Archive for August, 2021

Autism in the Family Life Cycle

Monday, August 30th, 2021

“Autism is a disability that is difficult to understand because it can have several different symptoms in different individuals. However, a good definition would be that autism is abnormal neurological brain development, and also “a…disorder of the human central nervous system” (“Autism” 2007).

In general, autism is characterized by delays in language development, impairment in social interactions, and the ability to engage in pretend play.

autism

Symptoms of the disorder also include very rigid and sometimes obsessive patterns of thinking and behavior, uncontrollable tantrums, and echolalia, or the use of speech in non-communicative ways (“Autism” 2007).

This paper and the ensuing presentation will focus on the parenting stage, as I have been working with autistic children from the ages of four to eleven for almost two and a half years. Another good reason to talk about autism is that it is on the rise:

“The prevalence of autism was 3.4 per 1,000, with a male-to-female ratio of 4:1, and comparable rates were seen in black and white children. This overall rate is ten times higher than rates from three other United States studies that used similar, specific criteria to identify children with autism and pervasive developmental disorders in the 1980s and early 1990s” (Barclay, 2002).

The usual challenges during this stage include “sleep deprivation, shredded schedules, endless chores, worry about the baby’s development or one’s own competence, and the need for ceaseless vigilance” (Carter amp; McGoldrick, 1999, p. 249).

Autism, obviously, has a major impact on the life cycle of the individual, as well as on the entire family. The first problem encountered by families is dealing with the actual diagnosis. Many parents feel responsible for their child’s condition, when in fact the real cause of autism is unknown. The cause is most likely the result of genetics, the impact of vaccines on the immune system, or the emission of mercury from factories.

“It serves no purpose to make parents of autistic children feel guilty” (Morgan, 1981, p. 76).

I agree with this viewpoint because it does not do a family any good to blame itself for things it cannot control. I have seen a lot of emotional turmoil, but for the most part, families that are well-adjusted emotionally do handle the situation well.

The list of effects on the individual’s life cycle is nearly endless. The main challenges include dealing with school systems, developing the child’s social skills, as well as the ability to recognize his body and regulate his emotions, and encouraging the child’s academic progress.

There are many different approaches to working with autism, but I think Beyond Boundaries of Autism has a particularly notable approach. The main idea behind our approach is that a child is unable to regulate his central nervous system, and if he could, he would be able to better function in his world. Basically, the child is given sensory input through any of his five senses in a way that he or she enjoys.

Many people may think of an autistic child as one who is flapping his arms constantly or rocking back and forth all day and night. What he is doing is giving himself the necessary sensory stimulation his central nervous system desires so that he can feel calm and secure inside. As a therapist, I help children find socially appropriate ways to satisfy these sensory deficits. So rather than arm-flapping or rocking, I may teach a child to play football, another to read books or crush another under a mountain of pillows.

Once a child receives the sensory information his body is craving, his central nervous system calms down, and then he is able to speak more clearly, understand what is going on around him, and focus on one thing. This is where real therapy takes place. The child can be taught now to recognize his emotions, run to a safe spot if he is feeling overwhelmed, or sometimes, he may just enjoy relaxing on a couch or chair for a little while.

I also teach children to appropriate social skills and behaviors, and ways to ask for things they desire. Autistic children are also noted for their rigid routines, but once they are calmed down and focused, they can be taught different ways of doing things, and their routines and expectations begin to relax. So, all the problems briefly discussed before can be relieved, or sometimes eliminated altogether.

There are a few myths about autism that I would also like to dispel. Some people think that autistic children are really smart or have a special ability like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, which is now termed the savant syndrome. This is entirely untrue. Most do not have a special ability, and in general, I have noticed that intelligence among autistics is the same as it among regular individuals; some are above average, some below, and some are just average.

The other myth is that they have no desire for human relationships and will only form attachments to computers. While autistics do become glued to computer and TV screens much more easily than regular individuals, I have not found one who does not want any friends at all. After being taught social skills and knowing how to properly communicate their desires and affection, I have noticed that every autistic child forms a bond with his parents, while others have even made a friend or two.

Autistics seem to have less of a desire for the social world, but it seems to be just the way they are, and if they are happy with only a few really good friends, that is just fine.

In conclusion,

“…the primary focus for clinical work with the autistic child should not be the child-rather it must be the family” (Bolman, 2005, p. 1).

I agree with this approach entirely; I have worked with families where none of, part of, or the whole family would get involved with the therapeutic process. The main problem I have consistently encountered in different families is that the parents typically have unresolved problems of their own. While the child may be able to make progress if he has consistent therapy, he would make much more progress if the entire family was dealing with all of its problems.

