feelings of helplessness that are often associated with trauma. For me, creating boundaries with my son was so important, creating that predictability, creating the expectation and the predictability of if you do X, then I will do Y. And this was particularly so when it came to self-injurious behavior, aggression or property destruction.

There have been so many times where he might have been out of hand for a period of time. And I was just handling it and trying to resolve it on my own. Things got to the point where I just really needed to be clear with myself and with him what exactly would trigger a call to 911. And so for me, the rule was, if there’s aggression towards me, if there’s self-injurious behavior, if there’s property destruction, I will call 911. And that was so helpful for me in just creating that sense of, I know exactly what to do.

Even if he acts out in a way that I’m trying to prevent, I still know what to do. There would be no more wondering if and when, it was just very clear. And I went through the same exercise with one of my clients and her teen daughter in a very similar situation. Her daughter would be having a meltdown over a period of hours. And there was always the question of when do we call? So the ability to set a firm boundary of if this happens, then we do it, created so much more certainty and predictability for the parents.

And so then when my client’s daughter started to gripe about her shower time, my client wasn’t going into, oh my God, if this escalates, what do I do, I don’t know what to do. She knew exactly what to do. And so just that knowledge alone helped her to stay calm and helped her to stay regulated when her daughter started to protest. So she wasn’t then overreacting to her daughter, escalating her daughter, making it more likely that things were going to get to the point of having to call 911 in the first place. So all of this has a ripple effect.

They’re really small changes, but they have a big impact. If nothing else, creating the safety for you enables you to stay regulated. When you are regulated, you’re not reacting from your fear brain. You are responding in an intentional, purposeful way using your highest level of thinking.

Another thing that’s been really helpful is self-compassion, which is simply the practice of being nice to yourself, noticing your own pain, your own discomfort and validating yourself without judgment. Again, seems like a really small thing, but it’s a big deal. You having that voice in your head that’s criticizing you for what you’re going through, that’s beating you up, that’s second guessing yourself. That is all escalating your stress response. When your stress response is escalating and you are dysregulated, you will be reacting.

And so the simple practice of having a kind voice in your head, that can validate your experience, tell you, you are safe, till you, you are going to be okay can make a really big difference.

Next, mindfulness. Now, when I used to think of mindfulness I would think of somebody on a yoga mat. And while that can be part of mindfulness, mindfulness is so much broader than meditation or yoga or any one thing. Because at its core, mindfulness is just the skill of staying in the present moment, not in yesterday and not in tomorrow. And while yoga and meditation can help with that skill, they are helpful ways of becoming mindful. You can practice mindfulness in many other ways as well.

It’s anything that you do to bring you back to the present moment. That could be noticing your catastrophizing thoughts and not indulging in them. Notice, I’m thinking worst case scenario thoughts, that noticing that is mindfulness. The decision not to engage with them, that is mindfulness. There’s all things that you’re doing to bring yourself back to the present moment so you are not triggering your fight, flight response.

For me the things that help the most are deep breathing activities. Those really help me just to come into my body and come into my nervous system. Anything that has to do with movement, just being able to move and just stretch my body and just to really focus on the sensations. Especially when I’m stretching to just to be really mindful of where do I feel tight, what does it feel like? What if I push a little bit harder? What if I pull back? Just becoming into that experience, it’s just a way of reducing stress, lowering reactivity.

And finally something that I find helpful is connecting with other people. Just the process of being able to talk to someone about what’s going on, to normalize it, to validate it, to process it with, or even to just witness it. Even to just be there as a set of loving ears has been helpful for me. I have set this out in a variety of ways, one with my current friends, with new friends that I’ve made through these different experiences with my son, so other mothers of children with Autism who are dealing with aggression, hospitalization issues.

I’ve connected with a lot of women like this through my coaching program, which has been such a wonderful thing. And all this has just been helpful in feeling supported, to feeling like I’m not alone because it’s so easy for us to feel isolated and alone on this journey. So having to be purposeful about creating community, staying connected with community, it’s so easy to isolate ourselves. I don’t want to go to the happy hour and hear about college tours and SATs and all the things that my son’s never going to do. It’s so easy to do that.

