Ep #34: When You Wish Your Child Was “Normal” (Part 2)

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | When You Wish Your Child Was "Normal" (Part 2)

The word “normal,” though just six letters, is extremely limiting, especially when used to refer to human beings. “Normal” promotes the myth that there is a right way to do things, but that isn’t true.

This episode is the second part of a two-part series on the word “normal” and why it is so frustrating when people use it to talk about our Autistic kids. This week we dive a little further into how “normal” is subjective and the ways in which it can be harmful for those with Autism.

Join me for part two as I talk about why “aggressive” is an inappropriate way to describe the physical reactions that those with Autism experience, how certain ideas and judgements both reinforce inaccurate biases and rob us of joy, and why we can be the ones that change how language is used.

I am accepting applications for new clients! All you need to do is click here, and you can schedule a one-on-one consult so we can discuss where you are, where you want to go, and whether coaching is going to help get you there.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why “normal” is such a frustrating word.
  • How “normal” looks different depending on where you live.
  • What makes “aggressive” such a bad descriptor for your child’s behavior.
  • Why you should start changing your language around wishing your child was “normal.”
  • How to think about “normal” behavior differently in order to alter your language.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • To get my worksheet for this episode, go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up!
  • Click here to get my Check What’s Triggered workbook, designed to help you identify some of the triggers you’re anticipating for this school year, and to crate thoughts that will better serve you.
  • Ep #33: When You Wish Your Child Was “Normal” (Part 1)

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 34 of The Autism Mom Coach podcast, When You Wish Your Child was “Normal” (Part 2). Thoughts are powerful, when we think, I wish my child was “normal” over and over, it becomes a belief. We believe there is a “normal”, but there isn’t. “Normal” is not a thing, it is completely made up. And the more we give into this idea that there is a “normal” without questioning it, the more suffering we create for ourselves by just accepting that there is a right way and that we or our children are somehow wrong.

The good news is that by doing this work of questioning your own thoughts, you can begin to shift your internal narrative and your own thinking and how you talk about your child and their uniqueness in a way that is inclusive and supportive versus exclusive and judgmental. To learn more, 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 welcome to the podcast. I hope you are doing well. If you have not already, take a listen to episode 33 of this podcast which is part one of the series, When You Wish Your Child Was “normal”. Alright, let’s dive in. The word “normal”, especially as it is used when referring to human beings is limiting and laden with judgment. N-O-R-M-A-L, just six letters all by themselves say there is a right way and a wrong way. There is what is expected and standard, and everything, and everyone else.

It promotes the idea, the myth, that there is one standard way of doing or being, and there isn’t. “Normal” is completely relative, it depends on so many factors, when and where you live, your race, your culture, your economic background, your sexuality. I mean you name it, there are so many factors that contribute to what any person, what any one of us thinks of as “normal”. Take this idea and apply it to Autism, we are told early on that one of the signs that our child is Autistic, is the fact that they don’t look other people in the eye when speaking.

And then go to any restaurant or in any place where human beings gather and what will you see? No one’s looking at one another, no one’s even speaking. They’re all staring at their phones. It is very “normal” to walk into a restaurant and see people at the same table staring at their phones. I mean how many times has the waiter needed to interrupt you just to take your order? But in this day and age in 2022, that is “normal” for some people. Now, look, it’s not “normal” for people who are in war torn countries right now, or people who are in third world countries and on and on.

But right now, if you’re listening to this podcast you probably think that that is “normal”. And anyhow, the point is, “normal” is relative, it depends on so many things. But when we use this word we are bringing all of the etymology of the word, all of the history of the word, the entire idea that there is a right way and a wrong way. When we use this word that is what we are communicating. And that’s what we’re internalizing in our own narrative. Words are powerful.

Think about the misuse of the word “aggression” as it relates to kids with Autism. Aggression is defined and understood as an intent to cause harm to another person. And we all know that’s not what is happening when a person with Autism engages in physical behaviors directed at themselves or another person. They are dysregulated. there is no intent to harm. It is an intent to communicate, to deal with overwhelming emotions. But when Jake acts out physically towards his aide as a result of sensory overload and dysregulation, well, that doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it? No.

The report you get home is that your child was aggressive. and when you hear this word, how are you thinking and feeling about your child or any child that is labelled as aggressive? Not well, right? And in addition to reinforcing the belief that there is a “normal”, this word, this idea, this judgment robs us of joy. It tells us that our kids or we, or both are broken in some way. It stands in the way of us loving our children and our lives as it is right now and appreciating all of the amazingness of our own children.

But here is the good news, we get to decide how we want to think and talk about our experiences. One of the ways that we can start to shift from the limiting and evaluative language of “normal” is by questioning it. What do I mean by “normal” when I’m thinking this? What am I really thinking? Even if it doesn’t roll off the tongue, so maybe instead of, I wish my child was “normal”, maybe it’s, I wish she could speak and tell me what is wrong. I just want to help her out.

