64: Anger

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Anger

This week’s episode is inspired by real-life events. My son recently went from living in a residential placement to now being home, which means we are in search of another placement. I am angry about how hard this is, and how much time, effort, and resources have been expended, only to feel like we’ve not made any progress.

The truth is we’re going to feel angry parenting our special needs children sometimes, and it feels so shameful that we push it down, ignore it, or go buy a gratitude journal to paper over the anger. However, repressing your anger or pretending it’s not there is not a healthy way to process this emotion.

Join me on today’s episode to learn the difference between feeling angry and staying angry, and the power of learning to process difficult emotions. I’m sharing my preferred way of processing anger, and 25 things that get me angry about parenting in Autism to show you how voicing the things we experience that other people might not understand can be extremely cathartic.

You dont have to do this work alone. We do this work every day in my 1:1 coaching program. If you are ready to relate differently to the thoughts in your life that are keeping you stuck and in pain, now is the time to schedule a consult!

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How our socialization as women shapes our response to and experience of anger.
  • Why repressing your anger is not a healthy way to process it.
  • What happens when you resist your emotions.
  • The power of learning to process your difficult emotions.
  • 25 things that get me angry about parenting in Autism.
  • How I process anger as it relates to parenting in Autism.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 64 of The Autism Mom Coach. Anger. This podcast episode is inspired by real life events. I am angry and in this episode I am going to teach you why being angry is okay and why repressing it, pretending it is not there or trying to paper over it with gratitude journals is not a healthy way to process this emotion. I am also going to share with you one of the ways that I process anger that I hope you will find useful or at the very least, entertaining. Stay tuned.

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 and other comorbid diagnoses. I know what it is like to wonder if you are doing enough or the right things for your child and to live in fear of their future.

I also know that constantly fueling yourself with fear and anxiety is not sustainable for you or of any benefit to your child. That is why in this podcast I will share practical strategies and tools you can use to shift from a chronic state of fight, flight to some calm and ease. You are your child’s greatest resource, let’s take care of you.

Hello everyone and welcome to the podcast. So the last two months and more specifically the last two weeks have been a whirlwind. Long story short is my son went from living in a residential placement to now being home and we are in search of another placement. And I am so frustrated and angry. I am angry because of how hard all of this is, about how much time, effort and the resources expended to still feel like we have made little progress, or just the opposite.

Now, I know there are a lot of thoughts that are creating this anger and I can work to clean those up. But right now in this moment I am angry. And I am not trying to pass over this by telling myself that I should not be angry or that I should buy a gratitude journal. How often do you do this, feel angry but shame or guilt yourself for feeling this way in the first place and then telling yourself that you should not feel this way? If you do this you are not alone. This is all too common especially for women. We are socialized to believe that being angry is unladylike, it is unattractive.

How many of you have had the experience of a random man telling you to smile? I thought this was hilarious. There was a Washington Post article shortly after the pandemic or the height of it was over that said masks are off and men are going to go back to telling women to smile. It’s like you don’t look happy and appealing and you better stop that immediately. And a random stranger will tell you to do it.

Add to this that sometimes we are angry at our children, our special needs children and this just feels so shameful so we push it down. We ignore it and we buy the gratitude journal, but anger is an emotion. And the way to process an emotion is not to swerve around it. It is to go through it, to feel it, to process it and to release it. Now, with some emotions and usually these are the ‘negative emotions’, the emotions that we don’t want to feel like sadness and anger.

I will have clients come to me and tell me that they are afraid of letting these emotions in or even giving them some space because they fear that they will get stuck in them. And then they will always be sad or they will always be angry. Now really though, it’s just the opposite, what we resist, persist. It is like water boiling on a stove. We can either lift the lid and let off some steam or we can watch it boil over, which is what happens when we are resisting our emotions. We either boil over or they boil up inside of us and result in illness, fatigue, headaches and other unpleasantness.

On the other hand when we are processing an emotion we are giving it time and space. We are noticing it. We are naming it and we are allowing it. And this way, instead of staying stuck in the emotion we can release it. The trick here is to stay with the emotion, the bodily somatic experience without drifting into our thoughts about the emotion or about the experience creating the emotion. This is like putting fuel on the fire. And it is the difference between feeling an emotion and staying stuck in it, the difference between being mad and staying mad.

Now, we all have our different ways of processing our emotions, especially the more difficult ones like anger. Maybe you like to punch a pillow. Maybe you like to call a friend and scream it out. For me, one of the ways that I process anger and really as it relates to my Autism journey let’s just say is through my really dry sense of humor. Sometimes when I am really angry about something that’s going on, the last thing I want to do is talk to somebody who doesn’t get it, who doesn’t understand.

Or when I do talk to the people who do get it, I want to just let it out and one of the ways I let it out is by being really crass about it. And so I have inspiration for this. And Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Howard Stern. So stay with me here. No matter how you feel about Larry or Howard, I promise you I have a point here. Now on his show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry has a long list of things he dislikes. That’s pretty much what every show is about.

He hates stop and chats. He hates sample abusers, the people who go into the yogurt shop and get 10 samples of 10 different yogurts and then end up buying vanilla. He hates people who say ‘Happy New Year’ after January 4th. Hilarious, I think. Likewise on his radio show, The Howard Stern Show, Howard, I know he’s known as the shock jock but he’s really a curmudgeon. And there’s a lot of things he doesn’t like and throughout the year he’s always talking about I hate this, I hate that, anything from people who whistle to parades to Halloween and the Chucky doll.

You name it, he hates it. And every year his staff puts together a compilation of all the things he hates and they play it as this one list that goes from I hate Chucky to I hate parades to I hate people who clip their nails on airplanes and on and on. I personally find this hilarious. And so this was the inspiration for me processing some of my anger about Autism or really parenting and Autism and all that comes with it.

I made my own hate list and so that is what I want to share with you today to let off some steam for myself and hopefully to make you laugh. And to give you another way of letting off some steam about the things that you experience in your life that maybe not many people understand but you get it, you understand. And so if any of these resonate with you, I hope you can use them. And if I missed any, please share them with me on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook @theautismmomcoach.

I will have posts for today’s show, you can add on in the comments. Let’s get it all out there. This is how we process an emotion, we name it. We give it its space and for me, I use some humor about it. My way of using humor to just, instead of just boiling over and being angry, to kind of just laugh at it and to say, “Of course this pisses me off.” This would piss anybody off. Alright, so with that, let’s get started. I’m going to try to keep this to 25 but who knows, I might go over.

So number one, gratitude journals. Oh my gosh, when people know that you’re upset and they suggest that you get a gratitude journal or God forbid, they buy you one, that annoys me. Platitudes, I can’t stand them. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Well guess what? My cup’s not empty, it’s just filled with stress and anger so that’s what’s coming out. And yeah, please don’t tell me about the oxygen mask, I might choke you.

The Welcome to Holland poem, or more specifically people without kids with Autism who ask me, “Have you ever read that”, or send it to me. Oh my God, yes, I did on my first day and I thought it was cute and amusing and now I’m nauseated by it. So please, no more poems. IEP meetings, enough said, but in Connecticut for some [inaudible] reason, we call them PPT meetings. I’m not even sure what that stands for other than the abbreviation for PowerPoint, it’s stupid.

Number four, applications and intake forms. Holy crap, in the past two weeks I have recited more times than I can remember my son’s birth weight and when he started to crawl. Who cares? Also if you’re listening to me, Alexas or ChatGPT or whoever is out there. This is a bazillion dollar idea. Find a way that parents raising kids with Autism don’t have to fill out the same information over and over to every proprietor in their child’s life forever.

Yeah, I think there’s some HIPAA issues and some FERPA issues, I really don’t care. I would really like to save some time here because quite honestly, between the time I spend on applications and intake forms and on the phone with the pharmacist, I think I spent less time in law school for real, it’s a time suck. So please, somebody invent that.

Six, waiting list, yeah, you’re told, do this, do that. And you’re like, “Okay, I’ll do it.” Yeah, well, you’ve got to wait for three years unless it’s the Connecticut Autism Waiver because then you just need to wait for life. Number seven, medications that do not work or have awful side-effects. Number eight, experts who agree on nothing.

Number nine, the Autism tax. No, no, there’s not a real Autism tax. What I’m talking about is the upcharge that we pay for everything that our children do just so they can do it. I mean you’ve probably paid more money just so your kid could cut in a straight line than most people spend on I don’t know, college education. Okay, maybe not college education but you get the point. There is an upcharge for everything like babysitters. You can’t pay a kid 10 bucks to babysit your kid. You’ve got to pay a lot more than that and God, I know.

Number 10, iPhone and iPad protectors that claim to be indestructible. This is bullshit. And clearly the test teams that put together these gadgets never employed a kiddo with Autism, they should. Number 11, the term, high functioning Autism or people who congratulate me that my kid is high functioning. I guess they assume this because he can talk. High functioning Autism is one of the biggest misnomers out there. I could say so much on this but I need to get to number 12.