And look, that might be a loving decision for you, for me at certain points and that’s totally valid. But that is also why it’s important to build connections with other people who do get it. Instead of focusing on the people who don’t, find people who do. Or for the people who don’t get it, telling them what you need, what you want, how they can best support you. Because I have found that the people in my life, the people who love you too, they want to support you, they just probably don’t know how.

And so I know it sounds counterintuitive, we want people to just know and to just get it and to just figure it out on their own and they might not. And it has been helpful for me to be really clear with friends. I want to go out tonight and I don’t want to talk about Autism at all, or I need to talk to you right now and I just want to yell and scream and be sad. And I don’t need you to tell me that I’m a great mom or everything is going to be okay. I just want to be mad right now. Getting really clear like that has been so helpful for me and has strengthened so many of my relationships.

Alright, so that is it for the things that I do to manage stress and to manage trauma and those types of triggers. Again, I want to point out that everything that I just talked about was my attempt to figure out what I could control 100%. I wanted to get to a place where even if my son was spiraling in an anxiety loop or was raging in an aggressive loop. That I wanted to know what I could do, how I could take care of myself, how I could create safety for myself. That was everything to me.

These are the things, the continued practice that is sustaining me, that keeps me going, that keeps me showing up, that keeps me at the table making the hard decisions, having the hard conversations, all of that. Everything that’s coming up with my son, he’s 16½. We’re coming up on so many life transitions. All of those things that I want to manage at my highest level, all of those things that are emotionally and mentally really heavy things, I know that I will handle.

And the cumulative impact of doing these small things, to making them part of who you are, they change who you are. I went from a person who was always in a worst case scenario loop to somebody who notices those loops and redirects myself. That is just not where I need to be spending my time. I’m sure I thought that was useful, that worry was a way of preparing myself and being on top of things. And now I know that’s totally just not true.

Same thing with self-compassion, definitely a person before who probably looked at self-compassion as feeling sorry for yourself or being indulgent. Now I really do see the value of not being an asshole to yourself, that really does help. And these aren’t big things. These are small things in terms of time and energy and difficulty in doing them, they’re small, but they’re a big deal. The cumulative impact of all of these things is how we rewire patterns, is how we create new patterns. It’s how we take control of the things that we can take control of.

And as an Autism parent, that is my north star. It’s the serenity prayer. Knowing the difference between what you can control and what you can’t, having the courage to take action and to change the things that you can and the wisdom to know the difference. Everything that I have just talked to you about really does line up with that thinking. And for me this is all about what can I control, what is mine, what can I own And if I can own it, how do I want to own it to the best of my ability.

Instead of focusing exclusively on trying to control my son, trying to control Autism, trying to control the environment and the situation. What if I spent just 10% of that time on the things I absolutely can control. For me, it’s been a game changer. It’s been a game changer for my clients.

If this is resonating with you, if you’ve listened to the last two episodes and you’re having similar experiences, I can help you with this. I do it with myself and I do it with my clients every day by teaching them these strategies, these tools and customizing them to their specific situations. To what will work for them, to the things that they will actually do to move the needle. And having that support and that accountability really enables you to make huge shifts in small periods of time.

I’ve had clients who during their first session have felt helpless and hopeless and teetering on depression to two sessions later, feeling like a different person, completely empowered. Having a different way of looking at things. Having a different way of responding to things. Seeing things not through the lens of what they can’t control, but seeing things through the lens of what they can.

And this is what I want for all of us because I know first-hand how much time we spend thinking about all the things that we should be doing or wondering if we’re doing enough or we’re doing the right things. What I’ve really learned for myself is the time that I spend getting myself right, regulating myself, regulating my mind, regulating my body. Being able to understand how to do that for me has helped me in so many ways with my son both in my interactions with him but also just in the role of being the CEO of a large team.

He’s got a lot of people on his team and there’s a lot of moving parts. And my ability to navigate all of that has improved so much because of these skills. So again, I encourage you, schedule your consultation call with me. You can use the link in the show notes or go to my website theautismmomcoach.com. And let’s talk.