Too often, parents sacrifice their entire livelihood for their child; this is a mistake. Sacrifices have to be made, but the parents have to take care of themselves too. Progress can always be made; it is just a matter of how much a family wants to make.

Works Cited:

Connection Between Fibromyalgia and the Weather

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

“In the wild, there is no healthcare. In the wild healthcare is, ‘Ow, I hurt my leg. I can’t run. A lion eats me, and I’m dead.’ Well, I’m not dead. I’m the lion. You’re dead.”

Fibromyalgia is now recognized as a physical ailment. For years, doctors and researchers debated if the illness was real or ‘all in the heads’ of the patients. As a person with this illness, it helps to know that finally our aches and pains are recognized as being real and not solely made up. There are still segments of this illness that are not totally understood. For example, some patients claim that their pain is worse when it is cold, rainy or foggy. Many patients complain of experiencing more discomfort during periods of weather changes.

Fibromyalgia

Research on Link

As more and more patients began to complain about a connection between this illness and the weather connection, people began to take note. The Fibromyalgia Awareness web site conducted an online survey of 2.596 people who claimed to have the illness. The survey asked what patients perceived as triggers for their flareups and weather was ranked as the second most common disease trigger. A researcher in Argentina, Dr. Ingrid Strusberg, and his colleagues conducted a survey of 151 patients with Fibromyalgia.

The patients were asked to track their pain symptoms for over a year. A control group of 32 healthy persons was also asked to track any symptoms of aches or pains as associated with weather changes. The researchers discovered that after a year of research, patients with Fibromyalgia reported that their symptoms were worse with weather changes. The control group did not report any significant change in body aches related to weather patterns.

Anyway, new research shows that weather conditions do not affect the pain or fatigue associated with this chronic condition.

Type of Weather Triggers

The survey by Fibromyalgia Awareness and Dr. Strusberg’s research, both showed that most patients reported certain weather triggers as creating worse pain perception. Low temperatures and a sudden drop in temperatures were noted as one of the worst triggers. Patients also reported that they experienced more pain when a low pressure system was in process or impending. A drop in pressure has also been noted as increases in pain of those with other rheumatoid illnesses.

Many people report that a rainy day triggers their symptoms. Again, this could be related to the fact that during rainy times, the barometric pressure is generally low. Humidity was also ranked as a pain trigger for some individuals.

Personal Experience With Weather as a Trigger

I personally can relate to the weather and Fibro connection that other patients report. My family jokes that I am a weather forecaster. Before checking the weather report, I can determine if a low pressure front is on the way due to the number of aches and pains I am experiencing. No need for a weather station in our house! However, when talking to other friends and patients who have been diagnosed with this disease, not all reported illness triggers with the same weather patterns.

The advantage of being a weather indicator serves in taking care of oneself ahead of the extreme pain that often accompanies these weather conditions. If I know in advance, I can get extra rest, watch my diet, avoid stressful conditions and even go for a vacation a few hours away to avoid the weather extremes.

The bottom line is that each person is an individual. For whatever reason, extreme weather changes seem to exacerbate Fibromyalgia. Everyone is an individual, so one weather pattern may not affect everyone the same. Knowing your weather triggers goes a long way in helping to understand Fibromyalgia.

Links:

5 Ways to Change Your Attitude

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

Sometimes life is just blah for me. It could be because I’m waiting for something that I hope will happen, it could be difficult circumstances, or it could be for no particular reason. Whatever the case, here are 5 ideas I use when the doldrums hit.

clear your mind

1. Ballroom dancing

I’ve never been much of a nightclub girl, largely because the best I can manage is a clumsy two step which is not so sexy. A few years back when I had recently been promoted and had a little extra cash, I decided to try ballroom dancing. What began as crossing something off my bucket list became an obsession and I find there is nothing better to shake off the blues or a sense of frustration than to get out on the dance floor and salsa. An added bonus? My husband learned with me so we can practice at home – much to our downstairs neighbor’s chagrin.

2. Prayer

Sometimes what I really need is to take the focus off me for a while. I find I can get in a rut of “poor me, this didn’t work out” and the best way to take the attention off me is to pray. It doesn’t immediately fix the problem, but it fixes my constant focus on it which is usually the underlying issue anyway.

