Two somewhat politically incorrect things


I have two somewhat politically incorrect things to say.

1. I am tired of hearing Temple Grandin’s advice about parenting. Don’t get me wrong–I think Ms. Grandin is an incredible woman, person, scientist. I have enormous respect for her insight, intellect, and accomplishments. But she is not a parent. (And she’s not in an intimate relationship–not judging! Just saying. Relationships are the compost pile of self-discovery. When they’re healthy, they’re roomy and rich, teaming with worms that help break everything down. When they’re unhealthy, they literally stink.)  She’s got oodles of fantastically important things to share but when it comes to parenting advice, unless you live with your spectrum kid, I’m not keen on listening. It’s just not a good use of my time. Or energy.

2. I’m no longer interested in the debates in the ‘Autism Community.’ Again, don’t get me wrong: Lively discussion is important. Diversity is essential. The sharing of experiences that are different from mine is critical. Acceptance, education, respect, access to services, I’m for all of it. But the debates, the positions–even the ones I agree with, are ultimately unhelpful for me because they are too limited in scope, ie, there’s a way that they create separation and divides even as they are often working hard to bring people together.

But mostly it’s because those discussions don’t actually do anything to strengthen my ability to bring my most authentic, creative, and resilient self to myself, my son, and the challenges that arise in my life on a daily basis.

And that’s what matters most to me, finding my way back to presence and open-heartedness when I’ve been triggered, which (again!) happens on a near daily basis.

What can I say? It’s trigger central over here.

When I’m triggered, I lose access to a huge amount of my abilities. I just do. So does Tito. So does Dave. It’s like doors to different rooms in the brain slam shut like in the movies when the child in the department store goes missing–slam–slam–slam–slam. Secure the perimeters. Sound the alarm. The amygdala jumps into fight/flight/freeze because it/the brain/we react as if our very survival has been threatened. I’ve come to see that investigating the triggers is how I find my way back.

I used to think the goal was to reduce this sort of reaction, get less triggered, be less anxious, scared, angry, etc., reduce the _______ and increase the ______ because one is ‘bad’ and the  other ‘good’. I don’t think that way anymore. Feelings are feelings. They just are. Like Aspergers and sunshine and thunderstorms and the moon. Any judgment about them, any story, comes from my mind which attaches to a feeling quickly judged as something to grab or something to cast off.

I now see them all as doors, doors that lead me back to me, through a process that begins with opening to whatever is there, not resisting or fighting. That can only happen if I stop, breath, inquire.

Emotional regulation. Self-regulation. I’m convinced this is the key.

I’ve long been attuned to issues of emotional regulation as forward movement in our house centers around whether or not Tito is feeling ‘in balance’ or ‘out of balance.’ But my big hit-myself-in-the-head moment was at the CPS (Collaborative Problem Solving) training this past January: All of us, not just our kids, are only able to access our skills (and here I’m talking about a host of things including social-emotional intelligence, cognitive flexibility, sensory processing, executive functioning) when we are regulated. We talk a lot about helping our kids, with transitions, with overwhelm, with confusion, with frustration, but we don’t talk enough about what happens inside of us, the parents.

If we all would be willing to greet our own ‘stuff’ with compassion, and to listen under the words other people speak for the feelings that are bubbling there, if we all set our GPS for points of connection and relatedness, there would be no need for discussions of whether or not Autism is a disability or ability, a difference or disorder. Forgive me if it sounds as if I am about to break into a chorus of Kumbaya, but I am communicating from a keenly pragmatic place.  If we all did that, if we all were willing to question our thoughts, our judgments, our stories, and then drop out of our heads and into our bodies to listen for what we are feeling and needing, we would discover that truly, we are all in the same boats, at times able, at times, disabled.

Look, I’m not trying to take anything away from anyone. My perspective has shifted and, as a consequence, ev-e-ry-thing is seen through this new lens. Things are orders of magnitude simpler. And orders of magnitude harder. But absolutely one hundred percent where I want to put my time and energy.

Tito has Aspergers and ADD. I don’t have either. But we are dealing with the same brain/body balance thing.  In fact, I contend that there is no one who is not dealing with this, to some degree.

Can you imagine how amazing it would be if we all got on that page?

9 thoughts on “Two somewhat politically incorrect things

  1. Who are you? And how did you just take my jumbled thoughts and lay them out on my computer screen so damn clearly?

    Found your blog via Elizabeth Aquino link.

  2. Amen, especially to the “I contend that there is NO ONE (my emphasis) who is not dealing with this, to some degree.”

  3. Incredibly well put. You have nailed what has been bothering me for some time now – so thank you! I find it amazing to see how both my and my son’s abilities evaporate in the face of our inability to stay regulated. It’s no longer that he or I don’t have the skills to co-regulate, problem solve, etc. – we’re both quite good at it when we are in flow and regulated. But when we move away from being centred all of those skills disappear. And being triggered – my goodness our homelife is a landmine of triggers for me! What a lovely way to put it – “as doors that lead me back to me”. For me those triggers are windows of self-discovery that help me move forward on my own path. When I am regulated enough to remember, that is!

  4. Interesting. I can relate to the emotional regulation paradigm shift thing. For a long time I failed to connect my need to “avoid all triggers/negative feelings” strategy with my Always Running From My Problems personality flaw, ha ha. Then I started realizing I was spoiling my child rotten because I didn’t believe he had the strength to deal with negative emotions, bc I fail to deal with negative emotions all the time. Now I’m trying to find emotional stability/balance… mostly because I’m supposed to pass these regulation skills on to my offspring n stuff… I don’t know where to begin looking, but I guess it’s good I’m finally looking, anyway… 😉 Take care.

  5. Your wisdom, articulateness, clarity and REALNESS continue to amaze and delight me. Though I am not even a parent, much less of a spectrum kid, your insights about living and relating are important, helpful and universal. Your words here mesh with and reinforce my recent yogic teachings to help me along my own challenging path of the moment.

  6. well put. i definitely checked out of the debate game…i’m re-entering blog land (this is m/incipient turvy)…and wanted to read blogs, catch up…and found so many blogs focused on debate topics…and all of them insisted that you either think one way, or you’re basically evil…that it was a major let down. the tone of these debates is so negative, and so controlling…i’m just never comfortable being told that i have to think a certain way, speak a certain way, or else…so, done. the debate topics are not for me. going to keep my new site focused on personal stories and nothing else, so i very much enjoyed this post here. yay for kyra thoughts. and long time no see, hope you’re well. things are okay here, quiet…we like quiet.

  7. Why, why didnt’ you tell us you had a blog?? I am thrilled to discover it, and to know that our friendship is just beginning. You are an amazing woman/dancer/writer/mother…thank you for sharing. I look forward to catching up on your advice!

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