98: Parenting and Puberty with Carrie Cariello

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Parenting and Puberty with Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is a wife and mother of five children, whose second eldest child, Jack, is on the Autism spectrum. Over the last 10 years, she has authored three books about her journey as an Autism mom, and her latest book, Half My Sky, dives into the intersection of Autism and puberty, and the challenges that come with this season of life.

If you’ve ever wished you had a more experienced Autism mom to look up to who was further ahead on the journey, you’re in luck. In this conversation, Carrie candidly shares the ups, downs, and heartaches of raising a child with Autism, especially during the teenage years when puberty hits. She also reflects on how her role has evolved as her son Jack transitions into young adulthood.

Join us in this episode to hear Carrie’s insights on parenting and puberty as an Autism mom, and how she’s navigating the untethering of the mom-child relationship. We discuss what it was like for her to be a young mother of a child with Autism, why letting your child fly on their own feels hard, and explore what she has found to be the most rewarding and challenging aspects of this particular stage of life she’s currently in.

 

 

On January 20th 2024, I’m hosting Autism mom and author, Carrie Cariello at BeanZ and Co. in Avon, Connecticut. Carrie has been writing about her experience as an Autism mother for the last 10 years, and she’ll be around from 12pm to 2pm to sign copies of her books! We’re expecting a big turnout, so click here to find out more! 

 

Each month, I will be offering you a webinar where I’ll teach on a particular topic or host an open coaching call. Mark your calendars for January 31st 2024 where I’ll be kicking off the year with a webinar called Lessons from Rock Bottom! Fill out the pop-up on my homepage to join my mailing list and receive more info on how to attend.

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why Carrie felt compelled to share her Autism parenting story.

  • Carrie’s experience of Autism being “heartbreak by a thousand cuts.”

  • How we tie our moral compass to our child’s behavior.

  • The challenges of disentangling the mom-child relationship.

  • Why it’s crucial to untether your self-concept from your child, especially during puberty.

  • The importance of honoring both the physical and emotional age of your child.

  • What Carrie has found to be most rewarding and challenging in this current season of her life.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 98 of The Autism Mom Coach, Parenting and Puberty with Carrie Cariello.

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 this week’s episode of the podcast. Before I introduce my conversation with Carrie Cariello, I want to give you two big updates. First, if you would like to meet Carrie and have one of her books signed, you can do that this weekend, January 20th at Beanz Café in Avon, Connecticut. Carrie will be there from twelve to two signing books and chatting with parents. I’ll leave the link to this event in the episode notes and I hope to see as many of you as possible there.

The second announcement is my upcoming webinar on January 31st , Lessons from Rock Bottom where I am going to teach you how to bounce back from any setback and obstacle you face like a boss. The webinar will take place on January 31st from 7:00pm to 9:00pm Eastern. You can register by using the link in the show notes.

Okay, onto today’s conversation with Carrie Cariello. For those of you who don’t know Carrie yet, she is a wife and a mother of five children. Her second eldest child, Jack, who is now 18 years old, is on the Autism spectrum. Carrie has written three books about her journey as an Autism mom. She started about 10 years ago when Jack was seven or eight years old with her book, What Color is Monday? followed by Someone I’m With Has Autism. And now her latest release, Half My Sky, where she talks about the messiness of building a family and keeping a marriage together alongside Autism.

In this conversation, Carrie so honestly shares some of the ups and downs and the heartache of raising a child with Autism, especially when they get to the teenage years and puberty hits and everything goes a little bit haywire. She talks about Autism being heartbreak by a 1,000 cuts. And this resonated with me so much and I think it will with you too.

She talks about what it’s like to be a young mother of a child with Autism and how her view of her role has changed so much from when Jack was a little boy to now as a young adult in a college program. So without further ado, let’s hear from Carrie.

Lisa: Carrie, welcome to the podcast. I am thrilled that you are here. Can you please take a minute to introduce yourself?

Carrie: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. This is so fun. My name is Carrie Cariello. I am married to a man named Joe and we have five kids together and our second son Jack, is diagnosed with Autism. And I’ve been writing and blogging about Jack and family and marriage for over 11 years now. We live in Southern New Hampshire. My oldest son is Joseph. He lives in Philadelphia, he goes to college.

Jack is also in a college/residential program a few hours from here. My middle son, Charlie’s 18, is a senior in college. I’m sorry, senior in high school. Don’t rush it. And my daughter Rose is 16 and she’s a junior in high school. And then my youngest son, Henry, is a freshman. So they all grew up when we weren’t looking.

Lisa: Wow, so you have a little bit of a busy life, right?

Carrie: Yes, it is busy. It’s a different kind of busy now. I look back and think, wow, we had five kids in under six years. My oldest was five and a half when my youngest was born. And people ask a lot if the youngest is a girl, four boys and then a girl. And I always [crosstalk] the story that, “No, she’s the fourth. And then there was supposed to be an appointment to make sure she was the youngest. And the doctor canceled the appointment.” And I had a 10 pound four ounce baby boy nine months later.

Lisa: Oh, wow. Well, listen, meant to be.

Carrie: Absolutely meant to be. He is a delightful human.

Lisa: Carrie, again, I am just so excited to have you on the podcast because so much of what I coach my moms about and so much of my own experience, especially as of late with my son being 16 years old is captured so beautifully and eloquently in your latest book, Half My sky.

Carrie: Thank you.

Lisa: But I also just want to go back a little bit because this is your third book, I believe about Autism. Is that right?

Carrie: Yes.

Lisa: Yeah. And so I just want you guys to imagine. This was almost 10 years ago. I was in a Barnes & Noble because that’s the one thing that my kiddo really liked to do. He liked the Thomas trains at Barnes & Noble. And so he would just play and whatever made him happy, we do. And so we were there and I just remember browsing these special needs parenting books. And there was probably two, and yours was one of them. And as soon as I saw the title, What Color Was Monday? I just knew instantly that I’m getting this book and I loved the book so much.

But when I read it, my son was about your son’s age. And so I feel like I’ve tracked with you through the years. And so before we talk about any specific book or your blogging and everything else you do in this community, I just want to ask you. Why do you share your story?

Carrie: Well, I’m a person who, and this will show up again later, I’m a person who lives out loud. I always have been, it’s just consistent with my temperament and my personality. But I had a real kind of light bulb moment of where I really wanted to be more intentional about sharing our story. And it was before I started writing What Color is Monday? It was before I started blogging. We were in a hotel and I write about it in the book. We had just taken the kids to a water park. It’s something we had done a couple of years in a row.

And we got to this one hotel where we always stay and Joe kind of dropped me and all five kids and they were really little at the time and went back to get the suitcases. And I walk into the lobby with the kids and there’s a man standing there with his dog. And at that time, Jack was absolutely terrified of dogs to the point of complete panic, really almost a panic attack. The times that I worried he would run into the street if it meant getting out of the proximity of a dog. So immediately all the kids and myself are kind of on high alert.

And the other kids say to me, “Mom, a dog, it’s a dog.” And I said, “I know. Okay, let’s just wait and see what happens.” Because Jack was at least staying within the lobby, which was progress in and of itself. And I went up to the hotel desk and said, “There’s a dog in here.” And they said, “Yeah, in the last year we became dog friendly.” So still Jack was in the room and I thought, alright, let’s just see how this might play out. Joe, in the meantime had come into this space and I sort of gestured to him, let’s just give this a moment, let’s just all breathe.

And I said to the man, I said, this makes me emotional, I said, “This is my son, Jack, and he has Autism.” And the man started to call out really quietly, really gently, “Jack, this is Gracie. This is my dog, Gracie, and we’re waiting for you. We’re here and we’re waiting for you.” And Jack at that time, his anxiety manifested. He would pace and circle the room, and he was circling and circling. And the man sat down on the floor and he said, “We’re waiting.” He just said it many times.

And Jack just sort of, over the course of 10 to 12 minutes, circled closer and closer. And he reached out and he touched the man’s hair first. And then he pet the dog. And I thought, this is the side of humanity I want to show people if I can. This beautiful, gentle breaking down of barriers between boy, dog and man. And I remember riding up in the elevator to our room, thinking, I want to write. I’d never been a writer, ever, never really written anything. I said, “I want to start writing.” And that was sort of the birth of the idea of, What Color is Monday?

Lisa: Oh wow, that’s beautiful. There’s a lot of fear out there, I think, in the Autism community for sure about what other people will think of our kids and us in public. And I’m not going to say that it’s not warranted. But I have also had experiences that have taken my breath away. I was on a train from Connecticut to Philadelphia with my son and his OCD was the beer. And you talk about this in your book about how you just sort of can’t explain it until you’ve experienced that constant need for reassurance.

And I paid extra so we’d be in the business area where it would just be the two of us. And I was hoping that no one would be next to us. But there was a young man sitting next to us with his laptop doing work. And I was just like, “Oh, this poor kid.” At some point my son got up to go to the bathroom and the young man turns to me and he’s like, “I don’t know what’s going on here. But you’re doing an amazing job.” And I lost it. We don’t know what other people are thinking. We don’t know what their experiences are. And sometimes we are really pleasantly surprised.

Carrie: I agree. I’ve never really had a moment where I felt outraged. And I know people have. I’ve had moments where I had to stop and think, how far do I want to take this conversation? Just a couple of weeks ago I was at a cocktail party and one woman said to me, “Well, you know, it’s a spectrum, right.” And I thought, okay, I do know.

Lisa: Tell me more. It’s my first day.

Carrie: Yeah, it’s not really my style to sort of combat people. I don’t think that’s where true advocacy lies. I had a conversation with a woman about a year and a half ago, just as my son was about to leave for this program he’s in. He’s in a residential program that has a lot of scaffolding and support. And it took quite a process to find it, get him applied, get him in, all of it.