Let’s see how we can work together so I can support you so that when you are going into this year’s summer break, you have a completely new and sustainable way of understanding and managing your stress and your anxiety. So that you’re not burning out and you’re able to enjoy your life and you’re able to enjoy your child. Alright, that is it for this week’s episode. I will talk to you next week. Have a great week.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you are ready to apply the principles you are learning in these episodes to your life, it is time to schedule a consultation call with me. Podcasts are great but the ahas are fleeting. Real change comes from application and implementation and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one coaching program. To schedule your consultation, go to my website, theAutismmomcoach.com, Work With Me and take the first step to taking better care of yourself so that you can show up as the parent you want to be for your child with Autism.

Enjoy the Show?

 

112: Parental PTSD (Part 1)

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Parental PTSD (Part 1)

You may not realize how big of a role post-traumatic stress disorder is playing in your life as an Autism parent. But trust me, it’s there. PTSD can occur from a single event, or ongoing chronic stress, whether that’s living in a war zone or taking your child with Autism to the dentist. Another example would be trauma from being assaulted by a stranger, likened to the trauma of being physically assaulted by your own child.

Trauma and PTSD are not reserved only for the kind of tragic circumstances veterans of war or attack survivors experience. Today, I discuss PTSD, what it is, and how it shows up in Autism moms specifically. In part two, I’ll be discussing some of the ways you can support yourself if and when symptoms of PTSD or the effects of chronic stress are appearing in your day-to-day life.

Tune in this week to discover why parents of children with Autism are at a higher risk of developing PTSD compared to parents of typically developing children. I share the clear indicators that you’re experiencing complex PTSD as an Autism parent, and you’ll learn to identify exactly where your chronic stress is coming from.

 

Join me for IEP Bootcamp! This is a three-day event happening in my Resilient Mom Facebook Group. Click here to join!

 

If you are ready to take control of your Autism parenting experience, my Resilient Autism Mom Program (RAMP) is for you. In my 1:1 coaching program, I teach you the tools and strategies you need to conquer the Autism Mom Big 3 (stress, anxiety and burnout). To learn more about my program, schedule your complimentary consultation now.

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why trauma and PTSD can arise from a wide variety of situations, such as Autism parenting.
  • How parents of children with Autism experience significantly higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression compared to parents of typically developing children.
  • The trauma we experience just getting a diagnosis of Autism for our child.
  • Why repeated trauma exposure leads to complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).
  • How to identify whether you’re experiencing CPTSD as an Autism parent.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

>

 

Featured on the Show:

  • If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call ith me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here!
  • Sign up for my email list to get notified of coaching opportunities, workshops and more! All you have to do is go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up.
  • Schedule a consultation to learn about my 1:1 coaching program.
  • Join The Resilient Autism Moms Group on Facebook!
  • Click here to tell me what you want to hear on the podcast and how I can support you.

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 112 of The Autism Mom Coach, Parental PTSD (Part 1).

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach podcast. I am your host, Lisa Candera. I am a lawyer, a life coach, and most importantly, I am the full-time single mother of a teenager with Autism. In this podcast, I am going to share with you the tools and strategies you need so you can fight like hell for your child without burning out. Let’s get to it.

Hello, everyone and welcome to the podcast. I am so glad you are here and I hope you are doing well. Before we get started, I’m going to read a review from Julie Speak. The subject of the review is, must listen for Autism parents. Julie writes, “Thank you for sharing your story. It has helped me immensely. This podcast is powerful and life changing for anyone with a child with Autism or any disability.” Julie, thank you so much for the review. I appreciate it so much. And I’m so glad that you find this podcast helpful and as a support in your journey.

This is exactly what I want to do with the podcast, I want to support as many Autism moms as I can. I want to teach you all of the things I wish I knew when my son was diagnosed and all the things that I continue to learn on this journey to support you the best that I can. And to do this, it’s really helpful to have reviews for the podcast. The more written reviews, the easier it is for moms like you to find me and to get the support. It will only take you a few minutes, go to Apple Podcasts, scroll to the bottom, write a review, submit it and I will read it on the air.