Now, this won’t happen automatically but we can autocorrect if you will, or really just reminding ourselves what do I mean when I say, “I wish she was ‘normal,’ or I wish she wasn’t different”, what do I mean? I wish they acted “normal” in public, maybe that means I wish my kids were able to enjoy themselves in restaurants, or I wish other people weren’t staring at us. This might seem simple or not like a big deal but it is because language shapes how we experience the world. It is powerful.

Alright, good luck with this and let me know how it goes. I’ll 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.

Enjoy the Show?

 

Ep #33: When You Wish Your Child Was “Normal” (Part 1)

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | When You Wish Your Child Was "Normal" (Part 1)Whether we want to admit it or not, so many of us have had the thought, “I wish my child was normal,” at one point or another. Maybe it was when you received the diagnosis, or after a phone call from the school about an incident, or when you see your child with their peers and friends doing “normal” things.

This is something that comes up with my clients all the time, and they’re riddled with shame and guilt, saying things like, “I know I shouldn’t think that about my own child.” So, in the next two episodes of this podcast, I’ll be tackling the term “normal” so we can get to work dismantling unhelpful language that keeps our children oppressed and leaves us feeling powerless.

Join me for part one this week as I show you why it’s 100% normal if you’ve ever found yourself thinking, saying, or wishing that your child or parenting experience was “normal.” You’ll hear why it’s a natural human desire to want to be “normal,” and why you can both love your kid as they are and still wish things were easier.

I am accepting applications for new clients! All you need to do is click here, and you can schedule a one-on-one consult so we can discuss where you are, where you want to go, and whether coaching is going to help get you there.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What it means to be “normal.”
  • Why it’s 100% normal to wish your child was “normal.”
  • The role of the motivational triad in our desire for our children to be “normal.”
  • Why you can love your kid and wish they were “normal” or want an easier parenting experience.
  • How to start shifting the narrative around the term “normal.”

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • To get my worksheet for this episode, go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up!
  • Click here to get my Check What’s Triggered workbook, designed to help you identify some of the triggers you’re anticipating for this school year, and to crate thoughts that will better serve you.
  • Ep #4: Negativity Bias

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 33 of The Autism Mom Coach. When You Wish Your Child was “Normal.” Whether we want to admit it or not, so many of us have had this thought at one point or another. Maybe it was when we received the diagnosis. Maybe it was after a phone call from the school about an incident or a behavior. Maybe it is when we see our children with their peers and their friends doing “normal” things.

In the next two episodes of this podcast, I am going to tackle the word “normal”. So, if you have ever found yourself thinking, saying or wishing that your child, or your life, or your parenting experience was normal, these episodes are for you. In part one I’m going to tell you why it is a 100% normal to wish your child was normal. And in part two I am going to get to work on dismantling some of the language that is used to oppress our children and leave us feeling powerless. Stay tuned.

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.

Welcome to another episode of the podcast. I am so glad you are here and hope you are doing well. I am going to introduce today’s topic by telling you about my first coaching call with new clients. During this call, we are talking about goals, where the client is and what they want to get out of the coaching relationship. And as part of this I ask this question, “What do you wish was different and why?” And here’s what happens.

They pause, they look down and in some way or another they reply with, “I wish they were normal.” Followed by, “I know I shouldn’t say that. I know I shouldn’t think that about my own kid. Oh my God, I’m such a terrible parent. Who would say that about their own child?” And here’s what I say to them. “Of course, you do.” So why do I say this? Is it because I think that there is some version of normal and that our children aren’t meeting it and so we need to fix them and catch them up? No, that’s not why at all.

But before I get to why I say this, let’s start with the definition of what it means to be normal. Normal is defined as conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern. It is characterized by that which is considered usual. Do you know what this definition, what normal means to our primitive brains, the part of our brains that are only concerned with our survival and not our happiness? Normal means safety.

Conforming to a type, fitting in, being like everyone else. That means you are part of the tribe. You get to stay. You get to live. I know that that sounds dramatic but our primitive brain is dramatic. The survival of our ancestors depended on being part of the group, and part of the tribe, and not getting kicked off the island. So, when I say, “Of course you do”, what I am really saying and I do explain this by the way in my coaching, is of course you want your child to be safe.

Because I think in so many ways, this all comes down to safety. We want our children to be like everyone else, to be accepted, to be loved, to be safe. Another reason I say, “Of course you do”, is because of the motivational triad. The motivational triad tells us that humans are wired to seek pleasure, avoid pain and to be efficient. So, when you take a look at the thought, I wish they were normal, it meets all three elements of the motivation triad. If they are normal we avoid the pain of having a child who is struggling.

If they are normal we move towards the good feelings associated with fitting in. If they are normal we get to forego the tremendous effort, time, and resources we are pouring into therapies, doctors’ appointments, and recalibrating our regular routines. So of course, you do, of course you want more happiness and less pain, and less struggle for you and your child.

