Archive for January, 2013

The 3-STEP Integrative Approach to Autism PART 6: Introducing Family and Friends

Jan 31 2013 Published by under Asperger's,Autism,Highly Sensitive Person,HSP

This post continues THE 3-STEP Integrative Approach to Autism series, developed over 18 years of research, experience and collaboration. Today Part 6: BEHAVIORAL requirements for growth: Introducing Family and Friends

Introducing Family & Friends into Your Child’s Life:

The number of people entering and leaving the house in the early stages of the child’s development should be limited to the smallest number possible. The need to establish many relationships at once is one of the reasons sensitive children may show a delay in development. Those who are recurrent dwellers of the house should be introduced slowly and at multiple occasions to a sensitive child in the presence of the primary bondholder. The encounters should be brief and absolutely non-intrusive on the child’s environment. This allows the child to explore the new person in her life and to observe him or her fully without having to deal with novelty for a prolonged period. The new person, even a grandmother or a beloved uncle, should not try to change the child’s environment during the encounter. They should just sit there within the visual range of the child and converse lightly with the mother. They should not try to touch the child, especially when the child is not paying attention to them. This is a very tricky point. Most adults like to touch children in order to please the parents and show affection. Sensitive children are very sensitive to touch and not in a good way. They are very selective in who they want to have touch them. Since they cannot express their discomfort, they end up withdrawing and avoiding. Usually after several encounters, the child will make some gesture toward the new person indicating that she or he has been incorporated into the circle of safety. From that point forward, this new person can try to play with the child, only when invited. Even then, they should be very careful about disrupting the order of play and the positions different toys are taking. Sensitive children are very particular about the order of things and how things should be. Anyone who disrupts that order can undermine their socializing effort.

Rami Serhan, MD
Author, Psyche-Smart Autism; Integrative Medicine Consultant
(206) 659-1ASD (273)
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Autism Screening
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The 3-STEP Integrative Approach to Autism PART 5: Risk in Neglect

Jan 30 2013 Published by under Asperger's,Autism,Highly Sensitive Person,HSP

This post continues THE 3-STEP Integrative Approach to Autism series, developed over 18 years of research, experience and collaboration. Today Part 5: BEHAVIORAL requirements for growth: Risk in Neglect

Risk in Neglect:

The parent with whom the child forms a primary bond cannot make herself unavailable, especially when she is in plain sight. For example, a two-year-old who has seen his mother in the other room finds himself frustrated with a toy that was stuck in the coach. He can’t play with it anymore so he cries and yells. The mother is talking on the phone or preparing some food, so she asks her sister to check in on him and see what is wrong. While that might work just fine with an insensitive child, it could have devastating consequences for a sensitive child. When the mother (primary bond representative) fails to attend to her child’s needs, the sensitive child interprets the act as one of abandonment by the one person he relies on. No three-year-old can express that sentiment or even consciously think it, yet they feel it. However, this is an example of exaggerated reactivity to stress that sensitive children show. Any change in care that can be remotely interpreted as neglect or mishandling may wreak havoc on a sensitive child’s mind, throwing him into overload and consequent non-responsiveness. This is not an accusation or condemnation. Rather it is a call to action for less sensitive adults, those unaware of such delicate aspects of raising children that are more sensitive. Nothing is more important than attending to your child’s needs. Nothing is worth delegating your child’s care to someone else.

Rami Serhan, MD
Author, Psyche-Smart Autism; Integrative Medicine Consultant
(206) 659-1ASD (273)
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Psyche-Smart Autism book
Integrative Autism Blog
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Autism Screening
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The 3-STEP Integrative Approach to Autism PART 4: The Bond

Jan 28 2013 Published by under Asperger's,Autism,Highly Sensitive Person

This post continues THE 3-STEP Integrative Approach to Autism series, developed over 18 years of research, experience and collaboration. Today Part 4: BEHAVIORAL requirements for growth: The Bond

The Bond:

The most profound part in child development is an unshakable bond with the mother, where the child feels complete safety from any threats, real or imagined. We discussed earlier the importance of consistency in care in the first six months of life. However, what about the child-mother relationship later on? Well, the mother cannot be the same person who hugs, reassures, provides necessities and at times punishes and disciplines. If the same parent is doing both, then the child is confused, lost, and left in utter solitude and insecurity. Discipline has to be deferred to the parent with whom the child has a secondary bond. Loving, hugging, and caring have to be all that the parent with the primary bond represents to the child. Any slippage from that concept makes it several times harder for the sensitive child to come out of his or her world. When an established source of safety becomes a source of danger, the child is too overwhelmed and usually disconnects from the immediate environment as a way to cope. Of course, withdrawal and non-responsiveness are among the main consequences.