Okay, onto today’s topic of parental PTSD. I am going to address this topic in two parts. In this episode I am going to talk about PTSD, what it is and how it shows up in Autism moms specifically. And then in part two I’m going to talk to you about some of the ways that you can support yourself if and when you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD or the effects of chronic stress in your day-to-day life.

To talk about PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, we first need to talk about trauma. Trauma is defined as a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope. It can result from a single event or ongoing chronic stress from living in a war zone to taking your child with Autism to the dentist, from being assaulted by a stranger to aggression by your own child.

The point here is that trauma and PTSD are not reserved only for things like war or rape, which, to be honest, for the longest time I associated PTSD only with veterans of war. I think that is where the term PTSD arose from, the study of the experiences of veterans, but it’s not limited to their experience. Trauma and PTSD can arise from many situations. Trauma is not about who, what or where. It is about how an individual experiences the trauma and the impact on their ability to cope.

As some of you might know, there are several studies that show parents of children with Autism experience significantly higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression as compared to parents of typically developing children. And that’s surprising said no Autism mom ever when it comes to that. These studies also show that Autism parents are at a higher risk of developing PTSD compared to parents of typically developing children.

In fact, one study found that mothers of children with Autism were up to three times more likely to experience symptoms of trauma than mothers of typically developing children. Again, no surprise here when you consider all of the scenarios Autism parents experience regularly and repeatedly in various contexts, from the medical field to education to social interactions and just the day-to-day experience of parenting a child with Autism.

So let me give you a couple of examples. In the medical context, there is the uphill battle of receiving the Autism diagnosis in the first place. I talk to mothers every day who were put off, who were dismissed, who were told it was something totally different, who were told they were being overdramatic, who were told their child would grow out of it. These mothers were having a very specific experience, a very specific observation, and were being told by other people, “No, you’re wrong.” That in and of itself is a very jarring experience.

And then there is the experience of receiving the diagnosis itself, sitting there in the room while the person in the white coat gives you the news. I know for me, I was seeking the diagnosis. I put my son on many waiting lists and we were finally at the appointment and there was something in the back of my head saying, they’re just going to say it’s a speech delay. It’s probably just a speech delay. It’s probably not, but it was Autism and it was for sure Autism.

And hearing those words and time standing still and just going blank at the same time and just knowing your life is never going to be the same again, it wasn’t going to be anything like you imagined, is a very jarring experience. And then once you get the diagnosis, you continue to navigate the ever changing maze of doctors, specialties, insurance, just knowing that nothing is straightforward, nothing is ever easy, that everything is a production.

I tell my clients, “Whatever you think it’s going to be, times it by 10. And if it’s a little bit less, bonus and if it’s not, well, you’re prepared.” That is the nature of being a special needs parent. And the educational context, for most of you, I just need to say the three letters IEP and your stomach clenches.

Advocating for your child’s educational rights and accommodations, day after day, year after year, with ever changing staff, principals, case managers and schools is exhausting. And it can be quite traumatic when you are listening to people telling you all of the reasons that your child is behind. All of the things that they’re not doing. All of the ways that they’re not measuring up. Who are denying your experience saying things like, “That’s not happening at school. It must just be a home thing.”

Or just that feeling of being helpless and unsupported when you’re asking people to help you and to help your child and they’re not doing it and you feel like they are holding your life and your child’s future in their hands. It’s a horrible feeling and it’s not a one and done. It happens repeatedly. These are ongoing relationships that we have to manage day after day. And that’s just part of what we’re doing on top of everything else that we’re doing with our child.

I have a couple of clients who were just straight up being gaslit by their school districts. And I’m going to talk about gaslighting in a future episode. But this is something, intentional or not, that Autism parents face all of the time, being denied what’s right in front of your face. And even for the most strong willed, self-confident of people, this is something that will make you question yourself. It will make you question your own reality, especially when it’s happening over and in and context after context.