Here is the good news. This is not either or, it is both and. Two things can be true. You can love the heck out of your kid and still want them to have an easier life. You can love the heck out of your kid and want to have an easier parenting experience. So instead of trying to change your kid and shaming yourself, just take a step back and look at what is really happening here. You’re survival brain senses danger and it is trying to fix it. Your brain senses pain and struggle and it is trying to avoid it.

And the answer it has come up with is if my child is “normal” then everything will be okay, or at least easier. Once you can look at these thoughts and what is happening, and view it with compassion you can move towards deciding how you want to think on purpose about your child and your circumstances. But first, start with normalizing your thoughts and your feelings. You are wired this way. Your brain is responding in exactly the way it is intended to.

This does not mean anything about you, your child, or your parenting, nothing bad anyway. Once you really begin to believe this and to internalize it you can start doing the work of shifting the narrative of normal. And by the way, whenever I say normal, it’s “normal” because there ain’t no normal. I want you to get accustomed to treating yourself and this thought, not as the enemy, not as evil and not as something you need to feel ashamed about. I want you to treat it as shall I say normal or how you are wired?

We are wired to seek pleasure, to be happy and to have things be easy. That is actually normal for human beings. So as best you can use this teaching to create some distance between you, the parent who adores your child and wants the world for them, and this thought that will cause you to shame yourself. It is normal that you want things to be easier. It is normal that you don’t want your child to struggle. It is normal that you would prefer not to struggle.

In next week’s episode I am going to talk to you about how “normal” is not a thing and how to reframe the language that we use to describe our children and our experiences in a way that is inclusive, empowering and moves us forward. Thank you so much for listening and I will talk to you next week.

Enjoy the Show?

 

Ep #32: When You Think Nothing is Working

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | When You Think Nothing is Working

One of the most challenging aspects of raising a child with Autism is all of the time and energy we spend trying things, not knowing whether or not they’ll actually work. From therapy and medication to assistive devices and changing school environments, there is no roadmap, no one-size-fits-all. We end up throwing it all out there with inevitably varying degrees of success.

There are times we try and we try, but we just don’t get the results we expected or hoped for. We tell ourselves we’ve tried everything, we’ve done it all, and nothing is working. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

Tune in this week to discover what to do when you think nothing’s working. This is not about undermining your experience. I’m in the thick of it myself. Rather, I’m sharing how to be there for yourself and your child when it feels like you’re getting nowhere, and how to identify all of the things that are working, even if they differ slightly from what you expected.

I am accepting applications for new clients! All you need to do is click here, and you can schedule a one-on-one consult so we can discuss where you are, where you want to go, and whether coaching is going to help get you there.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • All of the things in my life that make me feel like nothing is working.
  • What the nothing-is-working story might sound like for you.
  • Why we get stuck hanging out with the thought that nothing is working.
  • What to do when you can’t get away from the belief that nothing is working, and how to see everything that is working.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • To get my worksheet for this episode, go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up!
  • Click here to get my Check What’s Triggered workbook, designed to help you identify some of the triggers you’re anticipating for this school year, and to crate thoughts that will better serve you.
  • Ep #4: Negativity Bias

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 32 of The Autism Mom Coach. When you think nothing is working. One of the most challenging aspects of raising a child with Autism, is all of the time and energy we spend trying things we have no idea will work, from therapy and medication to assistive devices and non-traditional school environments. And since there is no roadmap, no one size fits all, we end up throwing it all against the wall with varying degrees of success. And there are times we try, and we try, and we try and we do not get the results we expected or hoped for.

And we tell ourselves I have tried everything, I have done it all, and nothing is working. If you’ve been there and done that you are not alone. Keep listening to learn how you can show for yourself when you believe nothing is working.

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, and welcome to another episode of the podcast. I hope you are doing well and you are enjoying the October weather wherever you are. The topic for today’s episode is one I think so many of us can relate to. And as it happens shortly after I wrote this episode, I’m talking the day after, I had an experience that triggered the nothing is working story. What I want to share with you is the difference in how I related to the story and how much time I spent hanging out with it.

Because nothing is working, it’s a thought, it’s a story we are telling ourselves. It is not the truth. And so that’s what we’re going to talk about today. This is that’s not to undermine your experience, believe me, I get it, I am having it right now.  We are in month two of an intensive program and thigs are getting better in some ways and not in others. And so, it’s so tempting to go down the nothing is working road. But it’s an active choice not to do it. And so, I want to share that with you today.

So, a lot of you, if you’re listening to the podcast, you know that we are in an intensive program right now. And as part of that program there are a lot of doctors’ appointments, there is lot of conversations reviewing my son’s history, particularly in the past two and a half years. And as I review all of the details with them I am remembering so many times during the last couple of years where I believed nothing was working. And I really believed it.