Rami Serhan, MD
Author, Psyche-Smart Autism; Integrative Medicine Consultant
(206) 659-1ASD (273)
Email
Psyche-Smart Autism book
Integrative Autism Blog
Youtube Channel
Autism Screening
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The 3-STEP Integrative Approach to Autism PART 3: Redirect & Grow

Jan 26 2013 Published by under Asperger's,Autism

This post continues THE 3-STEP Integrative Approach to Autism series, developed over 18 years of research, experience and collaboration. Today Part 3:

C- Redirect & Grow:

Most of the dysfunction associated with autism can be resolved in a loving and accepting environment. This is a most crucial aspect of how society is tackling autism so far. By mainstream medicine, since autism is a disorder, then it requires treatment. The treatment should be administered by professionals involved in psychological counseling, speech therapy, special education, etc. The fundamental problem with this approach is it presents an already overwhelmed child with many more strangers to negotiate.

One of the main problems in autism is the autistic person, at any age, needs to establish a powerful bond with the other. Autistic people approach relationships very thoroughly in a way that branches to every aspect of the other person’s life. This is practically why most autistic people are limited to less numerous friendships and acquaintances. It is simply humanly impossible to logically and broadly process more than few people at a time. An insensitive person on the other hand might indulge in relationships with many different groups of people at once. They might have a group with whom to play basketball, another with whom to play poker and yet another to go boating and another to take the family camping with and so on. An insensitive person can have these concurrent varieties of acquaintances adding up to dozens of people since they do not need to process these relationships in depth, nor do they need to understand every aspect of the other’s life or philosophy. They can restrict their relationships to one or two common interests they have with a diverse group of individuals.

On the other hand, an autistic person needs to thoroughly and broadly process each relationship with every new person they meet before they are comfortable with this person. Every encounter with a stranger can be an overwhelming experience that requires several hours or days to recover from. Imagine a three-year-old who is trying to get used to a baby sitter, day care instructor(s), psychologist, social worker, speech therapist, behavioral therapist, pediatrician and all their staff. Not to mention the mother, father, siblings, relatives, and close family friends with all of whom processing the relationship is still in progress. This processing may continue for several years before things settle down and become pleasant, non-overwhelming experiences. The system as it is now makes for very awkward and less productive encounters between strangers, which slow down progress sought after by well-meaning professionals, and parents. Until the system is changed, focus on introducing only one or two professionals into your child’s life. Make sure the first step is to get your child fully comfortable with these individuals before any progress is expected.

The main premise of the holistic approach to autism, and sensitive individuals in general, is to surround them with a loving and understanding environment made up of as few people as possible. Here are a few BEHAVIORAL requirements for growth: Cont’d in next posts

Rami Serhan, MD
Author, Psyche-Smart Autism; Integrative Medicine Consultant
(206) 659-1ASD (273)
Email
Psyche-Smart Autism book
Integrative Autism Blog
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Autism Screening
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THE 3-STEP INTEGRATIVE APPROACH TO AUTISM PART 2: Celebrate

Jan 25 2013 Published by under Asperger's,Autism

This post continues THE 3-STEP HOLISTIC APPROACH TO AUTISM series, developed over 18 years of research, experience and collaboration. Today Part 2:

B- Celebrate:

This is the really difficult part. Everywhere a parent goes, someone is talking about autistic “disorder” as if it were some incurable disease that suddenly fell on humanity. Autism is not a disease. Autism is an exaggerated form of sensitive personality, the biological basis of which lies with excessive reactivity to stimulation of all kinds and forms. Reclassifying autism as a unique and uncommon personality type is a very important step for every parent who has an autistic child and every spouse of an autistic adult. It dilutes the stigma and leads to emotional comfort. In addition, reclassifying autism as a personality type helps a growing child accept her unique constitution and discover its attributes. I am sure most parents would be concerned with speech and social interaction, but the more important aspect is tuning in to the intellectual and artistic potential of their child. Reinforcing a sense of ability in a child raises her self-esteem and prevents preoccupation with an idea of illness, which is imposed by society on some of the most unique people ever to walk this planet. Reclassifying does not mean letting autistic people off the hook. There is a whole slate of social, emotional and psychological dysfunction that comes with autism and that needs diligent attention.

From whom more is expected, more is also owed:

Autistic children grow up to become the guardians of the species. The preservation of humanity and its most sacred traditions is entrusted to autistic individuals. This extraordinarily daunting task requires longer and more extensive training. To fulfill the task of preserving the species, autistic people have to perfect a rational based approach to life on the planet. This approach relies on reason, logic, and adherence to natural laws, truths and justice.

Being born in a world that is constantly creating the means to undermine and override natural laws in an effort to “control” nature, autistic children find themselves overwhelmed by the task lying ahead. These children find themselves having to sort out the natural from the man-made in every single aspect of living. This kind of original thinking requires longer developmental periods and more extensive efforts on the part of the parents to shore up their daughter’s life and keep it anchored to current realities. We often find that autistic children experience delays in language, education and socialization. These delays are a by-product of the original thinking autistic children naturally use to process the world around them. These delays and long deliberation periods are essential to allow an autistic child to figure out her place in the order of life and more importantly to figure out her role in preserving this natural order.

Anyone reading this chapter can easily recognize how tough this must be. The philosophical background of an autistic child’s life may be beyond her conscious comprehension for many years but is essential for the parents and caregivers in order to put the child’s means of living and her need for extensive preparations in perspective.