Comorbidity, I hate the term. Well, first, I hate comorbidity. Wasn’t Autism enough, now we need to add OCD, GAD and God knows what else. And the word is creepy, comorbidity. And now that I think about it, do you know what didn’t make this list? Autism for me does not make this list. I don’t hate Autism. I don’t love it. I’m not obsessed with it. I don’t think it’s a super power. And I don’t mind people who say that it is, but I don’t hate Autism, but I do hate OCD a lot. OCD is just a torture device.

Number 13, inclusivity. Now, hear me out. I don’t like inclusivity the way we think about it, which is basically you can hang out in this room kid with Autism and we’ll include you as in we’ll let you in here, but that’s not inclusivity. To me, inclusivity should focus on teaching kids without Autism how to cope in environments with other people who are different, who learn differently, who perceive the world differently.

To me real inclusivity is when we’re really teaching typical folks about disabilities. Not when we’re saying, “Hey, kid with Autism, you get to hang out in this classroom with [inaudible] for a couple of hours a day.” And then we get to feel good that we’re an inclusive environment. To me that’s not real inclusivity.

Number 14, joint legal custody, not a fan. Number 15, Autism awareness or acceptance month. And the fight over what it should be called. The idea that there is this one month where we’re all going to talk about the Autism stats and do the feel good stories about the kid who was diagnosed with Autism when he was two but now he’s going to the high school prom and you couldn’t even tell that he has Autism. Just enough.

Number 16, any fights over ribbons, puzzle pieces or the colors that represent Autism. Who cares? 17, people with neurotypical kids, you know, the kids with the friends and the team sports and the playdates and the unbroken iPads and the college plans. 18, when other people ask, “Have you tried?” Just stop right there. I have either tried it or I have decided not to. In any event, it’s not my first day, don’t ask me if I’ve tried essential oils or melatonin or gluten free, dairy free.

Number 19, when other people say things about my son like, “I had no idea he’s high functioning, he talks so much.” Number 20, when people ask me, “Are you sure?” No, I’m not sure. You know what? It does seem like a cool thing to call my kid Autistic and get him all these extra services. It’s just a fun thing I’m doing. Yeah, I’m sure. Number 21, when other people tell me he doesn’t seem Autistic. How the hell would you know?

Number 22, when people find out my son is Autistic and we’re not talking about people I know, people I barely know or just met and they tell me about their brother’s neighbor’s daughter who went gluten free at the age of six and by high school she was the head cheerleader and you could not even tell she had Autism. Number 23, when other people ask me, have you watched the insert show with kid with Autism. Number 24, what is his super power? I think we all get that one and it’s super annoying.

Number 25, when people say things like, “If he were my kid I would do that or he doesn’t do that with me.” That is not helpful and really it’s just the opposite. It’s super insulting.

Alright that’s 25, I’ve covered a lot. There are tons more but deep breath, reading these out loud, it’s cathartic. It’s cathartic to go through all of the things that we experience that other people don’t really understand and just put it out there. Not liking these things or really just very much disliking them, does not mean we don’t love our children. It does not mean we are bad parents. It means that we’re frustrated and that’s okay, we are angry and that’s okay. But the way to be angry versus staying angry is to let yourself feel the emotion a little bit and release it.

Alright, if I’ve missed any, find me on Instagram or Facebook on there as the Autism Mom Coach on both and let me know. And finally, if you are pushing down your anger or overreacting to it, I can help you with this. In my coaching program I teach moms like you to process their emotions and all of the thoughts that they are having that are causing their anger and fear. We do this without judgment. We let it all out kind of like I did here with all the things that I don’t like, no judgment.

I also teach you how not to stay stuck in these emotions and default reactions so that you are not being controlled by your habitual patterns and your fear. And instead, you are creating new patterns that serve you. Just schedule a consultation with me. You can go to my website theautismmomcoach.com and click on ‘work with me’. Alternatively you can go to the show notes and find the link there. Alright, that is it for this week. I hope you have a great rest of your week and I will talk to you then. Thanks.

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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63: Moms Like Us: An Interview with Cindy Decker

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Moms Like Us: An Interview with Cindy Decker

I’m wrapping up Autism Awareness Month by sharing an interview with my former client and now lifelong friend, Cindy Decker. I had the pleasure of coaching Cindy for six months. She came to me at her self-described rock bottom, following the pandemic. But there were three things she learned and implemented from our coaching that changed her life.

Cindy has freed up more time and space to advocate for her child and other children through a state-wide advocacy program. She’s an amazing example of how investing in your own wellness not only impacts you, but has a positive influence on everyone in your life.

Tune in this week to hear Cindy’s story from her child’s diagnosis to where she is today. Cindy is sharing why she decided to get coached by me to help her with her experience as a working mom with a child with Autism, and all the changes she made in her day-to-day that have enabled her to shift the way she shows up as a mom.

I’m giving away hand-crafted soaps from Trev’s Trades: Where Autism Meets Potential to 10 listeners who rate and review the podcast, and email me the title of their review and their mailing address by clicking here!

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Cindy’s experience as the mother of a child with Autism.
  • The difficulty Cindy initially had in getting a diagnosis for her child.
  • How Cindy found me and decided she needed coaching.
  • Cindy’s biggest takeaways and breakthroughs from our time together.
  • How Cindy now understands her son and his Autism on a deeper level.
  • Cindy’s techniques for keeping an even keel and not reacting to her son in a way that will elevate him.
  • The advice Cindy would give to any parent starting their journey with Autism.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 63 of The Autism Mom Coach. Moms Like Us: Interview with Cindy Decker.

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 and other comorbid diagnoses. I know what it is like to wonder if you are doing enough or the right things for your child and to live in fear of their future.

I also know that constantly fueling yourself with fear and anxiety is not sustainable for you or of any benefit to your child. That is why in this podcast I will share practical strategies and tools you can use to shift from a chronic state of fight, flight to some calm and ease. You are your child’s greatest resource, let’s take care of you.

Hello everyone. We are going to end Autism Awareness Month with my conversation with Cindy Decker. Cindy is a former client and now lifelong friend who I had the privilege of coaching for six months. Cindy came to our coaching relationship at her self-described rock bottom following the pandemic. And in this episode she shares the three things she learned and implemented from our time coaching together and how these three things have changed the way she shows up as an Autism parent.

Cindy is a great example of how investing in your own wellness not only impacts you, it impacts your child, your family, and your community. Now that Cindy is not spending her precious time spinning in worry and catastrophizing, she has made room for more joy and the very important work of advocating for her child and other children through a state-wide advocacy program that she will tell you about. With that, let’s talk to Cindy.

                                                                                                                   

Lisa: Cindy, welcome to the podcast. I am so excited to have you here and I’m so happy for my listeners to hear from you and to learn about your experiences. Please introduce yourself and tell the audience about your Autism journey.

Cindy: Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate you having me on the podcast. My name is Cindy Decker. I started my Autism journey with my youngest son. I have three sons, let me start with that. I have a 21 year old in college. I have an 18 year old headed to college, so is neurotypical. And then we have an 11 year old who is on the Autism spectrum. He was diagnosed at age four so we are on the seventh year of this journey. And honestly, when we started with Liam, we noticed challenges from the beginning.

I had two other children so we noticed things just when he was little, sensory issues and just how he behaved in public and struggles that he had when we were at his brothers’ football games and events at school, daycare. So we went through eight different daycares before the age of three.

Lisa: Wow.

Cindy: Yeah, we went through eight different daycares before he turned three. And so we knew there was something going on but we just had not enough knowledge and because he’s the youngest we were often told, “Well, he’s the baby, his brothers are speaking for him. Mom is speaking for him. He’s your baby so you’re babying him.” And so we went through that until finally at aged three we found a pediatrician who would actually listen. And immediately he said, I very clearly remember that day we sat in his office for a 15 minute evaluation to get a referral.

And Liam was climbing over me and turning on and off the light. And he said, “Don’t be afraid when they tell you it’s autism.” And I had gone in for an ADHD diagnosis.

Lisa: That’s not what I came for.

Cindy: That was not, what do you mean, don’t be afraid? What are you talking about? So we did, we went for the evaluation, got through the evaluation. That evaluation sent us to a neurologist. And the neurologist said, “Okay, we’re going to go through the Autism diagnosis.” And I was like, “Yeah, you know, I don’t think so.” And so I put him off for a year. And at age four we went back for a follow-up with him and he was like, “So about that test that you’ve canceled twice, we need to do a diagnosis. You need to be able to get him the right services at school.”

At that point we only had the ADHD diagnosis. And he said, “Miss Decker, why don’t you want to do the test? Why have you canceled it twice?” And I said, “I just don’t know. I don’t see Autism. I’ve seen it from what I’ve seen on TV.” And he very gently chuckled at me and very gently said, “Well, we’re going to do the test and let’s see where it goes.” And so that’s what we did, we did the AdAS and it came back with an Autism diagnosis. And that’s when we went back to the school.