After countless doctors’ appointments, therapy appointments, medications, hospitalizations, I believed that this was true. I believed that we were working as hard as we could, we were doing everything that anyone suggested and still my son was struggling a lot. Now, of course, this was not the truth but it was my interpretation of the facts. In my mind all of the steps I was taking was supposed to result in things getting better or easier and they weren’t, or at least not with the speed or the permanency that I was seeking.

So, I told myself over and over, nothing is working. Now, I want to point out that this is such an easy go to story for our brains, because remember our brains are equipped with a negativity bias. I talked about the negativity bias way back when in episode four. The short version is that we are wired to over-remember and over-rely on negative information. Our brains are like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive.

So, when we are feeding ourselves all of these negative thoughts like nothing is working, our brains are all in. Their job is to protect us. And they protect us by being hypervigilant of anything that could kill us or that we view as negative. And so not only are we feeding ourselves negative thoughts, we are actually seeking out confirmation for this negative thinking and filtering out evidence to the contrary. This is what is known as confirmation bias.

This is all of what is happening when we are telling ourselves nothing is working. And in my view and experience it is not helpful for a couple of reasons. First, when we are doing this we are putting ourselves in a position of helplessness. We are victims, life is happening to us, we are powerless. So, remember from the last episode when I talked about the stories we tell. When we are telling ourselves nothing is working, we are telling ourselves a story that is disempowering.

Second, we are creating our own suffering. Pain is inevitable, it is part of the human experience. We are going to experience feelings of pain when we see our child struggling, when we are disappointed or at our wit’s end when the therapy, or the medication, or the school does not work the way we wanted or expected. Experiencing pain in these circumstances is normal. And while it does not feel good, because it certainly doesn’t, we have a choice about whether we pile on and make it worse. That is what suffering is.

We suffer when we tell ourselves nothing is working because this belief is demoralizing and soul sucking. It does not motivate us or inspire us. It is like a punch in the gut, or really it’s like being kicked when you are down. And finally, when we are telling ourselves nothing is working, we are missing out or purposefully ignoring everything that is working. Now, let me be clear, I am not telling you to put a positive spin on your pain because that’s bullshit. I mean, we really do just ignore or miss what is working.

So let me give you some examples from my experience of the things that were working. Well, the school district, they were so supportive of my son’s needs. I found fantastic advocates, that was working. My health insurance, well, that was working, thank god, that was a life saver. All of these things were working. They were making this painful situation easier on me and easier on my son.

My friends who did not take no for an answer when I said I would just stay at home, and came to my house. My coworkers who picked up the slack when I took time off for various emergencies. Ben’s friends who stood by his side with love and encouragement and learned strategies for redirecting him. All of this was working. And for the things that were not working the way I wanted, or expected, or hoped, this all became information and data to add to the suitcase I have been accumulating over the years.

So now that I told you my thoughts on why saying nothing is working, is not working for us, I want to give you some strategies about what to do. First, pause, deep breaths, do whatever you can to self-soothe and offer yourself support because very likely this thought, nothing is working is likely to set off a survival response in your nervous system. You’re either in fight, flight or in a shutdown. So, by breathing you can start to return yourself to a more regulated state of safety and connection.

Then notice the thought, when you do this you want to create some distance between you the thinker and the thought. You can do this with the phrase, I am having the thought that nothing is working. Remind yourself that this is a thought and like so many of the negative thoughts we think, it is pretty automatic. But this automaticity does not mean that this thought is the truth of the universe. It just means it’s one you have had before, your brain has practiced it before so it feels true. It’s still just a sentence in your brain, real, not necessarily true.

Next, decide how you want to relate to this thought. Here’s what I mean by this. We can let our thoughts come and go or we can spend a lot of time with them. We can be like, tell me more thought, what else do you have to say? Nothing is working, you’re right, let’s think of all of the evidence of all of the reasons that’s true. So, it’s like do you want to let the thought go or do you want to hang out with that it? This is what I mean by relating to the thought.

We’re not going to stop this thought from coming up, it’s going to happen. We can choose though how we decide to relate to it. For me, when it comes up I just like to remind myself, of course I’m having this thought right now. I always have this thought when this happens, of course I am, it’s okay. And redirect myself that way. So that way I’m not resisting the thought, it’s here, come on in, I see you but I’m not hanging out with you today. I have got other things to do.

Then be mindful. This thought will keep popping up and each time it does you repeat this process of examining and redirecting your brain in the direction you want it to go, so you can choose how you want to think, feel and respond when this happens. And then finally, when you are feeling a little bit better, a little less triggered, take a look around and notice what is working. When you start to look for what is working, you will find it. This is you using your brain’s confirmation bias in your favor. Put your brain to work by asking it the question, what is working, what is going well?

The more you do this the more you build the muscle of deciding on purpose how you want to think and relate to your automatic negative thoughts. Alright, that’s all I have for this week. Thank you so much for listening and I will 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.