You may also like: Connection Between Fibromyalgia and the Weather

3. Planning a quirky outing

Been to a civil war reenactment? Check. Gone apple picking? Check. Gone whale watching? Check. Instead of sticking to the usual ideas for getting out and about, I find that planning something that catches my interest and teaches me something new is a great way to get out of a slump. For instance, I learned how not to pick an apple only after I had shaken a half dozen of them down onto my husband’s head.

4. Starting a new project

Though many people go the artsy route and find inspiration on Pinterest for projects, I personally love crocheting something. If you’re like me, crocheting also provides the added bonus of stopping to untangle your yarn halfway through while muttering emphatically about its quality.

5. Reading a book

Maybe this one is a bit cliché, but sometimes it helps to escape into another world. After spending 2 hours with Harry Potter, my life isn’t looking too bad, though I wish I had his wand!

Good links:

Facts About Therapists

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

The relationship between the client and therapist is the most crucial factor throughout the therapeutic process. It may not be verbalized, but the client is also helping the therapist. Both are viewed as partners in the therapeutic relationship. The therapist will have mountains to climb and hurdles to jump with the client. Therapists must find a style of a therapeutic process which he/she can use to make his/her own.

The therapist is also required to gain personal growth. The job can be very difficult, but as long as the therapist can find that balance between personal and professional lives, the reward can be tremendous.

Desensitized

Sometimes the therapist can become desensitized by human emotion and he/she can turn away from his/her clients, family, and friends. The more the clients talk about his/her unresolved issues, the more the therapist can feel insecure and ineffectual. No matter how the client acts, the therapist feels compelled to be available and understanding. Therapists are profoundly affected by client’s experiences. In an effort to be open with the clients, therapists may risk losing his/her independence along the way.

Pressure cooker

Therapists always feel the pressure to perform. Therapists can face self-doubt when clients quit and cancel appointments. Some feel that he/she may have failed the clients when the ability to produce results is not effective. Confrontation takes its toll on both the client and therapist because it needs to be well-timed and prepared. Sometimes therapists are required to say things to clients that no one else will.

Therapists risk the fact that the client may or may not be willing to face the reality of his/her problems. Clients can be a therapist’s best teacher in showing us what is and what is not working.

Power struggle

The struggles for power and influence are obstacles that the therapist encounters. While the therapist attempts to bring about change on the client, so does the client attempt the same on the therapist for his/her own purposes? The client may try to persuade the therapist to take his/her side and to work through unsettled transference relationships. Some clients act as his/her own self-healers and only use the therapist as a crutch or consultant.

According to the book “On Being a Therapist,” the author notes that therapists are no longer perceived as logical, authorities experts, but as partners in therapy. During the first decade of the profession, therapists were intimating master clinicians.

Mandatory professionalism

Therapists are perceived as being professional models for his/her clients. Models give reinforcement to those who express an interest in being just like him/her. The general public views therapists as “crazy shrinks” who have troubles in his/her own life and will never are able to help others. Some believe that therapy and growth are for only clients but not themselves. Regardless of what society thinks about therapists, it is essential to keep professional at all times necessary. But also, remain your genuine self.

Sources:

Four Simple Ways to Overcome Depression

Friday, August 20th, 2021

“I enjoy every day, because I choose to.” – Tony Clark

Are you tired of feeling down on yourself? Are you ready to get up and make some changes? Events happen in our life that can knock us smack-dab on our feet. Death, loss of job, divorce, relational problems, medical illness, or any life-altering event can cause depression. Cheer up! Don’t lose hope! There are ways to get your life back on your feet.

Connect with others

Most counselors say that receiving physical touch can lessen the chances of getting depressed. Counselors also recommend getting at least seven hugs a day. You can connect with others by joining a church, book club, group for cat lovers, or even a band; whatever it takes for you to be around others is key. You can go out with friends to the movies, mall, or bowling. Let your inner social butterfly soar. Staying isolated will keep you in your depressive state, so make a conscious decision to reach out instead of in.

Laugh more

Whether you are watching romantic comedies or hanging out with your nieces and nephews, finding a way to tickle your funny bone will help you feel more alive. Go out to a comedy club or see an improved show. Stay at home and rent a cheesy romantic comedy or a good Adam Sandler flick. If all else fails, you can YouTube funny animals and that will guarantee a good laugh.

Move your body

Keeping your body in motion can help you from entering a slumbering state. You can join a gym, a running club, sign up to run a 5k. The Color Run is the new big thing; while you run, paint is being splattered all over you. The smiles of the runners who are covered in paint simply show how a fun activity can alter someone’s mood. If you prefer less activity, you can join yoga or pilates. Get up and start moving.