And then in the context of being in the community. There’s PTSD that arises from facing judgment and criticism of your child, of your parenting. Dealing with difficult interactions with people in the grocery store, being afraid that people are going to judge your kid, being afraid of just doing the normal day-to-day things because you’re not sure how your child’s going to react. And if they do react in a certain way, just being so afraid of how other people are going to respond to it.

That kind of stress, that kind of hypervigilance makes day-to-day activities like getting gas and running into the store for some milk and eggs very difficult and perhaps traumatic. And then of course, there is the day-to-day experience of parenting your child with Autism and all that entails.

For me, when I hear the words, “Mom, can we talk?” I feel sick right now just saying it. Because it triggers in me all the times that my son is perseverating over something he has his OCD loop going in his head. And I just go into the, oh my God, if this doesn’t resolve very quickly, he’s going to get triggered. If he’s going to get triggered, he’s going to get louder. If he’s going to get louder then it’s going to progress from there.

And so in that one second from hearing the words, “Mom”, I’m already there. Add to this things like self-injurious behaviors, watching your child punching themselves in their face, your child eloping from you, running out the door. Being hypervigilant in your own home or anytime you’re out in public with your child because you don’t know when they are going to zoom away. Chasing your child into traffic. I have had clients who have done this and it’s absolutely horrifying.

And most of the things that I have named in these different contexts are not a one and done. It’s not something that just happens one time and you remember it throughout your life or can get triggered in certain contexts. These are things that are happening regularly, repeatedly. That is going to trigger in your nervous system, the memories of every other time. It’s going to put you in a hair trigger reaction. You’re always going to feel like you’re on the edge.

And so these are just some of the contexts in which the trauma can arise. And so the fact that this stress, this trauma is chronic it’s a little bit different in the way I think about it from post-traumatic stress disorder. The idea of something happening at a fixed period in time being triggered thereafter, because this is happening on an ongoing basis. And this is what is actually referred to as complex PTSD.

This is not a distinct diagnosis from PTSD, but it is used to describe the effects of repeated trauma exposure, which is exactly what I just described above. And it’s so interesting because the symptoms, the key features of PTSD line up perfectly with what I have experienced in my life as a mom with Autism and what I see in so many of my clients. So I’m going to list off these features for you and just ask yourself, is this me? Does this sound familiar?

Number one, difficulty regulating emotions. Chronic stress can lead to heightened emotional reactivity, making it harder for us to manage our feelings of anger, sadness or fear.

Changes in self-perception. Prolonged trauma exposure can lead to feelings of helplessness, shame or guilt, and a negative view of oneself. I have had this experience so many times, just feeling like I was helpless to do anything about my situation. And I’m feeling a lot of shame about that and doubting my own competence as a parent.

Disrupted relationships. Chronic stress can strain personal relationships and lead to feelings of isolation and distressed.

Number four, loss of meaning or purpose. The relentless demands of Autism parenting can leave us feeling depleted and questioning our own sense of identity. I’ve had this experience so many times in my own life, and I’m seeing it with my clients too. You just don’t know who you are anymore because you’re used to working hard.

If you’re used to getting results in certain ways and now it feels like everything you do and you’re working so hard, you’re working harder than you’ve ever worked for anything in your life and feeling like you’re not getting the results that you want. It really makes you question yourself and second guess yourself. It makes you doubt yourself and it is exhausting.

And then finally, there’s all the somatic symptoms of chronic stress. There are disruptions in sleep, if you’re sleeping at all, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, chronic pain. All of these are symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. And the reason I bring this up, it’s not to slap a diagnosis on to the symptoms that you are feeling, but it’s to highlight to you that they are real. The experience you are having is real and there’s a name for it.

We’re not having the experience of being a bad mom, ineffective mom, the crazy mom, the drama queen, none of that. The symptoms you are having are the result of the chronic stress and trauma you are experiencing. And I think this is important to know, because when you are in a continued state of chronic stress, you are not going to see this for what it is. And the go to of so many mothers is to blame ourselves, is to think it’s a deficiency with us, that there’s something wrong with us, and there’s not.