Enjoy the Show?

 

Ep #31: The Stories We Tell

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | The Stories We Tell

Did you know that the stories we tell aren’t necessarily true? They feel real, and you may be recalling a story exactly as you experienced it. But the truth is the stories we tell are a combination of facts as well as our judgments and interpretations.

Human brains are story-making machines. We create stories as a way of understanding our lives, relating to the world, and relating to one another. However, some of the stories we tell are empowering, while some have the opposite effect, and our power lies in our ability to choose the version of the story we want to tell, believe, and live.

Join me this week to discover what stories are, the countless factors that influence how we interpret them, and why you can choose on purpose how you want to think about the circumstances of your life. I’m offering two very different diagnosis stories drawn from the same set of facts to show you how there is no ultimate truth, and why this is the best news.

I am accepting applications for new clients! All you need to do is click here, and you can schedule a one-on-one consult so we can discuss where you are, where you want to go, and whether coaching is going to help get you there.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What stories are.
  • Why our thoughts are real, but not necessarily true.
  • How we often default to telling stories from our lives in a way that doesn’t serve us.
  • What determines our experience of the stories we tell.
  • How to see the impact of the choice you’re making when it comes to the stories you tell.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • To get my worksheet for this episode, go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up!
  • Click here to get my Check What’s Triggered workbook, designed to help you identify some of the triggers you’re anticipating for this school year, and to crate thoughts that will better serve you.
  • Lark
  • Atypical – Netflix

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 31 of The Autism Mom Coach, The Stories We Tell. Human brains are story making machines. We create stories as a way of understanding our lives, relating to the world, and relating to one another. Some of the stories we tell are empowering and some of them are just the opposite.

In this week’s episode I am going to tell you two very different diagnosis stories drawn from the same set of facts. Which is true? Well, both and neither. There is no ultimate truth. There are always multiple interpretations of the same facts available to us in any given moment. And our power lies in our ability to choose the version of the story we want to tell, believe, and live. To learn more stay tuned.

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, and welcome to another episode of the podcast. I am so glad you’re here and I hope you’re doing well. I have some fun news to share, in a couple of weeks my son and I are going to be doing a presentation together called how to talk to your child about their Autism diagnosis. We’re going to be doing this for a local Connecticut organization called The Lark. And I will put the information in the show notes.

Anyhow, my son has some very strong thoughts about this topic. And so I am so excited for him to have the ability to share his perspective with the parents because I just think that it’ll be so informative for them to hear really straight from a person who has lived this experience.

One of the things I will have to share during this presentation is that I didn’t actually tell my son about his Autism diagnosis. He figured it out while he and I were watching Atypical together when he noticed how similar he was to the main character, Sam. Anyhow, it should be a really interesting conversation.

And I will share more on my social media about this conversation and some of my thoughts about it. So if you don’t already, follow me on Instagram and follow me on Facebook. You can find me in both places, The Autism Mom Coach. On Facebook I have a private group and on Instagram I just have The Autism Mom Coach page.

All right, so on for the topic of today, the stories we tell. So first, what are stories? Stories are a collection of sentences, thoughts in our brains. And what do we know about our thoughts? They are real, but not necessarily true. They are simply our interpretation of the circumstances in our lives, influenced by a countless number of factors from our gender, sex, age, upbringing, education, race, religious background, and on and on.

Whenever we tell a story about our lives, whether it is the story about how we got married, divorced, pregnant, or learned of a diagnosis, we think that that story we’re telling is the story. We think that when we are telling a story, we are recalling it exactly as it happened and that the way we experienced the story was the only way it could be experienced. But this isn’t true.

When we tell a story it is a combination of some facts as we recall them, and a lot of judgment and interpretation. And so often we default to telling these stories in a way that does not serve us. In a way that casts ourselves as the victim of our circumstance, of life happening to us, and from the version of ourselves who is not enough, not doing enough, or no matter what she does, never get it right.

Here’s why this is important to know. It is not the facts, the real actual facts of the story that are causing us to feel anything. Rather, it is how we interpret these facts that create how we feel and determine our experience of the story we are telling.

I want to demonstrate this by telling you two versions of the same story. First, I’m going to start off with just telling you the facts. And then I’m going to offer you two different versions of the story. And first we’re going to start off with a silly one.

Here are the facts, I have two cats and a hamster. There is a teenager who is babysitting my animals while I am away. Last weekend the teenager cleaned out the hamster cage and did not return the lid to the top of the cage. The hamster did not escape and it is still alive.

So here’s version number one. My sitter is so careless, my hamster could have been murdered. I could have walked into a gory mess. I can’t trust her.

Version two, I am so glad I opted for an aquarium cage. There is no way a hamster is escaping it even with the lid off. And of course she is alive, there is no way my cats would have harmed her. They know that she’s family and not desert.