And I was talking to this woman at a cocktail party about her daughter who was going away to college also. And she said, “Well, if it doesn’t work out, you’ll just find another program.” I wanted so badly to chomp at that bit and be like, “There is no other program, you don’t get this, the magnitude of this.” And I have to check myself in those moments and think, I’m not teaching anyone. If I’m reactive, no one is teaching or learning. So it just really all begins with storytelling. And I always say, “If compassion is a house we build. Storytelling is the key to the front door. I don’t think you can get in anyone’s hearts and minds otherwise.”

Lisa: I definitely agree with that and I have had to fight that bitterness in myself because I’ve gone through something very similar with Ben. Did a lot of work to get him to a place and then the place didn’t work out and the finding of another place. And well-meaning people saying, “There has to be something.” And I would love for that to be true, I really, truly would. And I don’t want to jump down your throat. But once you’ve gone scorched Earth across the country looking for places and getting rejected and you hear something like that, it hurts.

Carrie: Yeah. It’s perspective for sure. And I just think I’m so glad you don’t have to worry about this. That’s what I say in my mind.

Lisa: That’s a lovely way of putting it. Alright, so I would love to talk to you about Half My Sky and this is your most recent book. But I first just want to say, wherever you are in this Autism journey, be there. So if you have a seven year old, be at seven. If you have a 12 year old, be at 12. If you have a 16 year old then come with us as we talk about this. And I just say that because part of my hesitance sometimes in sharing our story in my podcast, or even in my social media is, I don’t want to scare the crap out of people.

I mean, quite truly this might not be your experience at all. We know all of our kids are so different in so many ways. And there are people who have the experiences that Carrie and I are going to talk about. And so if and when you have them, you know that you’re not alone. So I just say that with the caveat for everything that we talk about is, don’t use this against yourself. Don’t use it to terrorize yourself. Just take it in as information from two Autism moms who have done a thing or two and are here to support. So with that, Carrie, can you just please tell us about why you wrote Half My Sky?

Carrie: Well, the number one question I get is about puberty and the close second is about how we found Jack’s program. I think both are really unexplored topics. And like you said, we have traveled this road. And I think when Jack was young all I wanted was an older Autism mom, somebody who was 10/12/15 years ahead of me. And now I, as that person, feels a somewhat of a responsibility to share what I know and share what did work and didn’t work.

And I think Half My Sky really captures all of that in a storytelling way. I had first expected to write it as a traditional book and I went to my editor. So the backstory is, I had a publisher, the same publisher as What Color is Monday? And I started to flesh it out. And I said to my editor, “Just the chapters are not working for me. I can’t do chapter style.”

Lisa: Too rigid, too rigid for your lifestyle.

Carrie: And we agreed I could move to letters. And I wrote the whole thing and she said, “I love this book. I absolutely love this book but it is not what you promised us. You promised us a guidebook.” And she’s right, I did. I went back on my contract because then I was starting to be like, “Well, now what, they don’t like it for what it is.” And I did promise a guidebook, even Joe. So I’m not great at reading contracts. So I’m like, “Did I say that?” And he’s like, “Yes, it’s right here, you signed at the bottom for a guidebook.”

We tried to wiggle around in it and she’d say, “Well, at the end of each letter maybe you could say, dear reader, what would you have done with your mother-in-law in this situation?” And it felt like tearing my own skin off. I said, “Absolutely, I can’t alter it, but what I can do is write your guidebook.” Which I’m doing right now, which is kind of fun and it’s stretching me differently as a writer. But I said, “How about I just keep this and I’ll just see where it lands.” And that began the road of self-publishing. And that’s what Half My Sky is, is self-published.

And it was fascinating because it went on pre-order November 1st and I found out three weeks later. Now, I have a nice following. I have a wonderfully loyal audience. I’m by no means as big as many of our peers. And I logged into IngramSpark which is what you use to self-publish three weeks in. And I said, “What is this number? What does this mean, 8,000 units?” And I called Joe over and I’m like, “I really don’t know what this means.” It can’t mean what, you know, I figured a couple 100. If I had a couple 100 in pre-sale, I’d be thrilled and it was 8,000 copies sold.

And at this point, we’re close to 10,000, which when I share this information it is not a humble brag. I am as blown away…

Lisa: Wow. I’m blown away that you’re blown away.

Carrie: I’m blown away and deeply honored that people see a piece of themselves inside of our story. I always say, “Good storytelling helps a person see a piece of themselves inside of it. Great storytelling helps them, even infinitesimally change the way they live their own story.” And I don’t have any idea about where I would fall in that. But it is so meaningful to me that people see reflections not only of their Autism journey, but just motherhood and parenting and marriage.

Half My Sky was named really for marriage because I would love to hear what you think as a reader of it, but to me the book began to represent this central love story, this jagged, complicated love story at the center of our family. So I’m thrilled by all of it.

Lisa: That really did come through to me, for sure, and transparent. I am divorced. I was married when my son was diagnosed and for a few years later. And I know some of the paths that people take in that mom going all in on everything and dad’s grieving in a different way and those paths not crossing. And that’s a lot of complication there. And just the way that you and your husband have been able to navigate and manage that over the years, I think is really beautiful.

Carrie: Thank you. It has not always been easy. I really am determined to share the raw parts and the jagged pieces as well as the good times.

Lisa: Well, I think that’s why people connect to you and connect to following your story is because, I mean, I’ve been following you too. And you are pretty clear about some of the things that you don’t love at times or aren’t going great. And I think people need that because otherwise there’s just this idea that other people are doing it better than me, they’ve figured it out. And I think that really is intimidating to people. They just use that against themselves. So to be able to see the other side of that or just to know that it exists, can be a comfort.

So, Carrie, there is so much in this book that I highlighted that it became a little bit ridiculous after a while. But I just want to read one of the things that I highlighted and talk to you about this. This is something that I’ve been talking to my audience about a bit and that is the grief that we experience as Autism parents. And there is no describing our grief because it’s not your typical grief. I talk about it as more of chronic grief, it’s continuous. And so you say, “Autism is heartbreak by 1,000 paper cuts.” Can you tell me, what do you mean by that?

Carrie: Yeah, I first thought of that because I often sort of observe the world around me and it often includes seeing a kiddo Jack’s age doing something that Jack would find difficult or would have no interest in. And for example, I could see a kid, Jack’s 19 now, a 19 year old sort of flirting at the mall with a girl or bouncing a basketball in the corner. Or I could go to one of my other kid’s sports and see a boy running up and down the court. Jack is nearly 6’6, he’s very, very tall.

And I can’t help but wonder sometimes if Autism hadn’t sort of stolen his coordination, his muscle tone, his interest in anything to participate in with a group, he really could have perhaps been an athlete, quite an athlete. And I feel that staying inside and I have to acknowledge and think okay, well, it’s fair and it’s there and move forward with it, but they’re not to be overlooked.

Lisa: Yeah. So say a little bit more about the acknowledging because were you ever at a point where things like that created resentment and anger in you, and have you evolved over time or were you always this gracious?

Carrie: I don’t know that I ever had resentment or anger. I was always able to celebrate the accomplishments of other kids in my universe and seeing my nieces and nephews move forward when Jack was a little bit stuck. If I had anger, it always manifested as anxiety. So anxiety, I say it’s comorbid to Autism. I wish I had known that when it descended upon Jack at age six. We were absolutely shocked at what was going on.

And people ask all the time, “Would you take Autism away?” And I say, “I don’t have an answer for that.” Because I can’t think of a time when Jack only had Autism. So I don’t know what that looks like. Only really, I mean he was six, but it complicated so much that I remember very little before anxiety descended. So I feel angry at anxiety because it’s very difficult behavior to continually try to solve.

Lisa: Yeah, I feel the same way about OCD. I joke to my friends, “If I ever write a book, it’s going to be called I Miss Autism. Because I was like, “I’ve got this.” He was thriving. He was doing well. I think I’ve figured this out. I figured out how to live alongside this and for him to thrive. And then when OCD came, it just pulled the rug out from under us and it really just made life so almost impossible.

Carrie: How does his OCD look? Jack’s OCD’s fairly managed with medication.

Lisa: Yeah. Ben’s is what they, we were at Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island for four months in an intensive program. And what they said is, “Ben’s OCD is ever present in his brain.” And so it could be, I don’t know if three years ago when I passed my principal in the hallway if I thought that I didn’t like him, it’s stuff like that. And so there is no way for you to close that loop.

And depending on how much his anxiety is up and how he’s doing in other ways, that can result in self-injurious behavior towards himself because he’s feeling frustrated, destroying things, aggression toward parents, that kind of a thing. It really depends. But for at least three years it feels as if we’ve been held captive by it, so yeah.

Carrie: I feel that. I understand that deeply. That sensation of being stuck is so real when you’re right alongside them. Jack, I was bringing him to the bus to return to his program over Thanksgiving, and he started to rock, he stims even at his size and his age. And he was rocking in his seat and he kept saying, “I can’t get this thought out of my mind.” And I said, “What thought?” He said, “I know I put my bag in the car, I know I did.” And I knew he did too. Jack would never forget anything.

And he said, “I’m just not sure.” And I said, “Okay, that’s easy to fix, let’s pull over.” We’re right at the end of the road. “Take a look and see that you did it.” But I thought, same thing, it’s always there.

Lisa: Yes. That would be us every week on the way to skiing. I would have him put his stuff in the back seat, but before we turned into the parking lot, he would just be like, “I don’t know.” That loop would just return. With OCD it’s really hard, at least for me, to not be annoyed.

Carrie: Of course.