He was already getting services at that point, Liam was already at that point in preschool and the preschool special needs program at school. And we were still seeing struggles. So we went back to the school before he started kindergarten. And we had an Autism diagnosis, let’s walk through kindergarten fully aware of what we’re needing. And that’s when our battle with the school started. Because at that point Liam had words. He wasn’t super communicative and he didn’t have, he had a speech delay. We knew he had a language processing disorder.

That’s when the school pushed back and said, “Well, he’s not Autistic. We’re not giving the Autism diagnosis in school.” Because in school that meant 11 other services that comes with Autism. In Texas there’s an Autism Texas supplement. And so they’re like, “He’s got the services, we’re going to give him what he needs. We’re going to put in a generic classroom. He’s going to share an aid with five other students and we’re going to be fine.” And so our school journey began with that.

Lisa: Wow. So just take us back to when you eventually did get the AdAS completed and it came back indicating an Autism diagnosis. Did you believe it or what was your reaction to it at that point?

Cindy: It’s funny looking back to it because we had, here in Houston we had a little hurricane called Harvey. That was the worst flood that Houston had ever seen. We did not directly get affected. We couldn’t leave our house for a week but we did not get flooded thankfully. But everybody around us had gotten flooded, and even getting to, they did the testing and we went back a week after the hurricane to get the result. It took us two hours to get to the doctor. There was still areas underwater. We still couldn’t get there.

The diagnostician, we waited in the office for two hours because the diagnostician couldn’t get to the office to give us the result. So the physician’s assistant had to come in and give us the diagnosis. So I think by the time she walked in to read us the result, we were so numb from what had just happened that week and what it had taken to get there. And the two hours that we had waited in the office, that honestly, she just read it and I was numb. It was almost like listening to somebody else talking. And I could hear her words but they just weren’t sinking in.

At that point it was like, okay, give me the paperwork. I’ll call the school. In my head I was in action mode, let’s get something done, I’m not listening. So I didn’t let it sink in. I think under different circumstances I probably would have felt it more. But I literally just grabbed the paper, walked out the door and called the school on the way home in the car. So let’s get wheels in motion, I have an answer, let’s get going. And it took a good probably a good year, maybe even several years, Lisa, for it to really sink in on what we were up against and what that meant.

And we went through a really rough patch soon after that where it really sank in of, okay, my child is on the Autism spectrum, this is what it means. This is a lifelong thing. This isn’t just about getting him the services at school, it’s how am I going to help him in life. And it just threw me, once it hit probably a year or two years later it really sent me into a path that’s actually how I got to you. Because at that point I was so worn and so just done and kind of depression over it. It just sank in later.

It didn’t sink in as they were reading it to me. I was hearing it but it was almost like an out of body experience but I think it was all the events leading up to that day that made it harder.

Lisa: Yeah, I totally remember the diagnosis and the out of body experience, thinking, they’re just going to tell me it’s a speech delay. And then they say, “Autism.” But I’m like, okay, that’s fine because Autism needs services. This was in my brain at the time. But then the doctor took me aside and gave me a pamphlet and she said, “I know he’s your first child, I don’t know if you’re thinking about having more children.” And then she gave me some sort of statistic about the indications in other children.

And I just remember feeling like time had stopped, I could not process anything at that point because it was like, you’ve diagnosed my child and now you’re diagnosing prospective children as well and anyhow. But I also like you, went into the go, go, go mode of doing as much as possible as fast as possible. And I think that that is so common for so many of us. And there comes a point where we look up and we’re just like, how did we get here? Feeling so overwhelmed, not even recognizing ourselves or our lives.

Cindy: Yeah, that is exactly how that went. It was suddenly here I am and now what do I do? It’s not just about having the paperwork and having the answer, is this is going to be a lifetime of how do we help him and give him the right services for life?

Lisa: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Cindy, it’s so hard for me to believe that it is almost three years since we first met. Can you share a bit about how you found me and why you decided to reach out for coaching?

Cindy: Yeah. So yeah, we were in the middle of the pandemic. At this point Liam had been in a self-contained classroom. Let’s see, he was put into a self-contained classroom in first grade. And mind you, this was our third elementary school, so remember, eight daycares, third elementary school. By age eight he had hit his third elementary school. And so the pandemic hit and we had been in this self-contained classroom for a little over nine months and then the world blew up. So by that fall he was back in school.

When the pandemic hit in March he went back to school probably about September, but I was at my lowest point. I’m a full-time working mom. I am an executive with a company. And my older children were at that time, Ethan, he was a senior year, the pandemic hit on his senior year. And then I had a freshman in high school. So working through how do you deal with a senior year pandemic when your child is now missing prom and senior pictures and graduations. And all that goes with that spring.

And luckily he had finished his football season intact, but still, going through that senior spring and then a freshman in high school going through the pandemic at the same time that Liam had been out of school. And I was probably at my lowest point. And I saw you comment I think on a post on [inaudible], that’s how I found you. I saw you make a comment, I’m like, “That’s a really smart thing to say.” And so I kind of Googled you and found you. And through finding you I connected with you.”

And I know you remember this but when I connected with you, you set up a call with me. And I had Josh sit with me because I knew that my husband, although very supportive, was going to struggle with, “Well, you’re going to see a coach but you’re not going to see a therapist.”

Lisa: What’s this all about?

Cindy: Yeah. Why are you doing that? Go call a therapist. And I knew I needed something. I knew I needed one or the other, I just didn’t know what your coaching was about and so I called you first.

Lisa: I’m so glad.

Cindy: Yeah, me too. I remember we sat at the kitchen table and listened. And we talked through. We told you everything that was going on and walked through the process and your coaching model and what you do and how you work with people. And when the call was over, Josh was like, “Well?” I’m like, “I have to do this.” I said, “You don’t understand, I have to do this. If it’s six months, if it’s six weeks, I have to do this.” I said, “And I really liked Lisa.” I could relate to you.

There was so many times where we’re in this world in Autism where we don’t 100% fit in all the time. We have that child who is considered high functioning, who can speak but doesn’t communicate. And we’re working moms, so we’re trying to hold down this full-time job at a high executive level and trying to just keep it all in balance. I thought, I need somebody who understands that. I can’t just find a therapist who does all of that. And I knew you did all of them.

Lisa: Yeah, I so remember our intake call so well, especially you and Josh sitting side by side at the table. And I was really struck by how similar the experiences we were having, just at different timeframes. Our sons are a few years apart but they are both what is considered high functioning mostly I think because they can speak but that’s not really our experience of them. Can you talk a little bit about that as it pertains to Liam?

Cindy: Yeah. So like you said, they can speak and Liam is a very chatty person. And part of the reason why I didn’t understand why we wanted to do an Autism diagnosis is Liam is also social. He wants to fit in. He’s just socially awkward. The things that come out of his mouth, we laugh now but there was times when we just wanted to crawl under the table for the way he would just tell somebody. And it’s like you said, it’s that high functioning until he’s just not functioning.

And when he’s not functioning it can be destructive. It can be hurtful because he’s just going through the emotions of getting out what he wants to say in a setting that is just, it doesn’t fit in with what he needs at the moment. So it’s a really hard thing when I feel like in the Autism spectrum, when you can speak but you can’t say what you want to say. That communication is just not coming out right. Or you’re feeling the emotion, for Liam it’s a lot of the emotion. When he gets embarrassed it immediately makes him mad because he doesn’t understand what the embarrassment is.

Or if he’s sad he doesn’t want to feel sad so then he fights against it with anger. And so understanding his emotions was a really big part of it. And like you said, I think that’s where you and I really bonded, because like Ben, a lot of the things that I tell you, he does this. You’re like, “Ben did that and this is what we [crosstalk]. So it was finding that person that understood. And he may communicate with you but he loves curse words.

Lisa: Who doesn’t?

Cindy: Right. And in that moment, I’ll even give you an example, this was hilarious. So a couple of weeks ago, Liam does go to a therapist and we were leaving the therapist’s, “So we’re going to go to dinner. Daddy’s going to meet us at dinner.” And it was a restaurant we hadn’t been to before which was going to be hard for us but we thought we’d try. And we walk in and as you walk in the restaurant, it’s a really small restaurant and the bar’s right there and it’s happy hour and it was loud and people were laughing and having a happy hour.

And Liam immediately walked in and yelled out a curse word and it was like the needle scratch on the record player. The whole restaurant was silent. It was like, “Okay, we’re here.”

Lisa: We’ve arrived.

Cindy: We’ve arrived, can I have a table now, please? So that’s what high functioning, where everybody is like, “Well, he can communicate so well.” And the key is he can speak really well, he can’t always communicate really well.

Lisa: Yeah. I have such a similar experience with Ben especially around the emotions. If he feels shame or embarrassment or that he’s being called out for something, his reaction to that can be really severe because I think for him ,he experienced it that physically, it’s such an intense emotion and then he’s also fighting it as well.

Cindy: Exactly. That’s exactly how it goes. It’s a physical, yeah, their emotions are physical I think for them more than anything.