Set small goals

You can increase your happiness by achieving small aims. Setting small instead of large goals is more attainable. If you are on a weight loss program and would like to lose 50 pounds, it is smart to break down how you will achieve this with smaller objectives. In the beginning, you plan to cut out sweets for an entire week. The next week, you will build onto that and add exercise. It is a process. It is important to take things slow and appreciate the small steps. You will have great appreciation when you accomplish your overall goal.

Coping with PTSD

Thursday, August 12th, 2021

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that occurs when someone has been through severe trauma. This trauma might be child abuse, rape, a natural disaster, or war. Other types of trauma may also cause PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • intrusive memories
  • nightmares
  • flashbacks
  • hyper-vigilance

Depression and anxiety disorders are also common.

Not everyone who survives a trauma develops PTSD. Experts aren’t entirely sure why some people do and others don’t. There are a number of theories about it, though. Some say that some people are predisposed to the condition, just like some people may be predisposed to depression or alcoholism. Others say some people simply have better-coping skills than others.

PTSD is more likely to develop in people who do not talk about their trauma, such as adults who were abused as children and had to keep it a secret. That’s why support groups are so helpful for many people with PTSD. They get a chance to talk about the trauma, and they also feel less alone.

Experts agree that people with PTSD should seek treatment for the disorder, but they don’t all agree on the type of treatment that is most effective. Psychotherapy is generally recommended, but there are many different types of therapy.

Some therapists focus on the trauma, encouraging people to talk about it over and over again. Some therapists focus on present day issues, teaching people new coping skills. While talking to someone about the trauma can help, talking about it over and over again can sometimes make symptoms of PTSD worse. A combination of both therapies is probably the most helpful.

Support groups are also very helpful. Being able to share experiences with others is very powerful. It helps to relieve the sense of shame many people with PTSD feel

People with PTSD often suffer from depression and/or anxiety disorders. If that’s the case, medication may be useful. There is no medication to treat PTSD itself, however.

Learning new coping skills to deal with the symptoms of PTSD is crucial. At times the symptoms can seem overwhelming, but there are ways to cope with them.

Many of the symptoms lessen just by talking about them. This is true for intrusive memories, flashbacks, and nightmares. Talking about them gives them less power. Writing about them in a journal can also help.

For sleep problems and nightmares, it may help to leave a small light on at night. Soothing music or nature sounds may also help. You can buy CDs with all kinds of nature sounds.

For flashbacks, you can use an object to ground you. It usually helps if it’s an item you didn’t have during the trauma. For some people, a watch or calendar works. By looking at the watch or calendar, you can recognize the fact that the trauma was in the past. Other objects that you can hold can work as well.

It can take some time to learn to use grounding objects to interrupt a flashback. Try practicing outside of a flashback, such as at times you feel a little anxious.

Practicing the coping skills described here can greatly reduce the effects of PTSD. They are not a cure, but something that can bring some relief. And all of them will become more and more useful the more you use them.

You might also like this article: Four Simple Ways to Overcome Depression

Tips for Helping Children with ASD Understand Recent Events

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

While watching news coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown I heard over and over again “Adam Lanza was autistic” or “Adam Lanza had Asperger’s.” As far as I know, a diagnosis has not been confirmed but as a mental health practitioner, I became concerned.

What if children who have this diagnosis are watching this coverage: Would they be afraid that they may do something like this? Are the parents of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) children worried their child could become violent? Stereotypes and generalizations rarely make things better so let’s take a look at ways to help talk to a spectrum disorder child about the recent news coverage and ease some anxiety.

You might also like this article: Help Your Children Protect Their Environment

Educate your child about the differences in people with ASD and the presence of co-morbidity. If a child knows he is diagnosed with a spectrum disorder there may be an internalization when it comes to negative press about people with ASD. Emphasize that each person with ASD is different. Inform the child there are even people who have other diagnosis in addition to ASD. This other diagnosis may be part of the reason the person became violent, not the spectrum disorder.

Focus on positive role models with spectrum disorders. We all need awesome people to look up to! And children with ASD are no different. Albert Einstein (physicist), Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), and Mozart (composer) are all thought to have been affected by ASD. There are also many not-so-famous people out in the world with ASD that are inspirational to your child. Remind your child of any of these people he may know.

Encourage your child to talk to you or another adult he trusts about thoughts and feelings. No matter how your child appears to react (or not react) to the world, something is being absorbed. Children (with and without an ASD diagnosis) hear and see things that adults do not always acknowledge. There can be an extra challenge in knowing how a child is thinking/feeling when the child has ASD. Having a safe place for expression is important for anyone, but a child with ASD may need a little extra encouragement or help with this task.