So which version of the story is true? Well, both and neither. There’s no ultimate truth here. There’s just how I choose to look at it. And I am choosing the second version of the story because I don’t want to think ill of the teenager who is watching my animals. And I am really entertained by the idea or the thought that my cat’s would never hurt my hamster because she’s family.

Now, I know that this was a silly example. And I did that on purpose because I just wanted to highlight how different of a story I could tell using the same facts. So onto a story that is not silly and is much more serious to me. And this is the story of my son’s OCD diagnosis.

Here are the facts, my son began exhibiting high levels of anxiety at the age of six. We met with many professionals, developmental pediatricians, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists and various therapists. I bought a bunch of books about anxiety.

I learned how I may be feeling the anxiety and I experimented with different strategies and metaphors to help my son understand his anxiety and cope with it. Over the years I asked various professionals about OCD. And I was told that OCD and Autism are very similar and it was difficult to tell which was which. At the age of 13 my son was diagnosed with OCD.

Version of the story number one, I should have known. I should have done more. I should have pushed harder. We have lost so much time. I can’t trust myself or anyone else.

Version two, wow, I suspected for a while that Autism was not driving the bus and I was right. Even though I didn’t have an official diagnosis, all of the things I did were on point. Also, I don’t know that an official diagnosis would have changed much when my son was younger. I think he’s at the right age and stage of development now to understand the concept of externalizing his OCD and bossing it back. We are doing exactly what we need to do.

So which version of this story is true? Again, both and neither. There is no single truth. And it does not matter which one of these stories is true. The facts are what they are and I can choose to tell myself the default story that this is my fault and we are behind and I should have done more. But why? It’s not helpful at all.

This story does not serve me in any way. It would undermine my confidence and my competence as the sole decision maker in my son’s life. There is absolutely no upside to me telling myself I should have done more and this is my fault.

I choose to tell and believe the version of the story that empowers me. The version of the story where my gut instincts were spot on. I can trust myself and I was doing so many of the things that were helping my son before I even knew what was wrong. That’s the story I want to live into.

But this is a choice because, trust me, there are plenty of times where the default, you should have done something, you should have known, those thoughts pop up. The difference is, is I just notice them. I relate to them differently. They’re not the truth of the universe, they’re just a thought that I’m having. And I lean in to the story I want to believe, the story that I want to live.

Because the way we think about things, the way we talk about them, creates our experience. And this is so important because how we’re feeling is going to drive our actions. It’s going to drive how we show up, it’s going to create our reality. We are in charge of that. And so one of the ways that we can take hold of it is by choosing on purpose how we want to think about the circumstances in our lives.

So if you want to give this a try, pick a topic and write down just the facts. And then write down the default story you are telling yourself about these facts. And then write down the version of the story you want to believe, that you want to live into.

What is the difference between those two stories? What are the thoughts that are standing in between you choosing the story that empowers you right now? This is where your work is, uncovering those limiting beliefs that are keeping you stuck. Because here’s the thing I’ve learned from coaching, how we do one thing is how we do everything.

So if you were stuck in an I’m not good enough, I’m not doing the right things story about your parenting, it’s probably showing up in other areas of your life. Maybe in your relationships, maybe at work. So uncovering those limiting beliefs and seeing the impact that they are having in your life and seeing the choice that you have to choose a different way of thinking about it, this is where it all begins.

If you want some help with this, this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one coaching program. You don’t have to stay stuck and you don’t have to do this alone. I would love to support you and your transformation. If you are interested, go on my website, theAutismmomcoach.com and schedule a consultation.

All right, that’s all I have for this week. I will 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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Ep #30: Autism-Colored Glasses

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Autism-Colored Glasses

Do you ever find yourself interpreting all of your child’s behaviors through the lens of their Autism diagnosis? When so much of your life revolves around supporting a child with an Autism diagnosis, it’s common to see Autism everywhere, even relating to other people in your life who don’t have a diagnosis of this kind.

You have new information and a new perspective, so you walk around with what I’m calling Autism-Colored Glasses, wondering if a behavior is attributable to an Autism diagnosis. Now, while these Autism Colored-Glasses can be incredibly useful in creating understanding, compassion, and empathy, it doesn’t always work out this way, and looking at your child this way can lead to more anxiety and anxiety-fueled action.

Tune in this week to discover how you show up when you look at your child’s behavior through Autism-Colored Glasses. I’m showing you why there’s always more than one way of looking at your child’s behavior, and I’m showing you how to see if you’re missing out on the bigger picture or causing yourself unnecessary stress and anxiety when addressing your child’s behavior.