Lisa: Yeah. I mean I think about everything else that they experience, turned up to a 10 and so all the sensory issues and things like that, if that also goes for the emotions that they are feeling, that it’s just such an intense feeling. I mean I know for me when I feel certain emotions like fear or worry, I want to get away from them as well. And so just maybe not really understanding what’s happening and then they’re reacting to it as well.

Cindy: Agree.

Lisa: Cindy, we worked together for six months. Can you tell us what your biggest takeaways or lessons learned were from our time together?

Cindy: Oh gosh, I have so many. I think we started our session and one of the first things that you taught me is that it’s not personal. Everything Liam did I took personally. If he reacted a certain way it’s because I wasn’t a good enough mom or because I taught him wrong or because I didn’t do something. So that was probably my biggest one. And then I would probably say the other two that I learned from you was catastrophizing. I still do it, don’t get me wrong, we still have moments. We’ve had a rough couple of weeks at school lately.

And immediately I’m like, “The world’s ending. We’re going to have to leave school forever.” And so I still do it but I catch myself doing it now. It’s okay, pause, take a breath. What are you thinking? Why are you reacting this way? So I kind of walk myself through your process. And just the fact too, my third big learning from you was I am the expert. I would always, my biggest answer to things especially with school was why are they doing this? They know better, and I told them this is an issue for Liam. If they’re the expert, why can’t they fix it? And learning that I’m the expert. I know him.

Somebody else I think recently and I can’t think of who it was so I’m sorry if I’m not giving credit to the right person but they said that they were the only fixed set person in their IEP meetings every year. Everybody on the team at some point or another, shifts changes, moods changes. You’re the one fixed person in the IEP meeting year after year after year. And so you had also taught me, I’m the expert and that’s why. I’m the one who’s there every year and I’ve been through the three different elementary schools, now four because we moved last July.

I’m the one who went through the eight different daycares and the different ABA therapist and the different speech therapist. And so I’m the one who’s seen his reaction and his world evolve. So now I know I’m the expert. So when somebody says, “Well, we’re doing this and it’s not working.” I don’t go, “Well, you’re the expert, fix it.” I go, “Well, here’s what I’ve tried at home, let’s try this. Or how does this work? What if you do this? Or this is what I see from this situation.”

And it has made me a much better partner I think in IEP meetings with the team because I’ve been able to work with them, not expecting them to come up with a solution.

Lisa: Wow, that’s so powerful. I remember, we spent a lot of time on the expert. And you’re like, “Well, they have training.” I’m like, “Well, how much training do you think they actually have compared to your 11 years of 24 hour training?” Not to dismiss training and being a professional but when you are living this every day and over time periods and you are the constant, we really are the expert. We of course benefit from bringing other people onto the team and relying on them and conferring with them.

But I think it’s such a mistake for us to believe, well, we’re just the mom. We’re so much more than that.

Cindy: Right, yeah, just understanding that. I think that was probably my biggest eye opener after the it’s not personal, stop taking things personally. But yeah, just understanding that, yes, I was not trained in occupational therapy. No, I was not trained as a psychologist or a psychiatrist or a [inaudible] of any kind. I’m not an educator, I’m an economist by trade, but understanding that I’ve seen in motion what works for Liam. And I can see when he’s dysregulated, I can see it in his face. I can see it 30 minutes before the meltdown will happen. Oh, oh, we’re in trouble.

I’ve got to right this train or we’re going to derail here in a minute. And so learning that, knowing that I can see it coming and explaining that to people of, “Here’s some signs that you can look for. Here’s what might cause this.” Or we had a challenge at school last week and immediately I sent a note to the school, “Well, here’s what I think happened. Here’s what I see. So just a heads up, you didn’t see it but this is probably what led to it.” Our kiddos have these challenges, it’s not just because they want to.

And when you and I met I would get a lot of, “Well, he’s attention seeking.” And that I took personal. When people tell me he’s doing things, attention seeking, I was like, “Well, he’s not just a brat who’s trying to get your attention.” And now I’ve realized that he’s attention seeking because he’s trying to get your reaction or your emotions going because he’s trying to communicate something to you. So yes, it is attention seeking but not in, I’m a brat, I raised him the wrong way. It’s attention seeking in that he’s trying to communicate something to get your attention to help him move on.

And I think working with you for those six months helped me see the difference between the, you’re a brat, attention seeking versus you’re attention seeking to communicate something to help him move on. That to me was the biggest breakthrough that I had.

Lisa: Yeah, I think that that is such an important piece because what I say about behaviors is that when we take it personally we make it personal. So you make it about your child, he’s a brat. You make it about yourself, you’re not a good enough mother, you’re too permissive. You make it about your parenting and all of that just serves to escalate your stress, undermine your self-confidence as a parent. And neither of those serves you or your child. And so that reframe for me has been so big.

And even with my clients who are like, “No, well, it’s personal because he said, “I hate you”, to me.” And it’s like, well, okay, let’s just say it is personal. If that was an actual truth that we can have and we can’t, is it helpful to think that? Because it’s not because it just makes you more aggravated at them, more aggravated at yourself. And so it’s like we’re reframing these things for ourselves is just to notice, how are we showing up when we’re believing it’s personal? And how is that impacting us? Because that’s the piece that we can change before we get to trying to change our kid.

Because we’re all trying to do that in some way. We think if they just did or do this, then I would feel better. And we really need to do the work to support ourselves because try as we might we can’t control these little guys or big guys as they do become as they grow. So, Cindy, it’s been about two years since our coaching relationship ended, although our friendship is going strong. Can you share how you can continue to use what you learned during our six months in your day-to-day life?

Cindy: So I still, these three things I think are the three that I use every single day. When I get that call from school and my whole body tenses up and immediately I’m like, “This is it. This is the call that gets him out of school.” I’ve stopped doing that. I’ll see the calls come in and be like, “Hi, what’s going on?” Now, it does help that the school immediately calls and says, “There’s nothing, he just forgot his snack.”

Lisa: When they call me, they’re like, “Hi, how are you doing?” I’m like, “No small talk, let’s get right to it.”

Cindy: They immediately start with, “Hi, it’s Suzie Q and there’s nothing wrong.” But I use that, to answer the phone, I calm myself first and say, “He just needs a snack, it’s okay.” When that situation happens at home where he’s dysregulated and struggling at the moment, the not taking it personal, I just reiterate that to myself every day. It’s not personal. I am the expert. I know better. So that I won’t start madly Googling the resolution to a problem that we’ve already been through. I’ve already done it.

As they get older, to me it’s the same problems. They’re just a little bit bigger because the emotions are bigger. So it doesn’t make it easier but it does in some way because we’ve been through it. And so that’s how I think you’ve helped me is that every day I’m constantly [inaudible] that wasn’t personal. And I’ll just repeat these phrases, it’s not personal, pause, think. Okay, think through it so that you can think, what are you thinking, how am I thinking it before I react to it. And I’m not perfect at it by any stretch, but that has really helped me over the last few years.

Just continuously I guess, practicing that pause and thinking, okay, what am I thinking, what really happened and how am I going to react to it, that’s not going to set him off. I’m on a much even keel with him. I might say to my husband however, because although he listened to all of our coaching calls [inaudible]. But that’s how it has helped me, it really just, okay, how am I going to stay even keel for this and not react to drive his reaction or elevate him to the next level.

Lisa: Yeah. No, that makes so much sense. And part of what you’re saying is practicing those thoughts, one of the things that I teach in my coaching program that I taught you, it’s not enough just to say, it’s not personal like a mantra. Because if you don’t believe it and it doesn’t feel differently in your body, it’s just words that you’re saying that are meaningless to you. But we coached for so long on it that that shift became real for you. You do believe that it’s not personal. And when you believe that, it feels differently than feeling like it is or he’s doing it on purpose or you’re a bad mom.

And it’s that combination of believing that thought and having that emotional shift that enables you to show up in the way that you want to, which is such an important thing.

Cindy: Yeah, that is not personal, it carries in so many ways throughout this because like I said, people will tell you, “Well, he’s attention seeking.” And immediately that’s personal. And so working through that and how I’m thinking about it and what I’m thinking about it, when I hear it is how do I help him get through that emotion and through that attention seeking moment to, again, go through it without further emotions or further escalation? And that was a hard one for us I think when you and I started working together.

I just think it immediately, okay, stop on your thought, get out of your mindset and figure out to help him through this and not just get upset over it, if that helps.

Lisa: Okay. Cindy, I want to shift a bit to what has opened up for you in terms of your capacity and your mental space now that you are not constantly beating yourself up, second guessing yourself and taking Liam’s behaviors, personally. As I recall, midway through our work you got involved in some very important policy work, can you tell us about that?

Cindy: Yeah. So being able to understand my emotions and how I was working through the emotions as Liam was going through his emotions really helped me first of all give myself some space. I was able to get my health back in check. I was able to get back to working out, find the right nutrition plan form that worked at the time. And those were all things that I had let go of. I also have been able to, I took a class, so I joined an organization here in Texas and they’re all over the country, some states have it, some states don’t, but it’s called Partners in Policymaking.

