Over the past few months I have been working with a couple of super special teens. They both have been diagnosed with Asperger’s, though to tell you the truth, I just found out that this is a diagnosis that is no longer used (by Dr. Joel Schartz, who I interviewed for my Podcast “Claim Your Excellent Life” a few days ago on this very subject).
I also interviewed each of these two clients for my Podcast. Each of them had a ton to say about the way they felt they could be better if they were respected for who they were instead of feeling like they had to fit into a box they didn’t fit into. It was an interesting exercise to give them the mic and allow them to tell it the way they understand it.
So, what did we learn? Well, from Dr. Schartz I learned that people on the autism spectrum – the current way we are to “label” them – though I myself don’t really like labels generally speaking – are dealing with a lot of noise in their brains. Why? Because, instead of being able to concentrate on one sensory input like non-autism spectrum people, they are bombarded by all their senses all the time. This is why these folks tend to do things that calm them. The hyper attachment to some activity is their way to close off all the stimuli that they find overbearing and even painful to deal with. Dr. Schartz asks his autistic patients if there is anything that he needs to do to make the environment of his office better for them like: lowering the lighting, getting the trash out of the office if it is offensive to the heightened senses of his patients, or if the temperature in the room is comfortable for them. This is a very important aspect of allowing these folks to feel comfortable and if you weren’t aware of it, now you are.
Next, I learned that once the environment is settled and comfortable, autistic people can learn quite easily – so long as you teach to their way of thinking. How do you figure that out? By observing their responses and reactions to what you are asking them to do. By asking them what would work best for them.
Now, this is the most important information that I received from both my teen clients: If you want to be helpful to them, you must know how to listen to what they need. They are able to communicate that to you, if you would only listen, instead of deciding that you as the adult know better. I can tell you from my own work with all my clients, that a great amount of their problems they come to me with is due to the fact that no one validated their feelings, no one heard their request for help, instead doing what they thought would be of interest to the other. As one of my teen clients told me, just because I am good at making drawings and singing, doesn’t mean that I want to be enrolled in lessons for it. Maybe, I just want to be a kid, able to play in the dirt with my friends.
Another, thing my teen client told her mother while we were working together was that every time she asked for help, she wanted help with emotions, not the academics her parents were always helping her with.
If you are sick of nagging your kid, one of my teens gave great advise on this topic: tell them why it is important and perhaps give them something like some special one-on-one time together in return for their efforts. Most of all, if you tell your kid that you appreciate their efforts, you will find that they will be more compliant both in the chores around the home and most especially at school. Studies have been done that prove this out.
The most important thing that they both had to say was that they were upset that their parents were unable to help them in a way that was helpful to them. This was because they weren’t being able to be heard. These kids were endlessly frustrated by that which is expected of them to fit into a society that doesn’t understand how their mind works. So, here is the deal: allow your kid to be who they are, and respect that they are not you. They don’t necessarily share your values or interest and don’t need to. They are individuals with their own goals and values to be respected to the degree that these are productive and positive goals and values.
Lastly, do understand that our teens and college kids in general are under a lot of pressure. Sexuality is everywhere – and because kids don’t understand what it is, they are confused by it. Given that 1 in 3 females and 1 in 4 males will suffer sexual abuse, many times before they are old enough to even understand what it is, shame, guilt and frustration abound inside these kids minds. Depression and then addictions come up to not have to deal with these negative feelings.
It is our job as the adults in the world to better understand what is going on with the pressures our kids feel. To take off the pressures. Not every kid needs or wants to go to college to be successful. Today if you understand the business of internet marketing you can make a killing doing that as the world has come to you. Not every kid has to be s star at sports, and many resent being forced to do something that they didn’t enjoy just because they had the talent. Allow your kids to figure out what is meaningful and of interest to them, while helping them to better understand what they can and need to do to protect themselves from the internet’s hijacking of their youth. Help them to understand that they don’t have to have a Facebook page if they are uninterested in the negative comments or the boasting that goes on there. Help them to understand that they are allowed to have feelings and how to healthfully process those feelings – that generally change from moment to moment. Because the truth of the matter is that we don’t need to drug our kids, we need to teach them how to deal with their emotions, how to respect their bodies and their minds and how to find fulfillment in that which interests them. The rest will work itself out if we do that much for them now, while they are still developing.
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