Lisa: [Crosstalk]. Yeah, I packed it. It’s not my first day. Come on. And then realizing this is just, it’s manifestation.

Carrie: It’s easy to take personally. And that kind of makes me think of something I talk about with puberty is that in sixth grade, Jack had terrible, terrible behaviors. I was going to pick him up, walking past the carpool line, deep in shame. And it took me a while to understand the idea, the inclination we have as parents to tie our own moral compass to our kids’ behaviors. We’re not a family that hits people. What are you talking about? We don’t swear in church, we don’t.

When it comes to Autism and puberty, it’s really important to untether yourself from that idea. It is not a reflection of who you are or who your family is. It’s just a perfect storm of hormones, anxiety and Autism, all wrapped up into one.

Lisa: I completely agree because when this happened with my son, there were the people before and the people after. And the people after, who were meeting him was like, “You have a violent child.” The people before were like, “Who are you talking about? This is the kid that I would sit next to the new kid in class or I would send to the principal’s office to pick something up.” And they had no idea. They were just flabbergasted. And so I am trying to impress upon these new people and I’m sure they thought that I was in deep denial.

I was like, “You don’t understand. A couple of months ago he was in a contest in front of his entire school, competing on the stage. He was learning how to ski for the first time in his life and he was going to parties.” And I think really it’s like I was mourning. That was the trajectory I just hoped would keep going. And it’s been interrupted right now. I don’t know where we’re going to get back, but it’s definitely been interrupted and that was just really hard to wrap my brain around.

Carrie: But I like the way you phrase that, an interruption. That’s a really beautiful way to look at it.

Lisa: Yeah, I’m going to have to remember to keep telling myself that. This book really hit on so many of the things that I coach about and that I’m dealing with. And it’s really the intersection of puberty and Autism and then the untethering of the mom child relationship. And I think this is so tricky because of our children’s diagnosis. We are really called upon to be their eyes, their ears, very early in life, interpreting the little things, understanding, all of that. And so it becomes part of who we are with these children.

And then you have a child who doesn’t really take comfort from many people or you’re the person who can do the comfort, you want to do it. And then you get to this place where you’re like, “Okay, well, now I have to unwind this because they have to fly on their own, or them being dependent on me to self-soothe is not useful for them and it’s not useful for me.” And so please just talk about that, all of that.

Carrie: Yeah. I mean it is a fascinating concept to me. I’m still continuing to explore it as he moves further and further into a somewhat independent life. And once we figured out where he was going to go and he was excited, we had to take steps to make sure he was physically ready. And could he manage his medication and get refills? Could he manage money to some degree? Keep his wallet safe, all of those prosaic practical measures. And then I had to say, “Is he emotionally separate from me enough to stay away from me?”

I think the inclination is to create, for lack of a better word, a somewhat codependent relationship. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the nature of life alongside a diagnosed child. And I certainly was guilty of it to some degree. One example is that I name in the book is that whenever I was out of the house for any period of time without him, he was always standing in the doorway waiting for me, always. And it was bittersweet and sometimes it was maddening because you just want to sit in your car and scroll through your phone for two minutes.

And seeing him standing there one day, I thought I don’t want him always waiting for me. I want him to grow and blossom in different ways. And so just practically started to talk about how, notice all your brothers and sisters don’t come to the door for me. They wait till I come inside the house. Ways that he could envision himself separate from me. So I took these steps to make sure he could emotionally sort of be away from me. Once he got to the program though it wasn’t a 100% success story.

From his first day there he started texting us 20/30 times a day. Again, bittersweet, but also maddening. It was incredibly disruptive. And it was little things. What he had for lunch, what the weather was, if a celebrity, God forbid, passed away, that was the whole news announcement in and of itself. We had the opportunity to work with a phenomenal parent coach that was given to us as part of the program, her services. She never met with Jack, she only talked to us.

And she said, “You have got to disentangle his frontal lobe from yours. For so long your frontal lobes were connected.” That was really fascinating. So in my head, I sort of came up with this model, it’s time to move him. And I actually made the W with my hands, move him from a we to two I’s. And that again was just very practical work. It was, “Jack, I will answer texts from two o’clock to three o’clock today.” That was the only time. “We’re going to talk on the phone once a day.” And it was gradual.

Our success with this was gradual and I’ll give you an example. He just started his second year there. I said to my husband two days ago, “I haven’t heard from Jack today.” And he said, “Neither have I.” And that is success in our world. That is success. I think as I move into this next season of life, where I no longer really live with my son, it’s very eye opening to me in the ways, not only did I participate a little bit in that codependency, but the steady narrative of mothers around me. I’m the only one that can do this. I’m the only one who can keep him safe. He’s got to live here forever.

I understand those are fear driven and it very much depends on the profile of your kiddo’s diagnosis for sure. But I’m here to say that that’s not always the case. And now when Jack comes home, he’s coming home in two days for the holidays. Watching him around this house, it’s like watching him put on a sweater that he’s outgrown. He’s outgrown us. It doesn’t fit anymore. It’s itchy for him. He doesn’t want to be parented. He wants his life. He wants his life.

Lisa: That’s so interesting. So, Carrie, there are so many rich topics in this book. And in my opinion, I think that this book is really good for anyone, no matter where you are in the journey. Because even if you’re not here to get the perspective of someone who’s been through as much as you, I think could be really helpful for parents who are trying to do everything. They’re always second guessing whether they’re doing enough and the right things. And I was just really struck by you saying, “Do I think it was that extra speech that I pushed for that gave us the outcome that we have now?” No.

And I think that a lot of parents struggle with this, if I don’t get the IEP right this year, then he’s going to be homeless. At the end of it, he’s going to be homeless. And so just from somebody who has perspective, who’s probably been through ups and downs in the services that you’ve gotten, how would you respond to that?

Carrie: Yeah, I get that question a lot, always from a young, earnest mom, “What should I ask for at the IEP table?” And I always say, “That is not what, like you said, got Jack from A to B.” You’re trying to raise a whole child and a whole child doesn’t spring off of a conference table. Take inventory of what you’d like your family to look like. This is an opportunity. And a diagnosis is an opportunity to reinvent the life that you want. We decided we want our family to eat dinner together at night. We want one activity per kid per year, something that’s really meaningful to them.

My husband really wanted religion to be a part of our life, family, interactions to be a part of our life. So we took all of that and sort of folded our family around those pillars. And it had nothing to do with the IEP table. Jack learned from his father everything Joe could think to teach him, how to change a tire, how to hang Christmas lights, how to pray in church. He set the table with me every night. We always had sort of this list for lack of a better word, of soft values we wanted to extend to Jack.

How do you cheer someone up after a bad day? What does forgiveness look like? What do you buy your cousin when she has a baby? That is a huge part of living and thriving in our world. And you can build speech and OT around those activities. I always say, “Beware of the distractions. When you’re chasing hippotherapy and gluten free, and maybe that’s important for your child’s profile, but just be aware if you’re also utilizing that as a distraction.”

Lisa: I, 100% agree with that, because what I see is a lot of parents sort of buffering and avoiding their own fear by just doing more and more and more and more and more. They think the answer is in the more and truly it’s not. This is going to be difficult. This is going to be challenging. There is no when this gets easier per se. You can get better at how you handle it by growing your resilience, growing your resourcefulness. And I always like to talk to people about these ups and downs are the rule and not the exception.

Because I see a lot of moms coming to me, they’re like, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” And I’m always like, “Yeah, such is life.” While I understand the sentiment, I also know that living in that frame of mind is really discouraging and defeating. And so instead, trying to focus on how are you navigating this? How are you problem solving in this? What skills are you utilizing? And so I like to think of myself at this point as I’m a master problem solver and I can get my brain on board quickly.

So we had the situation where my son was in Utah, all of this effort to get him to Utah to this school. Within one week he was discharged from the school, a number of things happened. And so all of our hopes and dreams were on Utah for months. And within a 24 hour period, it’s not Utah anymore.

Carrie: Wow, that’s a lot.

Lisa: But I could stay here with all the reasons it shouldn’t be this way, all the things that I think should have been done. It’s not Utah anymore, we’re moving on.

Carrie: I understand that completely. You can’t linger. You can’t linger. You try things and you hope for the best and then if not, you try something else.

Lisa: Yeah. And I think another thing that happens is when we’re always so hyper focused on these different achievements. And I especially see this with my parents where their child is say in third grade, but they’re at a first grade reading level or whatever it is. Whenever we’re focused on those types of achievements, we’re always missing out on the amazingness. And I think about telling the story about Jack and the cowardly lion. There’s just so much intelligence and understanding another point of view and empathy. There’s so much in that. It’s like, where did you get that from? That wasn’t the IEP table.

Carrie: Right. We were sitting around watching them. It was [inaudible] and when it was over, he sat up straight, I think he was eight or so and he said, “The lion has Autism.” And I said, “Why would you think that?” And he said, “He’s afraid all the time.” And it was such a glimpse into his heart and into the fear. Like we talked about earlier with OCD, we really cannot understand what that feels like for them. And it’s hard for me to fully process what Jack’s ever present anxiety feels like for him.

And in terms of easily focusing on the lack of progress or all that’s going wrong. This parent coach, last year, Jack hit a few speed bumps and we didn’t know if he was in the right space. And there was a lot of pressure to make this work, given how expensive it was and how few places there are, just like your Utah. So I was doing a term called catastrophizing. I’m good at it. I like it. It’s very comfortable for me, where I imagine all the worst case scenarios. He’s going to get kicked out. He’s going to live here forever.

His heart will be shattered when we have to go pick him up because he loves it even though he was making very impulsive choices that said otherwise. So this parent coach said, “You know what? Get a whiteboard. Get a whiteboard and list all the things that are going wrong and then list all the things that are going right. And then you have them all just spelled out for you in one spot.” It was beautiful because I often call it the Autism balance sheet. And I’ve had it in my brain since the day he was diagnosed.