And so I signed up for the Partners in Policymaking class and went through six months of learning about policy and bills and writing bills and understanding how to speak to our politicians. And so I was able to do all of that and then get involved with my state representative. And here are some bills that are important to me. Here are some things that it’s important for our kids, not just in education but in the community that should happen within this state.

And actually just recently about three weeks ago, I was able to go to the state capital and testify in front of a committee for safety regulations within the school for our kids when they’re struggling or having a meltdown against physical restraint in Texas. And so being able to understand that I am the expert and understanding that it’s not my fault, it’s not about me, it’s about them and how we help them, helped me to realize how could I testify in front of the capital. That yes, my child is struggling and when dysregulated can have just physical reactions to things.

But how can we as a country, as a state, as a community, help them with these things and putting the safety regulations in place so that they can self-regulate without a restraint. And so that really has helped me become a better advocate I think at a different level than just being the mom. And work again, meeting with state representatives and meeting with state senators on, “Hey guys, here are some of the shortfalls that we have in the state that we really need to fix.”

And I’ve learned now as the expert that I can speak about it without thinking, I don’t know, I’m not the expert because I didn’t study that. I can actually speak to it because I am the expert, I’ve done it with my son. Here’s my story and this is how we can help him.

Lisa: That’s so powerful. And the fact that you are currently raising your child, raising three children but currently raising Liam and have a big fancy pants job with lots of responsibilities. And then doing that work is just really amazing and so fortunate to have a mom like you with your experience to be in that position. Because I think it takes a really unique person to not just speak out for their own child but then to speak out for all children. It’s at a higher level and it’s just amazing that you’re doing that.

Cindy: Thank you. I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. And there’s a lot to do. Texas is a big state. But I think there’s so much that we can do as the experts and as the parents who see this firsthand. It’s funny, when I went to speak at congress last week and I gave my testimony, the committee chair actually grabbed me afterwards and was like, “I learned so much from you.” And there was people testifying who are experts, the head of The Autism Society and the head of this organization and all these things.

And she said, “I have learned a lot from you because you gave us firsthand knowledge of what you’ve been through.” And I thought, well, this is [33:08] is all about. I am not the head of the work solutions organization but here I am telling you what we have experienced.

Lisa: Well, it’s funny and I did a podcast episode about this just to sort of lighten it up, What Is An Expert and this was really inspired by you because you were really insistent with me, “These people went to four years of education or maybe eight years of education. And well, what makes someone an expert? Is it because they took classes? Is it because they had a couple of different experiences in different settings?”

And the example that I used in the podcast episode was from my cousin Vinny where [inaudible] Mona Lisa to be an expert because she worked in her dad’s mechanic shop and so she knew the hum of every car, whatever it was. But that’s the point, you don’t have to have the formal education to be an expert in something. So, Cindy, this work is all really incredible and I’m sure there are people who are interested in learning more about it. So if they wanted to do that, how would they find you and to learn more?

Cindy: So you can always reach out to me @autismwithyourshirtoff. I have that on Instagram and on Facebook, just send me a DM and I can answer any questions you have and I’ll respond.

Lisa: Well, thank you so much for joining the podcast. I know that people really benefited from your experiences and from the stories that you had to share. I will just ask you for the parent who just got the diagnosis or their child just got kicked out of their first or second daycare or their first or second elementary school, what advice would you give to that parent?

Cindy: I would say, don’t take it personal. It’s not personal. Education is such a tricky subject. It’s so cookie cutter per se that when they get a child who has a disability or is on the Autism spectrum and it’s hard for them to fit into that, it’s like that round hole fitting into the square peg or vice versa. So I would just say, take a minute, find Lisa, because you really, really helped me, exactly those three things. I can’t even tell you enough how much it helped me to really stop and think about why I’m the expert, how I know what I know is going to help the school system.

But take a moment and find your resource, there are so many ways, listening to your podcast. I listen to your podcast all the time. And I’ll text you, “Hey, I love this, what do you think of that?” So I think, just finding those resources first and foremost. But stopping for a minute as a parent of a newly diagnosed child and not taking it personally and just regrouping. Figuring out, okay, how can I help my child through the school system? Because again you’re the expert so you can help them in understanding what your child needs better.

Lisa: Yeah, I think that’s so right on. Alright, well, that is all. Is there anything else, questions that I haven’t asked you or anything else that you want to say before we wrap up?

Cindy: No, I don’t think so. But thank you, thank you for having me on here. I treasure your friendship and our relationship when it started was really what I needed to kind of get out of the hole that I was in. So the coaching has definitely helped me and has worked wonders within our household.

Lisa: Well, I’m so glad to hear that. I guess on that note, would you recommend coaching with me?

Cindy: Absolutely I would recommend coaching with you. I recommend it all the time.

Lisa: Well, I so appreciate that and I really appreciate all the details that you gave about your experience because I think that so many people can relate to that, especially the taking it personally with our kids who are a little bit more higher functioning who can say things to us that aren’t the nicest. And especially when it comes to other things too like no property destruction. I remember your favorite lamp or there was a favorite pillow that we talked about at some point. And it’s hard to separate that. So it really does take practice.

And I think also when you’re talking to somebody else, you’re telling them and they’re now going, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that.” And they’re like, “Yeah, I’ve been there.” It takes it down a notch.

Cindy: Yeah, it does, it really helps. And it’s funny, sometimes on that personal piece, I have that lamp, it sits on my desk as a reminder that it’s not personal, the lamp survived, we survived. It still comes on as broken as it is. So sometimes I really just need to leave the broken lamp out there to remind yourself it wasn’t about you. It wasn’t even about the lamp.

Lisa: Well, Cindy, again, thank you so much for coming on. I’m sure this has been so helpful for so many people and I cannot wait to see you in just two weeks, we will be together at the Coop’s Troops Retreat.

Cindy: I know, I’m excited, I can’t wait. I’ll give you a big hug.

Lisa: I can’t wait. Alright, well, thanks again.

Cindy: Thanks, Lisa, I appreciate it.

                                                                                                                   

Alright, thank you so much for listening. I hope you got tons of value out of Cindy’s story, and just know, Cindy is not a unicorn and neither am I or any of my clients. This is all possible for you too. To learn more about my coaching program and how I can help you change your parenting experience, schedule a consultation. The link will be in the episode notes and you can always just go right to my website and do it from there. Alright, 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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62: How to Stop Second Guessing Yourself (Part 2)

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | How to Stop Second Guessing Yourself (Part 2)

In last week’s episode, we talked about the subtle and pervasive habit so many of us have of second guessing ourselves and our decisions, especially as they relate to our children with Autism. In this week’s episode, we’re taking things a little deeper and I’m showing you how to interrupt this habit and stop second guessing yourself.

Once you see how you’re second guessing yourself, then we can start to work on changing it. Whether you’re second guessing yourself, your values, and your worthiness, or you’re second guessing the decisions you’re making, this episode is going to show you how to stop doubting your instincts and your ability to support your child.

Tune in this week to discover how to stop second guessing yourself and your decisions. I’m sharing the two types of second guessing we do as the parents of children with Autism, the difference between second guessing and due diligence, and giving you my step-by-step process to stop second guessing the decisions you make and your abilities as a parent.

 

I’m giving away hand-crafted soaps from Trev’s Trades: Where Autism Meets Potential to 10 listeners who rate and review the podcast, and email me the title of their review and their mailing address by clicking here!

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • 2 types of second guessing and how to see which one you’re doing.
  • How you might be gathering opinions that lead to you second guessing yourself and your instincts.
  • The important distinctions between second guessing and self-reflection.
  • Examples of how I’ve second guessed myself as the mother of a child with Autism.
  • Why our brains will always find the junk thoughts that feel terrible.
  • How to stop relying on external validation and start validating yourself and your decisions.
  • My simple step-by-step process to stop second guessing yourself and your decisions as the parent of a child with Autism.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 62 of The Autism Mom Coach. How to Stop Second Guessing Yourself, Part Two.

In last week’s episode of the podcast we talked about the subtle and pervasive habit so many of us have of second guessing ourselves and our decisions especially as they relate to our child with Autism. In this week’s episode we are going to talk about how to interrupt this habit. Stay tuned.

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 and other comorbid diagnoses. I know what it is like to wonder if you are doing enough or the right things for your child and to live in fear of their future.

Hello everyone and welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here. If you are here and you are getting value from this podcast I want to invite you to rate and review the podcast. Your reviews help other moms like you find the podcast and benefit from these resources. And bonus, I am giving away handcrafted soaps from Trev’s Trades – Where Autism Meets Potential for 10 listeners who rate and review the podcast.