I am accepting applications for new clients! All you need to do is click here, and you can schedule a one-on-one consult so we can discuss where you are, where you want to go, and whether coaching is going to help get you there.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • The situations in which viewing the world through Autism-Colored Glasses can be useful.
  • How Autism-Colored glasses allow us to have more compassion for others, whether or not they have a diagnosis.
  • Why Autism-Colored Glasses can sometimes lead to anxiety-fueled actions.
  • Some examples from my clients of perceived problems that actually didn’t need solving.
  • How to see the ways that your Autism-Colored Glasses are positively or negatively impacting the way you’re showing up as a parent.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

  • To get my worksheet for this episode, go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up!
  • Click here to get my Check What’s Triggered workbook, designed to help you identify some of the triggers you’re anticipating for this school year, and to crate thoughts that will better serve you.

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 30 of The Autism Mom Coach, Autism-Colored Glasses. Do you ever find yourself interpreting all of your child’s behavior through the lens of their Autism diagnosis? If so this episode is for you. 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 welcome to the podcast. I’m so glad you’re here and I hope you are having a nice week. Before I turn to this week’s topic I want to read a listener review from Harrison’s Mom. She writes, “I found the Autism Mom podcast one day after a tough meltdown from my two and a half year old son with suspected Autism, which resulted in me having my own mommy meltdown. I was in the car desperate to find anyone who was going through what I was going through. I stumbled upon Lisa’s podcast and I felt like she was describing my life to at tee.

I can’t begin to tell you how much Lisa’s advice has helped me. Even though her son is much older than mine, I’m still able to find tons of tips and tricks that I can apply to my life. Some days I feel like I hear Lisa’s voice in my head guiding me through the think, feel, act cycle, more than a hear my own.” She then says, “Lisa, thank you for all you have done for us and the advice I know I will get from you in future episodes.” Well, Harrison’s Mom, you are a 100% welcome. And I am so happy to hear that you found this podcast exactly when you needed it.

I have had many a meltdown in a car and I will say although my son is much older than your two and a half year old, the lessons that you are learning now, everything that you are going through now, it’s like the initiation. And you are going to learn so much right now and you’re going to be able to fall back on these skills as your child grows. And as they grow and you get more experienced with riding the wave of the ups and downs that come with raising any child but particularly a child with Autism, you will gain more and more confidence.

So even when you get to say 10 or 11, and you’re dealing with some brand new to stuff, you’ll have all that experience from when your child was two a half years old and you didn’t know what was what, but you figured it out, but you got through it. You’re going to keep on doing that. And part of the reason for me having this podcast is I know that the number one resource for any child with Autism is their mother. Or really I shouldn’t just say the mother, their parents, but my focus is on the mom, you are the number one resource.

And so, your ability to ride the wave, to take care of yourself and to be resourceful and resilient is going to serve both you and your child. And that’s why I do what I do. It’s why I have the podcast. It’s why I have my coaching program. And I really do believe that our ability to support ourselves and support each other is going to be the gamechanger for all of our children because in case you haven’t noticed, no one is just making that happen for us. We’re going to do it ourselves. But in order to do it we need to be replenished. We need to be resourced.

And that’s not happening when we’re spending all of our time and energy focused on our children. And when we’re not focused on them we’re actually focused on beating ourselves up in some way telling ourselves that we’re not doing enough and shaming ourselves. Really there’s just no place for that in this journey. And so, whatever I can do, whatever words I can provide to guide you into treating yourself better and to being kinder to yourself, well, that’s what I’m here for.

Okay, so rant over, let’s get to the topic for this week’s episode, Autism-colored glasses. Now, when so much of your life revolves around supporting a child with an Autism diagnosis, it’s really common to begin to see Autism everywhere. I know this happened for me shortly after my son was diagnosed. It was like every work meeting I was in the wondering, no eye contact, maybe an Autism diagnosis. Doesn’t understand sarcasm, maybe Autistic.

I see this in my clients too. They are encountering people that they have known for years and now they are questioning whether some their quirks or behaviors are somehow attributable to Autism. Who knows? But you get the idea. You have new information, a new perspective and all of a sudden you start seeing it everywhere. So, when you start seeing Autism everywhere this is what I am calling Autism-colored glasses. This is when you are wondering whether a behavior is because of or attributable to an Autism diagnosis.

Now, I think, Autism-colored glasses can be amazing especially when they lead to increased empathy, curiosity, acceptance and understanding. So, for example let’s say that you are at the store and you see a child losing it. And maybe before your child’s Autism diagnosis you might have thought something like, that child’s a spoiled brat because they’re not getting their way. Or their mom isn’t disciplining him the way she should. But now that you have on your Autism-colored glasses, your thoughts may be a lot kinder and a lot more generous and compassionate.

So maybe instead of judging this mother or giving the child a dirty look, maybe you smile at the mom, maybe you offer to let her in line in front of you. Or maybe you just think warm thoughts about her and her child because you are wearing those Autism-colored glasses. Now, of course you don’t actually know whether or not the child has Autism. But the fact is when you’re wearing the Autism-colored glasses you might be showing up differently.