He’s not talking, but he ate a banana. He slept two hours last night but he took a nap. Constantly checks and balances, to this boy.

Lisa: I totally relate to that and I have to say that I was probably deluded for longer than maybe I should have been by the fact that my son was talkative and so pro social because I really viewed that as unlike Autism. So I just had so much hope for where that would go. And now those assets are almost liabilities in some way for him. And so the fact that he is so socially engaged or wants to be, then it’s seeing the pain of him realizing that he doesn’t connect with his friends like he used to.

He doesn’t understand what you call the fluidity of friendships. And then there’s times where I’m like, “I wish he was impacted in a way where that didn’t hurt him”, because it’s painful to see that.

Carrie: Yeah, I understand that. There’s a certain sort of vulnerability and rawness when your child is self-actualized as Jack and Ben are. Jack knows who he is in this world to some degree. He knows what he has and that causes him a little distress.

Lisa: I was so surprised last year, my ex-husband, I forget what he got him for Christmas. He [inaudible], “Ben, you’re never going to believe, guess what happened.” I think maybe it was a new movie came out or a new game. And Ben says, “They’ve found a cure to Autism.” And I was really blown away by that. I was like, “Oh, my gosh. I didn’t realize that that was in there for him.”

Carrie: I know when we visited Jack for a parents weekend, he said, “Do you think I’ll ever get married?” And yeah, they want things for themselves.

Lisa: Ben very clearly wants a girlfriend. He’s been very clear about that.

Carrie: I talk a lot about the duality that exists within kids like ours. They have their physical age and then they have their emotional age. And for so long we only parented the younger version. And now as Jack is sort of transitioning into young adulthood, it’s really important that we honor both versions because they both exist fully in him. I don’t think one takes up bigger room than the other. And so I see a lot on social media. Now that I’m here I’m more attuned to it, sort of not to infantile him.

I stopped calling him, big guy. He’s very tall, but I was calling him that a lot. I’m determined to sort of make sure he understands that I respect him as a young man.

Lisa: Yeah. I think that’s so important. I mean, that’s interesting, in our household that’s been something that I think we have done well in that, having very separate space and him having very certain responsibilities. And us not going into one another’s space. I don’t just walk into his bedroom, that kind of thing. And so that’s definitely evolved over the years because before he was attached to me. And so as they get older, they’re less wanting sometimes, hopefully to be that attached.

Carrie: Right. It’s a natural progression for sure.

Lisa: Yeah, definitely. So, Carrie, why don’t you tell us, for this season in your life, what has been the most challenging and the most rewarding?

Carrie: The season being of Jack and all my children leaving the house. They’re kind of deeply intertwined, honestly. I’ve been writing about Autism for 11 years. And I thought, well, when my subject walks right out the door, what will become of the work that I dearly love? And I really thought all of that would kind of come to a close. I had some anxiety about it, to be honest, in the months leading up to him leaving. It was kind of coupled with his physical leaving. And now I’m busier than ever with writing and working and collaborative projects, which is really, really exciting.

It took Jack not living here for a period of time for me to really realize something I say a lot, that our nervous systems are closely intertwined. So when he lived here, I was often on sort of high alert. And now I have breathing space where I don’t have to worry about anybody else’s nervous system but my own. And I’m grateful. I know that that’s not popular to say, but I am grateful that he has a space to call his own, somewhere that he loves because in the long run it wasn’t really meant to be for him to be with me forever that way, it wasn’t natural.

Lisa: Yeah. No, I agree with that. Interesting, I have been telling my friends how pleased I am about my son. My son right now is at a mental health hospitalization. And he’s doing well and he’s happy and he’s safe. And no mother wants to be like, “Guess where my kid is for Christmas.” It’s not what I ever imagined, but I know what the Christmases before this looked like. OCD had sucked the joy out of everything and in some ways it made it dangerous.

And so I am at that point now where I have been able to untether from him for quite a bit of time to stand on my own because before I was so concerned about how to manage things around him and for him.

Carrie: And I often say, Jack still has Autism. He still has severe anxiety. He didn’t shed those like a snake skin. He just picked them up and moved them, three hours. But he has outstanding support. It was time for somebody to take the baton from us and see if they could get him to run a little further and that’s what’s happening.

Lisa: Yeah. And I did say, kind of harkening back to something you had said before about the mom being the only one. I’ve always encouraged my parents, whenever a teacher leaves or an aide switches and I know that those can be disruptive. But I always looked at those as just more opportunities for my son to have to adapt to other people, because, again, such as life. Because you don’t want to be that single person dependency. I understand it has its benefits in some places. I understand that sometimes that’s just where we are, but as a long term plan, it’s problematic.

Carrie: It’s not sustainable. I remember being in a school meeting, they were announcing some changes to the special ed program. And one of the changes was you weren’t going to have a pairer for more than one year. And I didn’t think much of it, but a lot of the parents were upset. But the explanation, which I think is really valid, is if your kiddo can only do a skill for one person, is it really a skill? It needs to transfer. I kind of modeled my own untethering with that in mind. If he can only behave in a store if I’m with him, can he really behave? If he can only take medication if I give it to him, is that medication compliant? Not really.

Lisa: No, that’s such a great point. Well, Carrie, it has been such a pleasure having you on for this conversation, I really enjoyed it. And I just want to end with, is there anything that you would like to share before we wrap up?

Carrie: No, I think we’ve covered a lot. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and thank you for reading the book ahead of time. That was amazing.

Lisa: Of course, yes, I was happy to do it. And I highlighted a lot of it. So I will be noting some of this in likely upcoming blogs. I actually, I did a podcast episode, you might not know this. I did it about medication shaming and it was actually inspired by you because you had posted something on your blog about medication and about how you need to do it because it softens the edges and all that kind of thing. And it just sparked in me, why is she doing this? Why are you sharing?

And I thought that maybe some of the reason could be is because we’re always so questioned by it. I would never put my kid on medication. I can’t believe you’re doing that. And please know this was the last resort after the last resort.

Carrie: That was probably 100% why I’ve shared it. I try to share things in a way that people can be open to receiving. I shame myself about it. I have enough second guessing of myself and yeah, don’t put me on the defensive about it. I often tell parents to come up with a toolbox of responses, particularly during the holidays for when things come up like medication. Things you can easily retrieve and they’re not reactive. I know we’re working on it is a great one. Something that doesn’t invite other questions or any kind of debate, because that’s not where you want it to happen.

Lisa: Yeah. No, for sure. Alright, well, we are going to wrap up this episode with Carrie. And for part two, I am going to be talking to Carrie about her latest venture. So stay tuned for next week as well.

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

Enjoy the Show?

 

97: What’s New and What to Expect in 2024

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | What’s New and What to Expect in 2024

This week, I’m catching you up on what’s been going on with me and what you can expect from the podcast in 2024.

The Autism parent experience is filled with making hard decisions, managing feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, grief, and resentment, and generally being hyper-focused on our child and making everything right for them. 

What I’ve learned is that we need to shift from this state to one of focusing on ourselves. We’ve all heard the oxygen mask analogy, but none of us really believe it. Autism moms everywhere have sacrificed our mental, emotional, and physical health to help our kids get through the day, and I’m sharing the work I’m doing this year to guide you in 2024.

 

 

On January 20th 2024, I’m hosting Autism mom and author, Carrie Cariello at BeanZ and Co. in Avon, Connecticut. Carrie has been writing about her experience as an Autism mother for the last 10 years, and she’ll be around from 12pm to 2pm to sign copies of her books! We’re expecting a big turnout, so click here to find out more! 

 

Each month, I will be offering you a webinar where I’ll teach on a particular topic or host an open coaching call. Mark your calendars for January 31st 2024 where I’ll be kicking off the year with a webinar called Lessons from Rock Bottom! Click here to join my mailing list for more info on how to attend.

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What’s new with me and my son Ben.
  • How you are not alone in your Autism parenting experience and the support I can offer you.
  • Why Autism moms don’t really believe in the power of self-care.
  • What you can expect from me in 2024.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 97 of The Autism Mom Coach, What’s New and What to Expect in 2024

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. This is my first episode back after the new year and I am glad to be talking to you. In this episode I’m going to catch you up a bit about what’s going on with me and what you can expect from the podcast and from me in 2024 but before I do that I want to also share with you some exciting announcements. Mark your calendar on January 20th, I will be hosting Autism mom and author, Carrie Cariello at Beanz & Co. Café in Avon, Connecticut.

For those of you who might not be familiar with Carrie, she is the mother of five children, one with Autism, her son Jack is now 18. And Carrie has been writing about her experience as an Autism mother for the last, I would say 10 years. Her first book was called What Color Is Monday? She published this when Jack was about eight or nine, I believe, followed by Someone I’m with Has Autism, and now, Half My Sky. Where she really digs into the experience of parenting five children, keeping a marriage together and advocating for her son and some of the lessons that she’s learned.

So Carrie will be at Beanz & Co. on January 20th from 12:00 to 2:00 to sign copies of her books. There will be supplies of Half My Sky available for purchase. However, they will be limited and I do expect a big turnout. So if you want a copy of your book signed, I suggest that you be BYO. Also this is a family event. Beanz is the most inclusive place you could ever go to. In fact, their tagline is ‘everyone belongs’. Beanz & Co. was co-founded by two special needs moms who saw the need for dignified employment for their children and for people in the disabilities community.

So Beanz & Co. actually employs half people with disabilities. It offers job training and job support and it is truly the most delightful place to spend time. And I would know because I spent a lot of time there. I will leave the link in the comments and I hope to see as many of you there as possible.