So in writing a review you won’t only be supporting the podcast and helping other moms like you find the podcast. You will also be supporting a disability owned business and a mother and son team that are such an inspiring example of what we all want to do and provide for our children as they grow, which is dignified employment, meaningful experiences and a life that they really deserve. To enter the giveaway you need to rate and review the podcast and email me the title of your review at lisa@theautismcoach.com and your mailing address and that’s it.

Alright, I also have another resource for you, it is called The Seven Truths Every Autism Mom Needs to Know. I created this resource because I get a lot of questions about what advice would I give a mom who just got the diagnosis or their child is approaching puberty or they’re about to be an adult. And really the seven truths cover it all. It’s the not what to do, the mechanics of it because that will vary so wildly from child to child.

These seven truths are more like a flashlight to help you see ahead and to navigate some of the challenges that you may be experiencing no matter how old your kiddo is. You can get this resource by going to the show notes or to my website where I have a popup that will pop up as they do. And you can enter your name and your email address and you will get The Seven Truths right in your inbox.

Alright, so let’s now shift to the topic of this week which is how to stop second guessing yourself. Last week we talked about what second guessing is and all the subtle and not so subtle ways that it permeates our lives. Before we get to how to stop, I first want to identify the type of second guessing that you are doing and how it is showing up. I generally put second guessing into two big categories. There is the second guessing of yourself, your values, your worthiness and then the second guessing of your decisions.

So when you are second guessing yourself it sounds like telling yourself that you’re not doing enough or the right things, doubting your own instincts and deferring to others, doubting your ability to support your child. Or wondering what other people think of you as a parent and whether they think you are doing a good job. On the other hand, second guessing your decisions looks like with respect to past decisions, you imagine that things would be better now if you had done something differently in the past.

Blaming yourself for not making the right decision and imagining that this decision that you made set into motion a cascade of events that has resulted in whatever results that you have now that you do not like. In your mind, if only you had done A then Z would not be your current reality. So you will notice that there are a lot of liberties with logic and some magical thinking that allows us to draw this conclusion. This really isn’t rational, but this is what happens in our minds when we’re second guessing our past decisions.

We’re really imagining that if we had just done things differently that things would be different now without accounting for all the many, many other variables and obstacles and issues that who knows? We just don’t know. But in our mind we’re just imagining that it would be better or not as bad. When you’re second guessing your current decisions, decisions that you want to make, you’re thinking about making this looks like gathering as much information from as many resources. And we’re not even talking about resources that you even think are reliable.

You will really take it from anywhere, your mom’s group, Reddit, random person on the street, it doesn’t matter. You are just gathering information. You have a lot of back and forth in your mind about what to do. You’re never making a decision, you’re just sort of ping-ponging back and forth. A lot of analysis paralysis, just to-do list and weighing but never making a decision. You are opinion shopping, so asking other people about their experiences, what they think, what they have done, how it’s worked out for them.

And you’re gathering all of this information but not really discerning it. It’s just information that’s coming in. Crowdsourcing, poll taking, just other forms of trying to get as many other people to weigh in on your decision. And then you never actually make a decision. In both forms of second guessing, whether you are second guessing yourself or second guessing your decisions there is a lot of seeking external validation. So this is again, where the opinion shopping, the crowdsourcing, the poll taking comes in.

We want other people to tell us that our decision is a good one because we’re not trusting ourselves because we are second guessing ourselves. Now, I want to be clear again, second guessing is different from self-reflection and due diligence. Self-reflection and due diligence are open and non-judgmental. Self-reflection is a positive process that involves examining our own thoughts and our actions in order to gain insight and to make positive change. It is done with the goal of personal growth and development.

Due diligence is the process of conducting a review or an investigation into a decision. It involves gathering a finite amount of information, analyzing it and making an informed decision, now listen to this, based on the current facts as they are currently known to you. Second guessing on the other hand is a negative process where we doubt and judge ourselves and our decisions based on what is happening and what we know now. So not what we knew then, what not was always available to us back when, when we made the decision, but what we know now based on hindsight.

So I want to give you an example of how this is showing up in my life right now. When my son was diagnosed with Autism, this was 13 years ago. There were no levels. I had the label of Autism but there wasn’t the category of level one, two or three. And from the time that my son was five years old he was generically referred to as high functioning. He spoke, he was able to attend to many of the age appropriate activities of daily living. And so when people would ask me what level he was years later when levels came out, I just assumed he was level one.

And I got a lot of support for this assumption based on really the way other people reacted to him and interacted with him. He’s a really pro social kid. He’s hyperverbal at this point and very just engaged with other people, at least on a surface level and so I figured level one. Fast forward, he is now 15 years old and he is struggling quite a bit as so many of our kids do during puberty. And he is so clearly not level one. He’s definitely level two and really sometimes hangs out in level three.

Now, enter the opportunity to second guess myself and I have, I have questioned myself. How did I not know that he was more impacted than he actually is? Was I in denial? Was I secretly avoiding this? Did I think that I could fix it? Did I fool myself? Was I overshooting? Was I pushing him too hard? I questioned my decisions. If I had known that he was level two, would I have put him in a general education classroom? Would I have moved him to a private school? Would I have moved to Connecticut?

Would I have accepted the jobs that I have accepted over the years? Now, of course, I can’t know the answers to any of this, but because right now the struggle is real, I’m imagining a life where it’s not as hard as it is now. And in doing that I’m thinking back to what could I have done to make this moment right now different? And honestly we will never know and I really do think that the answer is probably nothing which is really the scarier answer.

I wish that there is a point in time where I could say, if I had done x, y and z, we wouldn’t be here, but the reality is, I don’t actually think that that’s the truth. And that’s a harder pill to swallow. The idea that we could do all of these things and our children are still going to suffer. They are still going to have growing pains and this is what we are experiencing now. But in an effort to avoid some of that pain, second guessing, although it’s not pleasant, it offers a little bit of an out in some way.

I am also looking for some external validation of my decisions. Now, the team that is dealing with him now, they don’t know him from Adam. And so they’re only seeing him at his current presentation. And I wonder if how they’re looking at me, like lady, are you kidding me, you didn’t see this? But it wasn’t always like this. And so I find myself in the situation where I’m trying to give them all of the evidence so that they understand my decisions, so that they validate my decisions but really there is no way to know.

And when I am second guessing myself it is always with the flavor of what I did was wrong because things are difficult now. If I had done things differently they wouldn’t be this way. And this is not logical thinking. It’s not rational thinking. It’s anxiety and fear at the wheel. And it leaves me feeling sad and guilty and with nowhere to go other than to create this belief that I don’t really know what I’m doing and that I can’t trust myself or my own instincts. And I know I’m not alone in this.

I see this with so many of my clients every day, second guessing decisions that they have made, second guessing their own abilities as parents. And while I understand why we are doing it and that is what I talked about in part one of this podcast series, it is not useful. What is useful is self-reflection because self-reflection by contrast is a way for us to look forward. And so when I do this in terms of my son and his current presentation, I can ask myself, what is it that even when he was two years old, I was always looking forward?

Why was it that I never viewed his diagnosis as a deal breaker to participating in life? Why is it that I availed him of all of the opportunities that I did? Why is it that I always assumed and I still do, that we will figure this out? This self-reflection lets me tap into what I do know and into my own resilience and my own resourcefulness. And what I can see is that no matter what label somebody put on my child, I would have probably have done the exact same things.

I don’t think I ever would have backed down to having him have all of the opportunities I could possibly avail himself of, that I would not have pushed him a little bit further, that I would not have seen his potential and tried to maximize it as much as possible. I can also see that when I am always pushing forward, that in some ways it has also led me to not be fully present in the moment and that is happening now too. And so that is the takeaway that I can have.

While it is great to always be looking forward and always be looking for the best outcomes, it is also important to be in the present and to see as clearly as possible what is happening right now. Good to know I can use this going forward. That is the difference between self-reflection and second guessing. Self-reflection allows you to move forward with what you know and what serves you and what you can do better. And second guessing just leaves you doubting yourself and your own judgment.

Alright, so let’s get to how to stop second guessing yourself. Like I said before, first we need to identify the type of second guessing we are doing. So with that as background, let’s get to how do we stop second guessing ourselves? Here are my tips. First, identify the type of second guessing you are doing. And so I put this into three categories. First, identify the type of second guessing that you’re engaging in.

So the first type I label as just the background noise. This is the automatic soundtrack of always wondering if you are doing enough or the right things, if you said the right thing, if other people think you’re doing a good job, if the school thinks you are being too pushy. Just that constant hum of questioning yourself. When this pops up, I want you to notice it, name it and enough it, as in enough already. You need to interrupt this.

Instead of letting this play in the background you need to change the channel, which is by the way exactly what I say to my kiddo when he is stuck in a perseveration loop. I say to him, “Hey, let’s change the channel on this.” You need to do this too, acknowledge it, yeah, I’m second guessing myself. This is an old habit. Of course my brain is offering me these thoughts. This does not mean you need to engage with them.