You’re having a very real response and that’s just not the case. And in fact, that’s really an example of this entire experience of having an experience and then having it being denied at the same time. This happens to us all the time in the context of being a woman, of being a mother and then being a parent of a child with Autism, where you’re being told that the thing that you are seeing so clearly is not a big deal or it’s not the case, or that you’re wrong.

We experience this all the time and then we double down on it when we’re doubting ourselves, we’re questioning ourselves or we’re dismissing ourselves as being drama queens or crazy. That’s just a way of us doubling down on our own experience of trauma and it leads to more feelings of helplessness and isolation. And so it becomes a vicious cycle, that we can interrupt. And I think that starts with noticing your experience and validating it. You might not get that validation anywhere else. It has to start with you.

So take a listen to this episode again. See if what I’ve described resonates with you. Are you having these experiences? How is it showing up in your life? And validate yourself. And if you want to join this conversation with me and other moms like you, you can join my Resilient Autism Mom Facebook group. We’re going to continue the conversation in that group.

And then finally, if you are struggling with these symptoms, if you are struggling with your own chronic stress and the way that it’s showing up in your life, the self-doubt, the anxiety, all of that, I can help you with that. In my Resilient Autism Mom program, this is exactly what we target. The realities of Autism parenting, what it is actually like, the things that you can do to take control of your parenting experience.

We can’t control our children, but we can control ourselves. And this starts with understanding and appreciating what is happening for us on a day-to-day basis. And all of the things that we can do to interrupt the patterns that are keeping us stuck in that cycle and to create new ones. And this is exactly what I do in my one-on-one coaching program. If you are ready to break this vicious cycle and to feel better, more confident as an Autism mom, schedule your consultation now using the link in the episode notes, go to my website theautismmomcoach.com.

Alright, that is it for this week. Have a great week and I’ll talk to you soon.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you are ready to apply the principles you are learning in these episodes to your life, it is time to schedule a consultation call with me. Podcasts are great but the ahas are fleeting. Real change comes from application and implementation and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one coaching program. To schedule your consultation, go to my website, theAutismmomcoach.com, Work With Me and take the first step to taking better care of yourself so that you can show up as the parent you want to be for your child with Autism.

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111: Negativity Bias (MVP)

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Negativity Bias (MVP)

As we all know, meltdowns are far from a pleasant experience. That said, they’re usually not as bad as we make them out to be. In our minds, the sky is falling, nothing is working, and life is unfair. This is how our human brains work, and for a good reason.

If you find yourself fixating on all the ways your child might be falling short while paying little attention to the gains they’re making, this is your brain’s negativity bias at work. There is nothing wrong with it or you. That said, our propensity to favor the negative over the positive is not serving you, especially when it comes to parenting your child with Autism.

Tune in this week to learn why our human brains are wired to fixate on all the things that might go wrong, without considering what could or is already going well. I’m showing you how negativity bias impacts your parenting, what happens when you begin to notice your thoughts, and an exercise that will help you see the whole picture when your brain wants to feed you negativity. 

 

Join me for IEP Bootcamp! This is a three-day event happening in my Resilient Mom Facebook Group. Click here to join!

 

If you are ready to take control of your Autism parenting experience, my Resilient Autism Mom Program (RAMP) is for you. In my 1:1 coaching program, I teach you the tools and strategies you need to conquer the Autism Mom Big 3 (stress, anxiety and burnout). To learn more about my program, schedule your complimentary consultation now.

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why our brains are wired to be dramatic.
  • What happens when you start to notice your thoughts.
  • How negativity bias impacts your parenting.
  • An exercise to help you find balance when your brain is feeding you negative thoughts.
  • How to see where you might be catastrophizing or falling into all-or-nothing thinking.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Featured on the Show:

  • If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call ith me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here!
  • Sign up for my email list to get notified of coaching opportunities, workshops and more! All you have to do is go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up.
  • Schedule a consultation to learn about my 1:1 coaching program.
  • Join The Resilient Autism Moms Group on Facebook!
  • Click here to tell me what you want to hear on the podcast and how I can support you.

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 111 of The Autism Mom Coach, Negativity Bias.