In addition, I recently interviewed Carrie for the podcast and those episodes will be coming out at the end of January. So you will also get to hear a bit more from her about her journey and about the process of writing these books, why she writes the books. And a bit about the why behind why she shares the details of her family’s life, her child’s story, and her experience as an Autism mom. I am positive that you will find it delightful and inspiring, so stay tuned for those episodes.

Okay another mark your calendar, save the date. On January 31st, I will be doing a webinar. This is going to become a regular feature that you can expect from me. Each month I am either going to be offering you a webinar where I will be teaching on a particular topic or an open coaching call. We’re going to kick off the year with a webinar and the working title is Lessons from Rock Bottom. It’s a working title, we’ll see.

But really the point of the webinar is to share some of the lessons I have learned this year as a way of teaching you how to evaluate the ups and downs of your Autism journey. Because so many of us spend time either dreading, being scared of what might happen or just dealing with it, rinse and repeat. And what I’m going to offer you in this webinar is an example of how I’ve actually evaluated the past year of my life, which has been the most difficult personally, as a parent really all around.

But I’m not doing this so I can just share the woe is me, look at all that happened. No, I want to show you what I’m doing with all of these experiences. I want to show you how I’m evaluating them, the lessons that I’m taking forward from them. And I want to share them with you because no matter what your experience is, no matter if your child is two or 25, you can use these lessons and these principles and apply them to your day-to-day life to make improvements.

So Mark your calendar, stay tuned, information will be forthcoming. If you are on my mailing list, no sweat, you’re going to get all of this information in your inbox. For those of you who are not on my mailing list, get on it. The link will be in the show notes. You can find me on Facebook, on Instagram, get on my mailing list. I share weekly newsletters with my audience and my subscriber list is always the first to learn of new offerings, of open coaching calls, of webinars. So if you’re not already, get on the mailing list. That’s it right now for announcements.

So I am going to share a bit about what’s been going on with me. My son, Ben, was not with me for Christmas, sadly. He is still in the mental health hospital and this has been rough, some really rough, sad times for me, deep sadness, a lot of crying in the aisles of Target, skipping parties, leaving parties early. And as difficult as this has been, I do know that he’s where he needs to be and he’s getting the support that he needs. And in fact, even when he was with me for Christmas in the past couple of years he really wasn’t.

Ever since OCD entered our lives, he has been trapped in his brain, the prison of his brain. And so no matter where we were or what we were doing, he was always spinning in some way about the OCD. And that’s just kind of a weird place to be, is to be sad that your kid isn’t with you, but also I’m not sad that we’re not having the last three Christmases, either, where there was so much joy that was sucked out of our day because of my son’s perseverations, because of the intense, intense anxiety.

And there is a lot of relief of knowing that he is safe where he is and that he did have a really fun Christmas. I got him some really sweet gifts. He had fun with his peers in the program. He got some books that he really loves, some Legos, and that was all very, very heartwarming. The reason I’m sharing this is look, nobody wishes for this for their kid, nobody wants this but some of us experience it. And I just want to take a little bit of the stigma out of it. I am not alone.

I have clients who are in the same boat as me. Their children spent the holidays in a hospital getting the help that they need. And no, it’s not an ideal time of the year to do it. But the fact is there is no Christmas, there are no birthdays, there are no celebrations when your child’s mind is imprisoned by their perseverations, their anxiety, their OCD. And sometimes making decisions like this, hard decisions like this, it’s the right decision.

And for any of you who are experiencing this now or in the future, I want you to know that you are not alone in making these hard decisions. And that although some people may not understand it, they also have the privilege of never having to understand it. But for those of us who do, we support you. I support you. That’s it on the Ben front.

For me, I have been doing a lot, a lot of my own personal work on grief because grief has been front and center of my experience in a really big way over the last year. And I didn’t even realize it until our family therapist referred to me as a grieving mother. So I started to really research grief. I’m really wanting to understand it more. And so of course, I have hired a grief coach. I have gotten certified in grief recovery. And now I am participating in an advanced coaching certification on grief and post traumatic growth, which I’m really excited about.

The coach I’m doing this with, her name is Krista St-Germain and she coaches widowed moms. And a lot of her work has been devoted to understanding the ways in which we can not only process our grief, understand our grief, make room for our grief, but also all the ways that we can grow from our grief. And that is where post traumatic growth comes in. And I’m so excited to learn more. I’m so excited to share more about it on the podcast and to make it part of my coaching program. So there will be lots of new learning and new concepts that are coming your way that I will be sharing with you this year.

And then finally for the podcast, I am going to start sharing with you some more voices, the voices of my clients. I want you to hear about the results other people are getting from coaching, other moms, other full-time working moms, other stay at home moms, other professionals, other mothers with multiple children with disabilities, other single moms. I want you to hear more of these voices so that you can see your experience in other people.

Because I think it’s so easy, especially when you’re in a fight, flight state or you’re in grief, to think that you’re the only one, to think that your circumstances are way so different from other people’s and that you can’t get help or this work won’t help you for whatever reason.

I want to demystify this a bit for you by bringing you more voices. And to share with you more about how my own work, my own grief work, my own coaching has helped me progress, has helped me to process some of the really difficult things that I have been experiencing in the last year. The difficult decisions that I have ahead of me without completely drowning. That is all possible for you too, whether your child is two, whether they are 24. Whether or not things are smooth sailing and you’re like, “I don’t know, whatever you’re talking about, that’s not my situation.” And that’s fine.

But you can still learn from this podcast. There are lots of principles that I share that will help you whether your child is in an acute state of anxiety or whether just managing the day-to-day uncertainty of, is there going to be a meltdown, how to talk to your parents about your child’s diagnosis. How to deal with other people in your life, how to deal with your own resentment, your own compare and despair when it comes to other folks in your life.

All of those things are things that I work with my clients about and they get progress and they get progress quickly. Because when you are spending the time, your precious time, just even a little bit of your precious time to you, to your brain, to your emotions, you get progress and that is the challenge though. The challenge for all of us is to shift from the super hyper focus on our kids and fixing, helping, making everything right for them to ourselves.

And that’s the message I really want to drive home from now on. We’ve all heard of the oxygen mask. And let’s just face it, none of us really believe it, not really because we’ve all done a lot without the oxygen mask. We have all sacrificed our mental, emotional, physical health to help our children to get through the day. We are so used to doing it that I don’t know that we really believe that self-care is important. I think that we know it in terms of yeah, we’ve heard that a lot and that’s what people say. But knowing it in your bones and making it your priority, there is such a difference.

And so I want to share with you the experience of clients who have gone through my program, who went from knowing it in theory to integrating it into part of their lives, to part of who they are, to part of how they parent. I have to tell you from my perspective of being in year 16 of this, I didn’t get here until a couple of years ago. And of course I wish I knew then what I know now. But since I do know what I know now, I want to share it with you. I want to share it with as many Autism parents as I possibly can.

You do not need to run yourself into the ground. You do not need to spend your days and nights walking on eggshells, waiting for the other shoe to drop. There are proactive things that you can do every single day to help you show up as the parent you want to be no matter what your child is doing.

Alright, that is it for this week’s episode of the podcast. I hope you found it helpful. I hope you marked your calendar. I hope you save the dates. And I hope you join my mailing list so that you get all of this goodness right in your inbox. Thanks for listening and I will talk to you next week.

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

Enjoy the Show?

 

96: How We Make Parenting Harder on Ourselves (MVP)

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | How We Make Parenting Harder on Ourselves (MVP)

We have made it to the New Year—a fresh start and a new beginning. With that, I’ve decided to remind you of what I shared in the very first episode of this podcast: as the parents of children with Autism, we often make parenting difficult for ourselves without realizing we’re adding to the pain we’re already experiencing.

If you find yourself constantly stressing about your child’s future, worrying you’re not able to give them the right kind of support, and putting yourself and your own needs on the back burner, today’s episode is for you. Parenting a child with Autism is hard, but are you making it even harder for yourself?

Tune in this week to discover how we make parenting difficult for ourselves. I’m discussing why Autism isn’t a problem that needs solving, how to identify the thoughts that are making your job as a parent even harder, and I’m giving you a simple tool to make parenting a happier, more confident, and peaceful experience for you and your child.

 

 

If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call with me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here! 

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why Autism is not a problem to be solved.
  • 3 ways parents of children with Autism are making life harder than it needs to be.
  • Your most important job is as a mother in supporting your child.
  • A simple tool I use to get clear on how to move forward in challenging parenting situations.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 96 of The Autism Mom Coach, How We Make Parenting Harder on Ourselves.

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 Happy New Year. I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing holiday and that you are doing well. I am actually recording this episode in December, early December so it is not quite the new year for me. And I had planned to bring you a brand new episode for the new year but as it turns out, I am not feeling very well. So instead of launching into new episodes, I am bringing you a replay of the very first episode of the podcast which I recorded almost two whole years ago.

So in this episode, how we make parenting harder on ourselves, I talk a bit about the podcast and what you can expect. But the heart of the episode is really talking about the ways in which we as parents create more pain and more suffering for ourselves in the way that we treat ourselves. And I have to say these issues that I identified in this podcast have remained consistent for my clients over the last two years.

I regularly coach my clients on blame and shame, second guessing themselves, not trusting themselves, beating themselves for not being clairvoyant or all-knowing or ever present. So this is all to say that the issues identified in the first podcast episode continue to be relevant and I’m betting that they are relevant to you. So that’s why I think for the new year, before we go forward, it’s always good to look back because for me the new year isn’t just about setting new intentions, it’s about evaluating as well. And that is something I’m going to be teaching you in upcoming episodes.