I want you to think about a toddler in Target. A toddler can find the junk aisle in Target, no matter which Target you send them to, they will find the junk aisle. And when they do, do you say to your kiddo, “Oh, look, you’ve found it, now go for it?” No, you redirect them. You need to do the same thing with your brain. Your brain will always find the junk aisle, which those are the negative thoughts. We are hardwired to overfocus on the negative. Your brain will always find those thoughts.

It is your job to redirect your brain from the junk aisle just like you would a toddler. This is tedious but the more you do it, the more you’re able to repattern the deep old habit of hanging out in the junk aisle of your thoughts.

The second category is external validation. So when you find yourself opinion shopping, looking for other people to tell you something you want to hear about yourself or about your decisions then here is what you do. Figure out what it is that you want the other person to say, what do you want them to tell you, you did a great at that IEP meeting, you are such a good mom, I can tell how much your child loves you by the way that they look at you. Whatever it is that you are looking for other people to validate for you, you need to validate it for yourself.

You need to grow the muscle of internal self-validation. This is the kind of validation that you do not have to wait on. You can create it for yourself. And the more you do it the more supported and resourced you will be. And here’s the thing, we love external validation. It’s a nice little dopamine hit. It’s the feeling that other people think that we’re doing a good job, but it’s fleeting and for a good reason.

It really doesn’t matter what other people think of us and what they think about what kind of a job we’re doing. Because as we all like to remind ourselves, other people don’t get it. And that is true. No one really understands your experience but you do. That’s why internal validation from the person who gets it as much as you do is the most important type. The more you grow this muscle the less you will look for it from other people.

And when they say it instead of saying to them, “Do you think so, do you think I’m a good mom? Do you really think my daughter loves me?” You’ll be like, “Of course. Of course they do.” That is the muscle that you want to grow because like I said in a previous episode, external validation is nice, it feels great but it’s like motivation. You can’t depend on it but you can depend on internal validation because you can create it for yourself.

Third, decision drama, so whenever you are picking between options, you’re trying to make a decision. The first thing that you need to do is to remind yourself that there are no right decisions unless you are dismantling a bomb. Decisions aren’t right or wrong, it’s the decision that you make, you see how it goes and then maybe you make another decision after that. There are no right or wrong decisions, it’s just the decision that you’re making now based on the information that you have now.

So instead of a pros and cons list, because those can just get you stuck in analysis paralysis and looking for more external validation, more people’s opinions, more information that keeps you stuck. Get out a values list. When you are making decisions based on your values you have some clear guidepost for how to make the decisions. Instead of gathering information from tons of places, you’re gathering it from within. You get to decide ahead of time right now the values that you hold dearly in your life and the values that you want to guide the decisions that you make for your child.

So I’m going to give you some examples. For me, my values include acceptance, dignity, courage, growth, independence, advocacy and transparency. Those are all personal values and also values that I use when making decisions for my kiddo. So let me give you an example of how this works. Let’s say you are deciding whether or not to hire a special education advocate. You’re a bit skeptical about it because of the impact you fear it will have on your relationship with the team but you also want to support your child.

Specifically you want your child to have more life skills incorporated into their IEP and it has been a struggle with the school. They’re not in the IEP yet. You’ve talked about it with the teacher and with the staff and they say they’re incorporating it but you’re not really sure. And you want these in the IEP because you know if they’re in the document then you have a bit more leverage in getting the data etc.

So if one of your values for your child, like it is for mine, is independence, and you believe that hiring an advocate will aid you in getting life skills that foster independence written into the IEP, then the drama kind of melts away. The value is independence. I believe that this will get me closer to the goal of independence that I have. Then all of the rest is drama, the school might not like it, that people might get upset, that it might feel uncomfortable to you, yeah, it might.

But when you’re being guided by your values instead of second guessing the decision because it might be uncomfortable, you can let that be your guidepost. And for me I have found this so helpful, because like I said, the drama tends to melt away.

Let me give you another example, a personal one. So as you all know I have a podcast where I talk to you all about some of the struggles that we encounter as moms raising kids with Autism. And as part of this podcast I share some personal stories and examples in my real life. Now, I respect my son and his dignity and that is a value that I have. But another value that I have is transparency and advocacy.

And I do believe that you knowing that you are not alone, that you know that I am also experiencing some of the challenges that you are, is important to helping you because personally if I’m listening to someone who is like, “Yeah, I’m the Autism Mom Coach, I’ve got it all figured out and now I’m going to tell you what to do.” I’m out. That does not resonate with me. And so it’s important for me that you know and understand that I’m in the trenches with you.

And so I in that respect, I’m balancing two values or actually three, transparency and advocacy and also the dignity of my child. So I am cautious in what I do share. And so there are details that I don’t share for sure and then maybe in some respects I share a little bit too much. But when I’m being guided by my values I’m not second guessing myself in the idea that I’m going to go back and beat myself up for sharing something that I later think, maybe not.

Instead I can use those values to guide me in my next right decisions. And so, again, it’s just another lens for looking for your decisions. I’m not looking at right or wrong. I’m looking at values and how can I live in alignment with these values in a way that feels good to me and also do the work that I want to do in the world which is to give a voice to the struggles that we experience. And also to let you know that there are ways that we can support ourselves and we can make it easier on ourselves.

And for me, that means that I am sharing a bit of my story but I am also tempering that with just the knowledge that my kiddo has the right to tell his story in his own way, that’s not my story to tell. And so will I get it right, will it be perfect? No. But when I’m being guided by my values I’m not stuck in this right or wrong. And I’m not stuck in indecision and then never ever sharing anything or helping anyone.

And so again, it’s another lens to look at your decisions that allows for self-reflection and it doesn’t come from a place where you’re just messing everything up and you suck and you can’t trust yourself. Which is so much better because guess what? As you know, we are called on to make decisions every single day with respect to our children and their care. And because of their Autism diagnosis it is like the definition of uncertainty. We are always dealing with imperfect information. And we’re having to make these decisions.

And if we’re making these decisions from the space of we don’t know what we’re doing and we can’t trust ourselves, it’s going to make it so much harder for us. And let’s face it, this is hard enough. we don’t need to pile on.

Alright, so let’s recap, what to do when you are second guessing yourself. First, redirect your brain from the junk aisle. If this is just your sort of natural day-to-day hum of questioning yourselves, you need to interrupt this and create a new pattern.

Second, create self-validation so you are not constantly depending on other people to validate you or your decisions.

And third, be guided by your values. Decide which values you want to use as your north star when making decisions about your child’s care.

Alright, so that is it for second guessing yourself. I hope that these two episodes were helpful for you. If second guessing yourself is something that you struggle with, schedule a consultation with me. In my one-on-one coaching program I help my clients with this every day and I can help you too. You don’t have to live in anxiety and fear. You don’t always need to be second guessing yourself. There is a better way and I can teach you the cognitive and somatic tools that you can use to support yourself no matter what is going on.

To schedule a consultation with me go right to my website or the show notes and you can get started there. Alright, 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 #61: Stop Second Guessing Yourself (Part 1)

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Stop Second Guessing Yourself (Part 1)

As mothers raising children with Autism, we are confronted with uncertainty all the time. Whether it’s about therapies, medications, or programming, we’re called upon to advocate for our kids with imperfect information and resources out there. Since there’s no roadmap for navigating Autism, it’s no surprise you might be in the habit of second guessing yourself.

How often do you question whether you’re doing enough or the right things for your child with Autism? Do you have the urge to ruminate on and review every decision, or wonder if there’s anything you could have or should be doing differently? Is opinion shopping and crowdsourcing your go-to move when facing a choice?

In part one of this series, we’re exploring what second guessing is, why we do it, and how the habit of second guessing yourself might be showing up in your life. You’ll hear how we’re socialized to believe we can’t be trusted, and next week, I’ll give you specific steps to begin unwinding this habit. 

 

You don’t have to do this work alone. We do this work every day in my 1:1 coaching program. So, if you are ready to relate differently to the thoughts in your life that are keeping you stuck and in pain, now is the time to schedule a consult!

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What second guessing is.
  • 3 reasons why we engage in second guessing ourselves.
  • How second guessing might be showing up for you.
  • The consequences of being in the habit of second guessing yourself.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

  • 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.
  • If this podcast has helped you and you want to help other moms like you find this resource, please rate and review the show.
  • 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.
  • Get my free Keeping Your Cool During an Autism Meltdown course here!
  • I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 61 of The Autism Mom Coach, How to Stop Second Guessing Yourself, Part One.

How often do you question whether you are doing enough or the right things for your child with Autism? How much time do you spend in analysis paralysis ruminating over a past or present decision about your child’s care? How often do you tell yourself that you should not think or feel a certain way about your child’s diagnosis? These are all examples of second guessing yourself and it is kneecapping us.

That is why I am devoting the next two episodes of the podcast to this topic. In part one we will talk about what second guessing is and why we do it. And in part two I am going to give you some specific steps to unwind this habit because yes, it is a habit, and stop second guessing yourself. So if you can relate and I am betting you can, stay tuned.