And this is a great thing, if it’s used to bring more, again, compassion, understanding empathy into the world, wonderful. But here is the thing, I see so many examples in my life and in the life of my clients where our Autism-colored glasses are leading to increased anxiety and anxiety fueled actions. This happens when we attribute all of our child’s feelings and all of their actions to their Autism diagnosis. And I think this is because when we believe that the behavior is caused by the Autism we also believe consciously or subconsciously that this is a problem to be fixed.

So let me give you an example. My client was upset when her three year old son refused to get on the back of a truck for a hay ride. They were at a pumpkin patch and my client thought it would be so cool for her son to be on a hay ride. Well, he didn’t, he was not having it. He wanted nothing to do with that big noisy truck filled with itchy hay. She interpreted his refusal to get on the truck as being because of his Autism. And in her mind he was missing out on a fun experience because of his Autism.

Well, these thoughts created by her Autism-colored glasses caused her to feel anxious. And when she was feeling anxious, here’s how she showed up. First she tried to persuade her child to get on the truck even though he clearly didn’t want to. And then when that didn’t work she spent the rest of the night spinning about how they missed out on the fun and wondering how many other fun experiences or milestones they would miss because of the Autism.

I remember when my son was around three years old, so this was shortly after the Autism diagnosis. I would take him to the children’s museum in Philadelphia and they had so many amazing exhibits. But where did my son want to spend most of his time? The Thomas exhibit. And my thought was, we are missing out on the rest of this museum because he is Autistic. Of course, he wants to play with the Thomas train, all the Autistic kids did. These were my thoughts.

And so, when I see my son fixated on playing with Thomas, my thought was, oh my goodness, this is because of the Autism. This is the Autism rigidity. I need to make him do something else. Well, look at whose being rigid then, me. I was laser focused on the fact that he was having fun with this one activity that I associated with being the proof of his Autism.

And my actions were to try to persuade him to do things he didn’t want to do. And what was the end result? He didn’t have as much fun as he wanted to and we were just in this unnecessary struggle. So, if this is you, if you find yourself attributing all of your child’s behaviors to Autism and this has resulted in you being anxious and trying to fix or control your child, here is what I suggest.

First, notice when you are looking at your child’s behaviors through your Autism-colored glasses. Notice the feelings that come up when you’re doing this and what kind of actions you are taking and how you are showing up when you believe that your child is doing or not doing something because of the Autism. Then ask yourself, if I did not believe that this behavior was because of the Autism, what would I think, how would I feel and what would I do?

For my client with the hay ride, she told me that she would not have given it a second thought if she didn’t believe it was Autism related. She would have just figured he wasn’t interested or maybe the hay ride looked a little bit scary for him because of course it was on the back of a pickup truck. And she would have went on with her night. She would not have been fixating about the hay ride and everything that she believed that they messed and that they would miss in the future.

And the same thing for me, if I wasn’t fixated on my son playing with the Thomas train as being the harbinger of our life to come because of his Autism then I would have just let him play with the train and not made it a big deal at all. I mean maybe I would have tried to persuade him to check out other areas of the museum. But I would not have been attaching the kind of importance to it as I was because I believed that he was missing out and this this just because of the Autism.

And that if I didn’t do something that he would be missing out on things for the rest of his life. I was catastrophizing because he wanted to play with trains as opposed to just being like, whatever, he’s three, let him play. Here’s what I’ve learned from practicing this technique of asking myself, what if it isn’t because of the Autism? I have noticed that invariably I am a lot calmer when I’m not attributing a behavior to the Autism.

Now, this won’t always be the case. Sometimes you will be looking at your child’s behaviors through the lens of Autism and it will create a lot of compassion and a lot of understanding, and that’s good too. The point of this exercise is really to decide where do you show up in a way that you like better? And so, if thinking of a behavior through Autism-colored glasses creates more compassion, more empathy, more understanding, more curiosity, then go right ahead.

But if you find that it’s not creating those emotions, if it’s creating anxiety and judgment, maybe asking yourself, well, if I didn’t believe it was because of the Autism, let’s say I think well, he’s four years old, that’s why it’s happening. And when you believe that it’s just because he’s four you’re like, “Whatever, it’s no big deal.” Then I feel like that’s a better way to show up. You’re not as stoked with anxiety. You can show up a lot calmer and you can model behavior that you want your child to exhibit.

The point here is there is never just one way of looking at our child’s behaviors. And when we are always looking at them through the lens of our Autism-colored glasses, we may be missing out on the bigger picture or we may be causing ourselves unnecessary stress and anxiety. So, when we try to look at alternative views for the behavior we give ourselves an opportunity to decide how we want to show up because that’s the point. We always get to decide how we want to show up.

And so, if this shift helps you in showing up in a way that is calmer, more collected, more grounded, I hope that you use it. Alright, that’s all I have for you this week. I hope you enjoyed this podcast episode and I will 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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