When we’re deciding how we want to go forward we need to look back on the things that worked, the things that didn’t work and how we want to show up differently. And that is what will be coming to you in future episodes. But for right now I want to take a step back and take a look at the ways that you may be making your parenting experience more difficult than it needs to be. Because the fact is, the actions of blaming and shaming, second guessing yourself, beating yourself up, these are all actions that you’re taking proactively and you don’t have to.

You could actually decide not to do these things because really they have no value to you. They don’t make you better. They don’t make you more confident, that’s for sure. All of these actions that we are taking. They’re like enforced errors against ourselves. They serve no purpose and they are things that we are doing that we could actually proactively avoid. And that is really the work of coaching because I could tell you all of the things and you could know them intellectually, yeah, I shouldn’t do that. That’s a bad idea. Yeah, that doesn’t make me feel good.

There is a big difference between knowing something intellectually, even agreeing with it and then living it. And so that really is the work of coaching. And that’s the work that I do with my clients, it’s the new year, it’s your opportunity to show up to your parenting experience as a new version of yourself.

If this is something that you want to do, now is the time to schedule a consultation call with me. We will talk about where you are and how coaching can transform all of that for you. To schedule your complimentary consultation call, you can go to the show notes or my episode website. Alright, with that, let’s relisten to the first episode of the podcast.

My name is Lisa Candera and I am a single mom to a teen boy with Autism. My son, Ben and I live in Connecticut with our two cats, Ray and Finn. You will hear more about me and Ben in future episodes as I teach concepts and provide examples for my own life and the lives of my clients.

But this podcast is not about me or my son, or even my cats. It is about you, the mom raising a child or children with Autism. The mom who is walking on eggshells hoping to get through the day without another meltdown. The mom who is white knuckling it trying to do all the things she can to help her child while paying little to no attention to herself. The mom who can’t enjoy the quiet days or minutes because she is bracing herself for the next thing. If this is you, I got you. I’ve been there and I know how it feels.

In this podcast I will share the strategies I have learned through life coaching and that have supported me in letting go of the idea that Autism is in charge of my life, that I should have all of the answers and just know what to do. Or that my love, advocacy and resourcefulness will somehow spare myself and my son from the pain of uncertainty.

Before I get into what I teach I want to share with you what you can expect from me and this podcast. First, Autism is not a problem to be solved. In this podcast I will not be discussing the causes or possible cures for Autism. There are researchers, doctors and scientists who are focused on finding answers to these questions and for that I am glad.

My focus will be on how to support yourself and thrive in your life right now as it is regardless of what caused Autism or whether there is a cure for it because right now you are struggling. Right now you are suffering and for that I want to support you.

Second, we are not here to fix our kids. They are not broken. They are different. This is not a problem. The problem is how we are thinking and feeling about those differences and what we are making them mean about our child and ourselves. The problem is that we think it is our job to fix it but it isn’t. Our job is to unconditionally love and support our children in becoming who they are even if it does not look the way we thought it would, think it should or what the what to expect books led us to believe.

By the way, can you imagine a what to expect series for kids with Autism, a real raw preview and validation of what we experience like year two your child doesn’t talk. You bring it up to the pediatrician but they tell you it’s because he’s a boy, or because he’s the first born, or because he’s the second born, or because she’s the youngest. And then year four your child may or may not speak, you will begin to learn charades as they point to things, yell, scream and pinch you while you try to interpret what they want. I think it would be a bestseller.

Third, we are making it harder than it needs to be. Parenting a child with Autism is hard. And we tend to make it harder than it has to be, a lot harder. Let me give you some examples of what I mean when I say we make it harder. First, we should ourselves. We tell ourselves things like, I should know what to do, I should stay calm, I should be able to go to Target without my 10-year-old melting down.

For example, during virtual schooling in 2020 I lost my cool with my son many times. He had outbursts throughout the day due to his fear and anxiety and I kept my cool most of the time. But when I lost it I went all in, yelling, screaming, and behaving in the same ways that he was. And afterwards I would feel so guilty telling myself I should stay calm, I shouldn’t get angry. I should be able to handle this. And the more I told myself this, the more I believed this, the harder I made it on myself.

Second, we time travel to worst case scenarios. I can’t tell you how many times I cried on the car ride home from a birthday party, family event, or a trip to the zoo thinking things like if he is like this now, what will he be like in five, 10 or 15 years? How will I handle him when he’s older, bigger and stronger? And if I don’t get him under control now he will never have friends.

Guess what? In all the years I’ve been doing this, terrorizing myself with worst case scenario thoughts it has never once helped me. For instance, last year I lived a worst-case scenario twice, when I made the decisions to admit my son to an Autism inpatient hospital for treatment. And from living a worst-case scenario I can tell you that the reality of it was hard, it was really hard but it still was not as hard as I made it with my worst-case scenario thoughts like he will hate me, I have lost him forever and our lives are over.

Third, we don’t ask for help for ourselves. We are not an afterthought because we are not a thought in the first place. All of our focus is on our children and their needs. We think if they’re okay then I’ll be okay but it’s just the opposite. If you are thinking, please spare me the oxygen mask analogy, I get it. I used to roll my eyes at this analogy the first few times I heard it applied to special needs parenting.

But I need to tell you, I’ve learned the hard way that it is 100% true. Here’s why, you are your child’s greatest resource. No doctor, therapist, teacher or medication, none of it is more important than you are. If you burn out your child loses. By contrast, if you take the time to care for yourself and nourish your resilience you will have more ability and capacity to care for your child.

So, these are just some of the ways we make parenting a special needs child even harder on ourselves. We should ourselves, we scare ourselves with worst case scenarios and we don’t take care of ourselves. If this sounds like you and you want to find a better way, keep listening. In this podcast I will offer you practical actionable steps you can take and apply to your life right now to bring some ease to the challenges of special needs parenting. And I will be there alongside of you.

As I said, I am a mother of a teen with Autism and we are in the thick of it right now. I work on these skills every day and some days are better than others. I still lose my shit. I still have should thoughts. And I still time travel but I recover faster. I don’t hang out with these thoughts as long as I used to and I have the ability to redirect myself in the direction I want to go instead of staying stuck.

With that I want to teach you a tool called powerful questions that you can use when you are having a difficult time. Powerful questions are positive thought provoking and proactive questions. They send us searching for our own answers. This simple tool is so effective because our brains do not like open loops. And an unanswered question is an open loop. So, when you ask yourself a powerful question like, what can I do in this moment to bring some ease to this situation? What can I do right now to make this a little bit easier on myself? Or, how can I support myself?

When you ask yourself powerful questions like this you put your brain to work on finding answers. Maybe you can pause and take deep breaths. Maybe you could walk away for a moment. Or maybe you can tag in your partner. Whatever it is when you ask yourself a powerful question you are no longer stuck in negativity or victimhood. You are finding answers, you are moving forward and you are no longer making this harder than it needs to be. Give this a try and let me know how it goes. Thank you so much, have a happy Holiday and great New Year.

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

Enjoy the Show?

 

95: How to Not Lose Your Mind Over Winter Break

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | How to Not Lose Your Mind over Winter Break

During winter break, structure tends to go out of the window. How do you bring more ease to your life when your child doesn’t have a rigid schedule to follow? You can’t provide the experience your child gets at school, but there are a few things you can do to avoid losing your mind over winter break.

You can apply what I’m sharing today at any time of year. This work is all about letting go of the fantasy that you as a parent can provide the level of structure your child gets in school or a program. If you have a child with Autism at home, how can you provide them with some structure without losing your mind? Listen in to find out.

Tune in this week for my tips for dealing with the added stress of having your child home for winter break. I’m giving you five ways to bring some much-needed structure to winter break, tips for grounding yourself during stressful moments, and showing you how to lighten your load where possible.

 

 

If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call with me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here! 

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why you need to let go of the idea that you can provide the same level of structure for your child as their school does.
  • My tips for dealing with the overwhelm and stress of having the added responsibility when your child is off school.
  • 5 ways to bring some manageable structure to winter break.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 95 of The Autism Mom Coach, How to Not Lose Your Mind Over Winter Break.

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.

For those of you who have kids or adults who live with you and who have off or less structure during winter break, this one’s for you. However, what I am going to teach you here can be applied all of the time and I think you should give it a try. Because the goal of everything I am going to teach you today is how to bring more ease to your life wherever you can. Alright, let’s get started.

First, let go of the idea, the pressure, the wish, the fantasy that you are going to be able to provide your child with the level of structure they get in school or a program. It’s not going to happen and it’s okay. Now, I do know that our kids do struggle with less structure, that they need it, that they crave it. And to the extent that you can, as best that you can, do what you can to create that structure. But do it knowing that you’re one person, not a team of people. And whatever you do, don’t come down on yourself for not doing enough or not being enough. Enough with that.

Second, get out your calendar. You want to fill in all of the days where you have activities because we don’t want to think of this two weeks, 12 days, 284 hours as an amorphous block of time. We want to get really clear on what days we have things planned, what we’re doing. And then be able to take a look at the calendar and figure out, where do I have open days? Do they make sense? Are there certain days where we’re doing too many things and I could break it up, spread it out over more days?

You want to have a really discerning eye when it comes to this because you know your child best. You know if they have a wide open day that that could spell trouble. On the other hand, you also know that if they have too many things back-to-back, that could also cause sensory overload. So using your expert eye as the expert on your child. Be ruthless about how you respond to invitations and how you schedule your time.

Third, create a visual schedule for yourself. Now, this might already be something you do for your child, that’s great, but I want you to do this for you too. Now, of course, you don’t have to draw pictures or get fancy. It could literally just be a list, a daily list of the day’s activities so that you can see the day in chunks and again not just this amorphous blob of 12 to 14 or how many hours that your child is up. See how the day plays out. You can purposely schedule in breaks for yourself throughout the day.