Ever find yourself fixating on all the things that your child can’t do while paying little to no attention to the tremendous gains they have made? This is your brain’s negativity bias at work. To learn more about how this is impacting your parenting and an exercise you can do to bring some balance when your brain is feeding your negative thoughts, keep listening.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach, a podcast for moms who feel overwhelmed, afraid, and sometimes powerless as they raise their child with Autism. My name is Lisa Candera. I’m a certified life coach, lawyer, and most importantly I’m a full-time single mom to a teenage boy with Autism. In this podcast I’ll show you how to transform your relationship with Autism and special needs parenting. You’ll learn how to shift away from being a victim of your circumstances to being the hero of the story you get to write. Let’s get started.

Hello everyone and thank you for being here. It is a nice sunny day while I’m recording this and I have the windows open. So, you might hear children running by and screaming. That said, it’s just way too nice of a day to not have the windows open. Anyhow we have been really busy here between launching the podcast and getting ready for our move. We’ve had some pretty busy weekends but it’s fun.

I have packed up most of our belongings, who knew we could have so many things in a two bedroom apartment, but we do. And I have stacked the belongings up near our front door and my cats seem to think that this is a treehouse especially made for them. So, they’re way at the top of it and they’re fighting over who gets to sit where so it is pretty hilarious to watch actually.

Anyhow, this weekend I will be a guest speaker for the Autism Parenting Magazine’s annual summit. And I’m going to be presenting how to keep your cool while your child is melting down which is a really fun topic to talk about because it’s something that we all deal with. So, this summit will include Autism experts and speakers including Temple Grandin. So, if you’re listening to this episode on the date of release you still have time to get a free pass for the summit. And I’ll include the link in my show notes.

So, meltdowns. When I talk to my clients about meltdowns one of the things that I ask them is, “What went well?” And they look at me confused, maybe a little annoyed. And they say, “What do you mean? It was a meltdown.” And it’s not that I’m doubting or dismissing their experiences, I’m certainly not. I get that meltdowns are hard and I can certainly empathize. But as their coach I’m not here to say, “You’re right, it’s terrible, sorry, good luck.” No, that’s not how we roll.

So, what I do instead is I teach them what I’m going to teach you today so that they can begin to bring more awareness and gain more authority over  how they show up during a meltdown. So, let’s get started. As we all know meltdowns by their nature are not pleasant events. That said, they’re usually not as bad as we make them out to be. In our minds the sky is falling, we will never have a normal life. No one understands us. Nothing is working and life is not fair. Dramatic.

But this is your brain, this is all of our brains. Human brains are dramatic and for good reason. They are built to ensure survival, not happiness. Our primitive ancestors’ ability to survive depended on their ability to prioritize negative information like where the lions hang out, over positive information like which plants are delicious. Those who were more attuned to danger and who paid more attention to the bad things around them were more likely to survive and hand down those genes to their offspring.

So, while most of us don’t live in environments where we need to be in constant high alert to ensure our physical survival, the negativity bias still looms large in how our brains operate. Research has shown that human beings begin to develop their negativity bias in the first year of life. So, in addition to having brains that are hardwired to over-remember, over-focus on and over-rely on information that is negative. We’ve been practicing this skill since we were infants. So, we are good at it, really good.

One of the things that happens when we start noticing our thoughts is that we judge them and ourselves because we’re like, “Wow, I’m negative, I’m a negative person.” And if this is you, find some comfort in knowing that these negative thoughts are your brain working exactly as it’s designed to work. There is nothing wrong with it or with you. That said our propensity to favor negative over the positive in many instances, it’s not serving us especially when it comes to parenting our children with Autism.

Let me give you some examples of how I see this showing up. First, we tend to focus on all the things our kids are not doing versus what they are doing. It’s not that we don’t see the good and that we are not amazed by their progress, it is that we prioritize what scares us, remember, the brain wants to keep us alive, over what delights us. For example, when my son began to read I began to fixate over the fact that he was multiple grade levels behind his peers because to my brain being behind meant danger.