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 and other comorbid diagnoses. I know what it is like to wonder if you are doing enough or the right things for your child and to live in fear of their future.

I also know that constantly fueling yourself with fear and anxiety is not sustainable for you or of any benefit to your child. That is why in this podcast I will share practical strategies and tools you can use to shift from a chronic state of fight, flight to some calm and ease. You are your child’s greatest resource, let’s take care of you.

Hello everyone and welcome to the podcast. I hope you are doing well. I will say that I’m doing a bit better than I have been. The last several weeks have been extremely difficult for myself and my son. And there have been countless moments where I have felt the urge to travel back in time in my mind and review every decision, question every move and wonder if there was anything I missed or anything I could have done differently or anything that I should be doing now that I have not already considered.

So this is all to say that these two episodes are inspired by real life events, my life, and also examples from my clients. Examples that I am sure you can relate to even if the situations are not exactly the same as what you are experiencing.

So before I go into the lesson, I want to start with a story. When I was in college, I read the short story by Tilly Olsen called As I Stand Here Ironing. It begins with a mother receiving a phone call from a school social worker who wants to ask her some questions about her 19 year old daughter.

The story begins, “I stand here ironing and what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron. ‘I wish you would just manage the time to come in and talk with me about your daughter. I’m sure you can help me understand her. She is a youngster who needs help and whom I am deeply interested in helping.’ Who needs help? Even if I came, what good would it do? You think because I am her mother, I have a key, or that in some way you could use me as a key.

She has lived for 19 years. There is all of that life that has happened outside of me, beyond me. When is there time to remember, to sift, to weigh, to estimate to total? I will start and there will be an interruption and I will have to gather it all together again, or I will become engulfed with all I did or did not do, with what should have been and what cannot be helped.”

The mother then goes on to detail her daughter’s life beginning at birth. All in an effort to make someone else understand and to try to explain away years of decisions. I will tell you that reading that story at the age of 19, it was burned in my memory.

It reminded me of my experience growing up with a sister diagnosed with PDD-NOS and seizures and my mother’s constant struggles to get her help and to explain her perplexing behaviors to other people. And now even to this day, still second guessing her decisions. And then fast forward to the present day for me, my son is 15 years old. And in the last few weeks I have done multiple intakes for schools, residential programs and hospitals. And they all take me back to the very beginning, literally.

The first question on all of the intake forms, was he premature? To which I say “No, he was born on his due date.” Complications? No. Medical issues? No. Tell us about him. Well, where to start and just like that, the opportunity to review 15 years of life of decisions and wonder, did I do it right? Did I make the right decisions? Was I in denial? Was I overshooting? Was I pushing him too hard? What did I miss? And what am I missing now? If this is you, you are not alone.

So let’s talk about exactly what second guessing is. Second guessing is the act of questioning yourself and your decision in an unhelpful way. So to be clear, second guessing is not the same as self-inquiry, reflection or due diligence. Second guessing does not come from a place of curiosity and open mindedness. It is laced with self-doubt, self-judgment and a flavor of you fucked this up somehow. It is both subtle and pervasive in how it shows up. Here are some examples.

Questions like, is this my fault? Are other people judging me? Do other people think this is my fault? Does my partner agree with me? Do the doctors agree with me or do they think I’m being overdramatic? Do the teachers like me? Do they think I’m too pushy? It can also look like thoughts like, I should not be thinking that I wish my child was normal or did not have Autism. I should not feel resentful of people with neurotypical children. I should not want to switch schools, this school has been nice to my child. I should not raise concerns, people will think I’m not grateful.

I should definitely not hire an advocate, the school will think I am pushy. I should not have copied the principal on that email. And then of course, the endless decision doubt. Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right things? Ruminating over past and present decisions, analysis paralysis, opinion shopping, crowdsourcing and seeking external validation wherever you can get it. These are just some of the things that we do when we are second guessing ourselves.

First let’s talk about why we do this. First, women are socialized to second guess themselves. That we can’t be trusted as the authority. That we need the blessing of other people in our life or the world to know whether our decision is the right one, what we eat, wear, drink, marry, date, whether to have kids, how to parent, whether to work, whether to work full-time. The list goes on and on. We are socialized to believe that women are emotional and irrational.

I remember the jokes growing up about a woman being president and not wanting someone with PMS having access to the nuclear button. Yet we let men in early or late stage dementia take the wheel no problem. Women can’t be trusted. You can’t be sure your decision is the right one unless and until everyone else agrees, and even then if you make the decision and it doesn’t go the way you like, you take all the blame.

Then at the very same time, we are socialized to believe that our primary role, our purpose is motherhood and that good mothers are somehow whimsically endowed with an inner knowing that is supposed to guide us through the complexities of parenting a child. We should just know, but we can’t trust ourselves until everyone else agrees. Talk about a mind fuck and an impossible situation.

So that’s the backdrop, socialization, whether or not you walk around aware of it does not mean it is not working deep in the background. And showing up in your ever present need to question your own decisions, your own thoughts and feelings and to gather as much consensus as possible about your decisions before you make them or decide how you feel about them.

The second reason I think that we as mothers raising kids with Autism, second guess ourselves is the Autism diagnosis itself is really the definition of uncertainty. If this is the first time you are hearing this, listen up. There is no road map for Autism. I don’t care what level your child is, there is no one size fits all. As a result we are all confronted with this uncertainty all of the time about the therapies, about the medications, about the programming. And we are called upon to advocate for our children and make decisions with imperfect information and resources.

And I think that this naturally lends to the question of is the right one? And the answer is, let’s give it a try because there is really, there are no clear lines here.

Number three, the illusion of control. Second guessing ourselves gives us the illusion of control and the idea that there are right or wrong answers. This is especially so when we are second guessing past decisions. We are giving our brains some comfort in the idea that we have more control than we think. There is a small feeling that, well, if I screwed it up then I can fix it or at least I know where to assign the blame. The reality is your brain would prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty. It’s perverse, but true.

I love this quote from Virginia Satir because I really do think it rings true so much. We would prefer to know something and be miserable than to not know it at all. That is just our brains wanting to protect us, it’s primal.

So those are just three reasons that I think that we second guess ourselves. Now, let’s talk about the consequences. The consequence of constantly second guessing yourself and ruminating over decisions is that it makes it harder to make decisions, even the minor ones. That is because the more you second guess yourself, the more you erode your own confidence in your ability to trust yourself and this is no good for you or your child.

In the next episode I am going to give you some specific suggestions on the things that you can do to stop second guessing yourself but for now let’s just start with awareness. Get curious with yourself about how second guessing yourself is showing up in your life. I am betting that it is so automatic that you don’t notice it most of the time or you don’t even know that you are second guessing yourself by what you’re doing. So pay attention and see what you find. Alright, I will talk to you next week. Thanks for listening.

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. 60: Interview with Dr. Mary Barbera

Ep. 60: Interview with Dr. Mary Barbera

While I teach mothers raising kids with autism how to regulate their emotions when their child is dysregulated, I get a ton of questions about how parents can teach self-regulation skills to their kids.

That is why, in this week’s episode of the podcast, I am interviewing Dr. Mary Barbera. Dr. Barbera is the mother of a young adult with Autism, a registered nurse, board certified behavior analyst and a best selling author. 

Dr. Barbera’s latest book Turn Autism Around, her online courses, weekly podcast and social media posts help parents and professionals start turning things around for young children with early signs of autism and older children with an autism diagnosis who are struggling with talking, tantrums, eating, sleeping, potty training, and more.   

In this Episode of the podcast, you will learn:

  • How Dr. Barbera went from complete denial of the signs of her son’s Autism to a BCBA;
  • What Dr. Barbera means by the phrase, “Turn Autism Around”; and
  • Dr. Barbera’s 4 Principles for turning autism around.

To learn more about Dr. Mary Barbera and her courses, visit her website.

Also mentioned in this episode: Stepping in Your Role As Expert.

To receive support and resources in your INBOX, subscribe to my mailing list here where you will receive the Sunday Reset & More.

To schedule a consultation for my 1:1 coaching program, click here.

Ep 59: Autism Parent Burnout

Ep 59: Autism Parent Burnout

Free Webinar: Overcoming Burnout in 5 Simple Steps | April 20 @6PM EST

Register here

The research shows that burnout levels among parents raising kids with autism are higher than average, which isn’t surprising given the expectations, uncertainty, lack of support, and fear of the future. What’s surprising is that while this burnout is recognized, there’s not much being done about it. This is a crucial missing piece in treating our children because our well-being should be at the forefront of their treatment. We are their long-term caregivers, and if we burn out, we can’t possibly help them.

The good news is that burnout is a cycle that you can interrupt, and I’m going to show you how in this webinar. Join me on April 20th at 6:00 PM Eastern to learn where burnout falls in the self-coaching model and how to use it to interrupt your cycle of burnout. I’ll also be answering questions and providing free coaching during the webinar. Register now on my website or in the show notes for the final offering of overcoming burnout for the month of April.