You don’t want to wait till the end of the day because one, you’ll probably never find the time and two, you’re already overwhelmed. So how throughout the day can you take breaks? Even little, small ones, they do add up. So if it’s maybe 10 minutes while your kid is on a video game, or maybe they’re still sleeping. Can you take a walk? Can you read a book? If you have a babysitter who can come in.

I have a lot of kids that I would pay five bucks, they weren’t really that age, they could be teenagers, but they could sit in a room and they liked the money and my child always liked being around them. And maybe this is not something you do with your child with Autism, but maybe you have another child in the house that could benefit from being a little bit occupied or distracted. And so then you’re also just freeing some of your time, some of your mental emotional space to manage your child with Autism.

Just be really purposeful in how and when you can take breaks for yourself, because again, just think of a pot that’s boiling with water. You can prevent it from boiling over by just lifting up the lid and letting some of that pressure seep out. That will prevent it usually from overflowing. You want to do the same with yourself, so whatever it is that you can do, taking deep breaths, doing rapid fire jumping jacks, one of my favorites to get that stress out of your body, some cold, fresh air. That can be reinvigorating.

The point is not what you do, it’s that you make the time and you do something for yourself so that you can be resetting your nervous system and regulating yourself throughout the day.

Fourth, wherever possible, delegate, accept help and ask for help. You don’t have to do it all. Find the ways where other people can lend a hand. Now, if you’re one of these people who has people in your house or in your family who can help but you’re thinking to yourself, well, I shouldn’t have to ask them. They should just know. They should just chip in. They should just do whatever. That is not helping you because when you are resenting them, when you’re thinking that they should just do the thing and they’re not and you’re not even asking them. Then you’re going to end up doing everything anyway.

So maybe just ask, ask your husband, ask your partner, ask your friends, ask your family members. Ask them for very specific things. For instance, next Tuesday afternoon, can you take my child for two hours while I do x? You want to be as specific as possible because we also have those people in our lives, they’re like, “Just let me know anytime you need help.” And that’s just so amorphous. So be really specific, “Here’s what help I could use. This is what would be really helpful. Can you do this for me?”

I will say as a single mom who lives in a state where I have no family, I have gotten very good at doing this and just being very purposeful about how I ask friends for help. And I’ve noticed that my single moms also are good at this. And maybe now that I’m thinking about it, we’re just good at doing it with one another because we get it. But anyway, it is a skill and it’s so helpful to tell people what you need very specifically. And maybe, look, maybe they can’t do huge things.

Maybe they can’t watch your kid because they don’t understand all the complexities and it would just be a big ask. But maybe there are little things that they can do that could just ease your day a little bit. But also I do want to say that so many of us have the belief that nobody could watch our kids the way we do. And yeah, that is true, but it doesn’t have to be perfect, which leads me to point number five.

Let it be messy. If your child is safe then let grandma babysit. Maybe she won’t do everything right. She won’t do it the way you want her to but it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, our kids benefit from people who don’t get them as much as we do because it means that they have to show a little bit of flexibility and adjust to a world that doesn’t get them.

And I actually think that this is a skill because I know for my son he had one-on-one aides that would change all the time. And at first I was really discouraged by it. But then as time went on, I really thought, the more he has to adapt to new personalities, to new ways of doing things, to not having someone who, like me, basically reads his mind and just jumps to. That’s a benefit to him and it’s a benefit to me.

Alright, that is it for this episode. I hope you are enjoying your winter break and I will talk to you next year. Take care.

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

Enjoy the Show?

 

94: The Most Triggering Time of the Year

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | The Most Triggering Time of the Year

We are in the thick of the Holiday Season, so I’m revisiting one of my most valuable podcast episodes all about surviving the Holidays. For many Autism families, this really is the most triggering time of the year, so you need a Holiday survival strategy.

Whether you’re feeling the sadness of not participating in traditions that used to bring you joy, or if you’re feeling nervous about how your family will react to your child, how they might misunderstand your child’s behavior, and how they might judge you as a parent, today’s episode is for you.

Tune in this week to discover how to deal with the most triggering time of the year. I’m sharing some simple strategies to help you bring more ease to the Holiday Season. You’ll learn why bracing yourself isn’t enough, and how you can properly prepare for the difficult emotions that come up at this time of year.

 

 

If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call with me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here! 

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why this time of year brings up uncomfortable emotions for Autism parents.
  • How to start preparing for the extra stress the Holidays bring.
  • Why you don’t need to accept anyone violating your boundaries during the Holidays.
  • Simple strategies to bring more ease and joy to this time of year.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

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’m so glad you are here and I hope you are doing well. So it’s December which means holiday season. That is why for this week’s episode I am going to revisit a most valuable podcast episode I did last year called Holiday Survival Strategy. But instead this year I’m going to rename it to The Most Triggering Time of the Year, because for many Autism families, it is.

Whether it is the sadness of not participating in traditions that used to bring you joy or ones that you imagined you would do with your child but aren’t because the experience is too overwhelming for them. Or if it’s seeing family and feeling nervous about how they will react to your child, what they might say, how they might misunderstand your child’s behaviors or how they might judge you as a parent.

And then of course, there is winter break and schedule changes which are challenging for our kids on any day but add all of these other factors and well, there we have it, the most triggering time of the year. That is why in this MVP episode, I am going to share some strategies to help you bring more ease to the holiday season. And with that let’s get started.

First, prepare. Now, I know as parents, with children with Autism, you are all about preparation, schedules, social stories and previews, just to name a couple of things. This is all great especially in times of change. But when I’m talking about preparation in this episode I am talking about you and how you can prepare yourself for some of the stress and frustration you may feel or already be feeling this holiday season.

This preparation starts with accepting that you may feel a little bit emotional and you may experience a lot of triggers that bring up intense emotions for you like grandma baking cookies with the cousins except for your child because they have a hard time being safe in the kitchen. Or seeing other kids doing ‘normal things’ like playing with one another, taking family photos or sitting on Santa’s lap. Maybe seeing your child retreat to an empty room to play by herself while all the cousins play together.

Or hearing your mother-in-law compare your eight year old with Autism to your sister-in-law’s neurotypical five year old. If you brace yourself hoping none of these things will happen, you will be exhausted by the time the day comes and have less capacity to manage your mind and your emotions when they do. So you will either be imploding or exploding, or maybe even both.

The alternative, if you just expect that you may have some thoughts and some feelings about other people’s behavior and you remember that this is not fatal, you will be much better positioned to ride the wave when these thoughts and feelings do arise, and when people do their people things. And when you expect that it might be challenging, you can mentally and emotionally prepare yourself by deciding ahead of time how you want to think and feel when the stressful thing happens.

Tip number two, expect other people to do other people things. Okay, what this means is that people in the context of the coaching model that I teach, that’s episode five or six, what they do and what they don’t do are all circumstances. That means they are neutral. They don’t make you feel any way until you have a thought about it. In addition, circumstances in the moment are things that we cannot change.

Now, I’m not saying that other people can’t and don’t change but in this context expect other people to be who they are and to do the things that they do without resisting it. Now, caveat here, I am not talking about things that go over your boundaries. Boundaries are the standards or expectations that you have and if another person crosses them, you will take an action like if you yell at me, I will ask you to stop, or I will walk away. Or if you mock my child for flapping I will ask you to leave my house. Or if you smoke in front of me I will leave your presence.

I am never telling you to just hang out while someone crosses a boundary that you have set. What I am saying is there are a lot of things people do that are just them being who they are. Like your sister-in-law who emails you every article she can find about what causes Autism. Your child, who would rather play in his cousin’s bedroom by himself rather than downstairs with the cousins. Your mother who asks you, “Why do you need to bring special food for your child”, when she has cooked an elaborate meal?

Your father who asks you why you let your child get away with tantruming when he does not get his way. Or your friend who wonders why you have your child in so many therapies. When you stop resisting people doing their people things, even if you do not agree with them, even if you think that they are ignorant and tone deaf, you get to decide how you want to think, and feel, and respond.

And my favorite hack for this one is of course they did, of course my grandfather asked me why am I paying for private school when I already pay taxes to support the local school system. Of course my grandmother was offended that my child first sniffed and then rejected her signature dish. Of course my friend who has ignored all of the red flags of Autism and her child thinks it is odd that I have my child in OT, PT and speech. Of course my mother is concerned when she sees my son smack me when he is dysregulated.

Of course my child is more interested in her sister’s toys than her own. Of course my child prefers the box the toy came in over the toy itself, of course they did. This is what they do. Other people are allowed to have their thoughts, feelings and actions just like you, it is okay. You do not have to brace yourself for it and this of course they did, it is just a nice way of bringing levity to what is happening, which is people are being people just like you and it is okay.

Finally, if you are feeling so moved by the spirit of the holidays and you have the capacity to offer generosity to others then assume the best intent. Assume the people you love, love you too. Assume that they want the best for you. Assume that they are not trying to hurt you or your child. Their behaviors are not personal. What they say and what they do is about them, not you, not your child, not your parenting.

So for example, let’s say your mom gets offended when you bring chicken nuggets for your child’s dinner. When you are assuming the best intent on her part you might think well, it makes her happy to see other people eating her food and she is making the chicken nuggets mean something about her, or her cooking, or her ability to feel the love and joy of knowing that she has provided for the family.

Now, am not telling you to twist yourself into and knot to get into other people’s heads but in the spirit of the holiday maybe you can open yourself up to the fact that other people’s actions aren’t about you. They are about them and whatever they are thinking and feeling. So if some of their questions or comments come out sideways, instead of making them personal, consider that like you, they’re doing the best that they can with what they have access to at the moment.