Second, we don’t enjoy the good because we are bracing for the bad. We are afraid to feel happy. We are afraid to let our guards down because we know that something’s going to happen, it always does. And when we do that we are having a bad time in the present moment and in the future moments. And finally, we fixate about all the things that might go wrong without considering what could go well or what is actually going well. But still our brains prefer this. They would rather us be on high alert scanning for danger and miserable than uncertain.

Brains hate uncertainty, it feels dangerous. So, what we do is we fill in the uncertainty with terrible thoughts and stories. And as if that weren’t enough, the negativity bias, it’s like a gateway drug. The gateway opening up the floodgates to all of our brains’ cognitive distortions like confirmation bias where we seek out evidence to confirm what we already believe while filtering out evidence that contradicts it. Like the last time we had a good week it was followed by two bad ones. So that’s why I need to brace myself.

All or nothing thinking where things are either one way or the other with no in between like my son reads at grade level or he will be homeless. Catastrophizing where we imagine worst case scenarios like if my child has a tantum at the party we will never be invited back. Or if my child doesn’t learn how to read and write by the time they graduate from elementary school they will never have a fulfilling life. Now that I have explained what I’m talking about, I want to give you an example from a recent coaching session where I walked a client through what went well during a meltdown.

So here is the situation. It was a Friday night and her brother and sister-in-law invited her and her family to dinner at a new sports bar. She really wanted to go, they’d never really got invited out by their family and she thought that her preteen son who has Autism and loves football would really get a kick out of this. So even though it was out of the ordinary for them to go out to dinner on a Friday night, especially when they had not extensively previewed this to her son, she decided to give it a go.

After an hour at the restaurant her son was done. He yelled, he kicked and he hid under the table while the adults quickly ate their dinner. Here were some of my client’s thoughts. I knew it, we can never do anything spontaneously. Confirmation bias. He is never flexible. All or nothing thinking. And we will never be invited to dinner again. A little bit of catastrophizing. During our session we went through the entire event taking a more balanced look at it. And here is what my client discovered.

Her child was actually very flexible. It was a Friday night, this was a last minute decision. He usually relaxes on Fridays and instead they were going to a new restaurant with new people, and as it happens, this restaurant was a sensory explosion of loud TVs, crowded tables and a packed arcade. Her son used clear communication. He told her several times in the car ride over that he didn’t want to go. While he was at the restaurant he used multiple coping strategies. He put his headphones on because the TVs were way too loud.

And he also played with his game to distract him while they were waiting for a table. He recovered quickly. Once he was in the car he fell fast asleep and he was fine the next morning like nothing had ever happened. And finally, my client had the opportunity to bond with her brother and to feel seen. Her brother doesn’t spend much time with her son so this was the first time that she saw her son have a meltdown. And afterwards he reached out to her and he told her how impressed he was by her and her son and that he had even ordered a book to learn more about Autism.

So, this exercise is not about rewriting history. It’s not about putting a positive spin. It’s about seeing the whole picture when our brains only want to focus on the negative. So here is an exercise that you can practice on your own. The first step to bringing awareness is first to notice when your brain is feeding you negative thoughts about yourself, your child or a particular situation.

Then picture a scale, like the scales of justice with one side piled high with all of your negative thoughts and tilted far in favor of the negative. Your task is to even out the scale even just a little bit by looking for evidence that will begin to tilt the scale more towards neutral. You can do this by asking yourself some powerful questions like, what else might be true about this situation? What am I missing? And what if I’m wrong about these negative thoughts? Give this a try and see what you find.

Before I go, to celebrate the launch of the show I’m giving away self-care packages that will include handmade soaps, soothing lotions, and other goodies from one of my favorite places in Philadelphia, Duross & Langel soap shop.  I’m going to be giving these care packages away to three lucky listeners who follow, rate, and review the show. It doesn’t have to be a five-star review, although I sure hope it is because I sure hope that you love the show. I want your honest feedback. I want to create a show that provides tons of value. So let me know what you think.

Visit theAutismmomcoach.com/podcastlaunch to learn more about the contest and how to enter. I’ll be announcing the winners on an upcoming show. Thanks, and talk to you next week.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you want more information or the show notes and resources from the podcast, visit theAutismmomcoach.com. See you next week.

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