A large majority of autistic children are born to insensitive adults who may not have a notion about the role their daughter is hard wired for later in life. It is of utmost importance for parents to understand the role their offspring is entrusted with. This understanding helps parents avoid the often-irrelevant comparisons to their own childhood or to the neighbors’ children. These comparisons frequently lead to the undesirable labels of “normal” and “abnormal”. These labels are slapped on innocent children whose only fault is trying to discover their place in this life [and trying to do it in a way that 80% of adults around do not identify with or even recognize]. It is very difficult for a father who has bullied everyone from his schoolmates to his sensitive neighbor to his ‘asperger’s’ coworker to find out that his own son may be growing up to be the type of person he would have bullied. Herein lies the irony in our packing orders in society today and all the ensuing denial. I will dedicate the rest of this chapter to sharing with parents and caregivers the means to accept autistic children for who they are and to help them grow into happy, content and independent adults.

Rami Serhan, MD
Author, Psyche-Smart Autism; Integrative Medicine Consultant
(206) 659-1ASD (273)
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Autism Screening
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THE 3-STEP INTEGRATIVE APPROACH TO AUTISM PART 1: Acknowledge

Jan 24 2013 Published by under Asperger's,Autism

Starting today and extending over the next few weeks, I will be posting THE 3-STEP HOLISTIC APPROACH TO AUTISM, developed over 18 years of research, experience and collaboration. Today I will begin with step 1:

“Everything on earth lives according to the law of nature, and from that law emerges the glory and joy of liberty; but man is denied this fortune, because he set for the … soul a limited and earthly law of his own. He made for himself strict rules. Man built a narrow and painful prison in which he secluded his affections and desires. He dug out a deep grave in which he buried his heart and its purpose. If an individual, through the dictates of his soul, declares his withdrawal from society and violates the law, his fellowmen will say he is a rebel worthy of exile, or an infamous creature worthy only of execution. Will man remain a slave of self-confinement until the end of the world? Or will he be freed by the passing of time and live in the spirit for the spirit? Will man insist upon staring downward and backward at earth? Or will he turn his eyes toward the sun so he will not see the shadow of his body amongst the skulls and thorns?”
KAHLIL GIBRAN
Author of THE PROPHET

A- Acknowledge:

The first step in problem resolution lies with understanding and consciously acknowledging the components making up the problem. Insight somehow makes it easier to deal with a problem. Of course, this applies particularly to autism and constitutional sensitivity. Such issues define who a person is and determine how the rest of her life will be shaped. It is no easy task for anyone involved. With increased awareness, the medical profession has chipped in with “diagnostic criteria” meant to do the impossible task of categorizing a continuum of personalities. These criteria summarized in the DSM IV may be a helpful starting point for those with the most profound dysfunction. There are two main drawbacks with having a rigid set of criteria. The first is arbitrarily labeling a certain personality complex as a disease or disorder. The second is that these criteria leave too many sensitive children outside the help and attention they need, just because they partially or mildly or inconsistently fulfill the criteria. Many children show autistic tendencies in their behavior, sometimes too subtle to be apparent at eighteen months or two years of age. In fact, many of the signs may not be apparent until puberty or later. These children suffer the most, since they never get the attention or the proper handling by their parents or surroundings.

The majority of sensitive children have some degree of social dysfunction that may not rise to the level of recognition of parents or health care providers. This is particularly important when those closest to the child are on the insensitive side. In this case, they may not notice the signs on their own until may be a teacher writes them or their child gets beat up at school. A worst-case scenario would be that no one notices and the child grows up without any help, becoming an invisible person looking for an identity and a place to belong. The accrued damage from mocking and rejection and assaults on self-esteem may leave permanent scars on the person’s psyche and limit their potential in life, and sometimes leads to substance dependency and homelessness.

Nowadays, there is an arms race among pediatricians, family doctors, holistic MD’s & DO’s, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, nutritionists and other health care providers to educate themselves about autism and ways to “treat” it. I am not about to discourage parents from seeking professional help. However, I encourage parents of sensitive children and spouses of sensitive adults to seek an understanding of the sensitive personality. This is necessary to enrich the conversation with any health care professional involved. This is also necessary to shore up and streamline the relationship with the sensitive person in your life in general.

Apparent social dysfunction, non-interactive demeanor, withdrawal, non-responsiveness, failure to make eye contact, etc. are signs every parent should heed. It is not unusual to go through a denial period for many reasons. The shock of knowing that one’s child is different from the majority of children coupled with the emotional and financial burden can make the situation very difficult to deal with initially. A large part of the denial is the stigma that comes with autism; and expressions of sympathy – and pity – by the media and the public are not helping and in fact are unnecessary expressions of superiority, which the sensitive community can live without. We need acceptance of sensitive and autistic people in society for who they are. We need acknowledgement of the sensitive personality as just another healthy personality integral to our beautiful mix of accepted personalities.

Rami Serhan, MD
Author, Psyche-Smart Autism; Integrative Medicine Consultant
(206) 659-1ASD (273)
Email
Psyche-Smart Autism book
Integrative Autism Blog
Youtube Channel
Autism Screening
Google Profile

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