Thank you so much for listening to this most valuable podcast episode. If you are finding the podcast helpful, this is just a taste of what it is like to coach with me, and by taste, I mean a really small taste because when we work together, we get into the nitty-gritty of your challenges as an Autism mom, and we create solutions tailored to you.

So, if you want to stop dragging the holidays and start enjoying your experience as an Autism mom more, I highly recommend coaching with me.  So, all you have to do to learn more about my program and for us to see if it makes sense for us to work together is to schedule a complimentary consultation. You can do this from the episode notes, you can do it on my website, theautismmomcoach.com/work-with-me.

If you are on my schedule and you don’t see anything that works for you, email me directly at Lisa, @theautismmomcoach.com  with a couple of days and times that work for you and I’ll make one work. It is the best gift you can give yourself and your family because once you learn these skills, they are yours for life. So, it really is the gift that keeps on giving. Alright, that’s it for this week, I will talk to you next. Have a great holiday. 

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

Enjoy the Show?

 

93: Subscribe, Unsubscribe

The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Subscribe, Unsubscribe

When we’re using social media, we subscribe to things we want to see and experience, and we unsubscribe, mute, or unfollow the people, places, and things that we don’t want to see. Online, we have a lot of power to decide what comes into our consciousness, but can you have the same control in every area of your life?

I have clients come to calls feeling bummed out because of what they’re seeing other people posting on Instagram or Facebook, whether that’s perfect family Holiday pictures or taking the vacations they wish they could take with their kids. It’s time to start deciding whether the things you’re letting into your life are filling you up, or whether they’re draining you and taking you down.

Tune in this week to discover how to start being more discerning about what you let into your field of vision. I’m sharing how your brain reacts to social media, why it makes you feel good one minute and terrible the next, and most importantly, you’ll learn how to be ruthless in curating not only your social media experience, but your experience of real life too.

 

 

If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call with me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here! 

 

 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why you always get to decide on the amount and type of content you consume.
  • How social media keeps us coming back over and over again.
  • Some advice to stop letting social media negatively influence your mood.
  • How to apply the principles of subscribe, unsubscribe in your real daily life.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 93 of The Autism Mom Coach, Subscribe, Unsubscribe.

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 today’s episode of the podcast. I am so glad you’re here and I hope you are doing well. Right now I am batch recording the episodes that will air in December. And I am making them short and sweet because I know that you are super busy. So this is going to be a really short and sweet episode. And I’m going to be using a concept that we are all so familiar with from social media, from YouTube, from Facebook, you name it, subscribe, unsubscribe or follow, unfollow, mute, unfriend, block, however you want to think about these terms.

We in general, in our emails, on social media, we subscribe to things that we want to see and experience. And we unsubscribe or mute or unfollow the people, places and things that we don’t want to see. And on social media and in our email boxes, we have a lot of power to decide what comes into our field of vision by using this button. I think this is really important because I am of the view that less is more.

And sometimes when we’re being bombarded with information from every which way, it just becomes overwhelming and we don’t need more overwhelm in our lives. And I regularly coach my clients on this. Especially with social media, I have a lot of clients that will come to the calls and they will feel bummed out because of what they’re seeing other people posting on Instagram or Facebook.

It could be all the perfect family pictures for Christmas or it could be of other families doing activities that my clients aren’t doing with their children, any number of things. But their overall effect is they’re just bummed out. And so to this I say, you get to decide first whether you’re on social media, second, how long you’re on it and third, what you let into your field of vision. You do not have to look at all of the posts that come up. You can mute people. You can unfriend people. You can limit the time that you spend on social media.

And I think that this is a really important skill, because I mean, look, first of all, social media is like a video game to our kids. It gives us regular dopamine hits. And we get lulled into that scrolling. And before we know it, we are down a rabbit hole, we’re feeling like crap. We’re comparing ourselves to everyone and everything else that we believe is better than us. And what does that leave us to do? Just go about the rest of our lives feeling crappy. That’s no good.

So whenever possible on social media, you are the curator of your experience so be intentional about it. What do you want to see? What don’t you want to see? Now, for example, a couple of years ago when I wanted to learn more about OCD, I joined an OCD parenting group online. And I went into that group and I asked a couple of very specific questions. People answered my questions. I got a couple of contact numbers from folks that I did get in touch with about treatments. Now, that can be helpful in some ways, but for me it reached the point of diminishing returns.

I was already well aware that other people had this experience and it wasn’t helpful for me to keep seeing it over and over again. So I decided to mute it. This is not an affront to this page, it was very helpful to me. But in this moment where I am right now, it’s not helpful to me to be reading these things. There are lots of Autism Facebook groups about teens with Autism. I’m not in them. I have gone into these groups here and there for information that I’ve searched out and I’ve gotten out because Facebook groups, now, of course they are not all made alike.

Some are monitored very well. They have administrators that are on top of things, but others are like the Wild West. And again, I just don’t want to put myself in a position of consuming information from people I don’t know. I don’t know their background. I don’t know their points of view and it overall doesn’t help me. And so I encourage all of you to be rigorous, to be ruthless in how you curate your social media experience because it does impact your mental health.

Now, I want to stretch this analogy from social media to real life and how can you apply these principles of subscribe, unsubscribe, mute, unfollow, block, delete? How can you apply these in real life in ways that benefit you? So I think that we can do this. Now, of course, I’m not saying that you are now going to start deleting people out of your life, nothing like that.

But I think that you can take a close look at the people, places, things, the activities, the conversations that you are participating in and whether or not they are filling you up. Whether they are serving you or whether they are draining you and taking you down. And then wherever, whenever you can, you want to add things that fill you up and you want to subtract things that don’t. It’s a real simple formula, but it’s not one I think that we actually practice in real life.

I think that we so often put ourselves in situations where we’re dealing with people or we’re dealing with conversations or experiences where we don’t even want to be there but we feel like we have to. We’re people pleasing, we’re not setting a boundary. And so then we’re in a situation where it’s not serving us. It’s draining us and let’s not do that. Whenever you can, let’s cut that out and let’s add things in that bring you joy. This is how you can get to take control of your experience.

You can’t control the world, you can’t control other people, but you can control how you show up and what you show up for. So take an inventory of how you spend your time and start deciding, what can I add and what could I subtract? For example, I limit my social media to business only. I find that when I am mindlessly scrolling through the feeds, it just takes me down too many rabbit holes and it doesn’t serve me. And so for the most part, I am on there in the groups that I’m in, I take a look, I participate in those groups. I post my business post and then I’m out.

On the other hand, I have noticed that I do benefit from being around people during the day. For the last three years I basically have been working at home the entire time. But as of September, I’ve been going back into the office a couple of days a week. And I have realized that that has boosted my mood.

And so even when I’m home on the days that I do work from home, I will take a break for a few minutes each day and I will go to the local coffee shop just to stop in, say hello to the owner. I’ll get my cup of coffee. I curate a little library at this coffee shop. And so I’ll just take a look at the books. I’ll do some rearranging, just little things like that. I’m talking to the people there and I’m around other people. It’s a really vibrant atmosphere. It just feels good in there and that just gives me a boost. And so that adds just a little bit more joy to my life and so I do it, that matters.

It matters that you’re doing the little things, anything to add joy to your life, to your experience. I have also noticed that exercising helps my mood. So I am resubscribing to exercise which I have not been the best about in the past couple of months, but I’m resubscribing. And at least 20 minutes a day, I’m going to do some sort of strength training exercise. I’m going to try to walk, just get my body moving so I feel better.

Another example of unsubscribing. So whatever the status is with my son, it’s always a long story. It’s not a story I always want to tell because usually I am going through details with numerous service providers, the insurance company, the advocate, and on and on. And so when my friends ask me about my son, I give them really short answers and I’ll say something like, “Thank you for asking. He’s fine and you just don’t really want to get into the details.” And that is not an affront to them.

It’s not because I don’t want to talk to them. It’s just because telling the story over and over can be draining to me. And so that’s just a decision that I’m making for my own wellness. That when people ask me if I don’t have it in me to share, I’m not.

And then finally I’m just going to give you an unsubscribe or maybe a mute from one of my clients. So this client has a child that has a lot of sensory issues, especially when he goes out in public. And so going out to dinner or lunch, breakfast at places can be challenging. So recently they went out to breakfast with my client’s family and it just happened to be that there was a bridal shower or a brunch or something else at that restaurant. And so instead of being usually quiet, it was very, very loud and the child was very upset and distracted.

And my client made the decision that they were going to have to leave sooner than they probably would have. And despite all of the explaining, all of that she’s tried to do to educate her parents, she still got a few comments from her father that she just did not appreciate, that he was really basically just thinking her son was being difficult and he should be made to stay. And that kind of back in my day, we didn’t have all this sort of thing.

And so my client decided to unsubscribe to going out to dinner or to lunch or breakfast or restaurants with her parents for at least the time being. And she also told her father that she wasn’t okay with him making those kinds of comments. And so that’s just another way of unsubscribing to a conversation. I don’t appreciate when you say things like that. I have tried to explain to you many times. And you don’t even have to do this. You don’t even have to tell the person.

You can decide for yourself that you are not going to be in situations like this, and when this happens, that you are going to set a boundary. You are going to unsubscribe. You are going to leave. You are not going to explain yourself. But you get to decide when you’re in situations where it’s just draining you of energy, you get to decide.

And so that’s what I want you to practice. Taking a look at the people, places, things, the experiences, the activities of your daily life and looking for places where you can subscribe to the people, places, things, activities that bring you joy and that fill you up. And where you can unsubscribe or at least mute some of the people, places and experiences that are not serving you.

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

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

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