Limit the exposure a child with ASD has to negative media. There is evidence to suggest that children with ASD can process and absorb information faster than a “normal” person. A child with ASD may also have a strong ability to pick up auditory stimulus while doing another activity. This can include hearing a television in another room. So be careful what your child could be exposed to, even if you think they are out of earshot or distracted by doing another activity.

Every child with ASD is different so take the child’s individual level of comprehension and understanding into consideration when using these tips. Age and social development may also play a role in how much s/he will be affected by the news and others’ comments. Use your best judgment and do not hesitate to seek professional help when needed.

Dr. Phil’s Contribution to Our Society

Monday, August 2nd, 2021

 

Sweep it under the carpet!

Dr. PhilSweeping our problems under the carpet has always been the way our society operates but now that we have a psychologist like Dr. Phil who chooses to help troubled, abused, drug-addicted people right on his show, it has opened up doors for millions.

Millions of troubled folk watch the Dr. Phil show and can identify with those that he counsels! A problem first has to be brought to light before anything can be done, and Dr. Phil’s show brings these problems to light for all to see.

Is Dr. Phil in it just for the money?

I do not believe that he cares at all about the money! I can feel and see the compassion he has for those individuals that he counsels. Yes, there are times when he has to be harsh just to make sure a person is not just on his show to get famous. He also needs to make sure that his guests are serious about getting help!

After all, Dr. Phil is spending thousands of dollars to get his guests the specialized counseling they need. His loyal and devoted professional staff screen people who call in or write Dr. Phil to get help and they try very hard to make sure the person is not faking just to get on TV. They pick people who need the most help first.

Where would we be today?

Dr. Phil not only helps the people on his program but he also makes his audience and TV viewers feel empowered to be the best they can be! Not only that but when a troubled viewer watches his program they realize that they are not alone which frees them to get the help they need.

If there had been a program when I was young like “The Dr. Phil Program” I would not be struggling to make ends meet like I am today. I would have been given the confidence to get a college education and do so much more with my skills and talents. I don’t mind having to split wood to keep my home warm but at the of age 65, I sure can find better ways of using my time. Not only that but I have pain in both of my elbows along with hip and back pain.

There is nothing wrong with spending all your time just trying to survive but if I would have been given the proper advice when I was in my youth I would have had more time for volunteering and helping others. With TV programs that offer advice and empowerment, our society can advance to a more civilized and humane state.

I wasted many years in abusive relationships that got me nowhere in life. Had there been a program like Dr. Phil when I was young I would not have to live with all the regrets of a wasted life. Not only that but my children would not have had to suffer as a result of my abusive relationships!

Even my husband Bob would have benefited from a program like Dr. Phil when he was growing up. He started working with his alcoholic and abusive dad at age nine. His parents never thought that maybe he should go to college. Due to the abuse, Bob retaliated by partying heavily and did not care about getting a better education or developing his talents and skills! Working at a manual labor job can be quite rewarding if your body can last until retirement age!!

However, our body wears old long before our brain wears out. Bob has lumps at the bottom of his feet, extreme pain in his hands and wrist, shoulder pain, and back pain. He has to quit his job at age 58 due to pain and the doctor won’t help him get unemployment benefits. We went that route 2 years ago and nothing was accomplished except for a big medical co-payment bill that took us two years to pay.

Therefore, we have to give up our country home and move to my 93-year-old city home so that Bob can quit his job because the property taxes are 10 times higher out here. Not only that but the chain saw that Bob uses is getting too heavy and hurting his back. If there had been a Dr. Phil program when Bob was growing up he would have gotten the help he needed with his abusive Dad.

I am sure that Bob would have also thought about getting a better education so that he would not have to work at a manual labor job his entire life. He is very talented in the field of art and I know if self-esteem was a part of our culture back then like it is today Bob would have gotten a better education and job.

You see it was Dr. Phil who made public the issue of self-esteem along with how to overcome addictions and even how to forgive your abusive parent. It is due to his program that many issues in our society have been brought to light and dealt with.

I never heard of self-esteem or self-worth when I was young and neither did Bob. Just that one factor alone would have made a world of difference to both of us.

Bob and I are touched to the point of tears

When we watch the Dr. Phil show there are many times when we can’t help but cry! Sometimes it is because we identify so strongly with the troubled person he is trying to help and other times it is tears of joy because we feel so thankful that a man like Dr. Phil has devoted his life to helping others.