#67 |Angry OutburstsMay 16, 2022
- SEEING AUTISM by Barb Avila: https://www.lynncdavison.com/pl/2147533610
- LivesInTheBalance.org by Dr. Ross Greene
- SHARON SALINE: https://www.lynncdavison.com/pl/2147584528
Does your autistic young adult have angry outbursts and swings in their mood, where we're just left wondering, what can we do to help this? I'd like to offer you some options to consider.
The first thing we want to do though, is remind ourselves what the end is. We want to keep the end in mind. What we want to do is help our autistic young adults practice that set of mental tools that help them manage their emotions and their actions so that they can achieve the goals that they want in their lives.
Keeping that in mind, we're going to follow Barb Avila's process that she outlines beautifully in her book, SEEING AUTISM.
- Understanding what's going on
- Connect with ourselves and our autistic young adult
- Then figuring out what is the practice to help encourage them to manage these swings better and therefore become more adult do adulting more often.
So the first step of understanding what’s going on, is to actually figure out why is this difficult for our autistic young adults? Why is this an unsolved problem? And in the work of Dr. Ross Green, when there's an unsolved problem, there's a lagging skill. So the skill I suggest that is lagging here is judgment. And we've learned from Dr. Sharon Saline that this is the part of the brain that develops last. And so it makes sense that our kids who may be in their early 20s through maybe even their third decade, that they may struggle with this because these are not skills that they picked up naturally, just by osmosis. Our kids don't pick up things by osmosis, and just by what's going on around them, and then on top of that, our kids tend to have worry brains, that put them into that fear emotion often, when they are just afraid of what's going to happen next, and they have no confidence that they can handle it, which blocks their learning. And so we just have to recognize that what's happening here is a result of the brain that they have.
Alright, so now that we know what's going on and why, let's connect with both ourselves and with them. And the best thing we want to do is to really, really listen to what's going on. So our daughter's therapist, during his residency at a psychiatric ward, was called to a room where a young adult was holding a chair over his head ready to smash it down. And he came and looked that autistic young adult in the eye and said “you are really angry” and he said that the chair slowly came down.
Our autistic young adults really want to be seen by us. Isn't that what we all want? And they really want to be heard. In my noticing and reflecting the emotion that they're experiencing, we can show them that we both see them and hear them. It seems like you're angry because you're not getting what you want. It can be as short and sweet as that. We don't want to parrot their words, because sometimes that can feel like mocking. We want to summarize it up in less than 15 words is my rule of thumb. And that's not so easy because when we're in these types of situations, we are excited ourselves; our arousal level is kind of high and who wants to be screamed at. So what we have to do is we have to take in the message, sort it out, sum it up and say it back succinctly in our own words, while we're while we're kind of in that fear place too. So know that this is hard for us. It's equally hard for our autistic young adults to really hear what we have to say when we're in a heightened place. Because again, we're all in that fear spot. Our mammalian brain has taken over and it's decided to keep us safe, which means it's not going to solve the problem. It's not going to tell us to look to the prefrontal cortex to solve the problem. The fact why this is so perplexing. So how do we get past that?
Okay, so now we've reflected and now we have gotten out of that particular situation. Hopefully, the reflection of the emotion has helped things sort of simmer down and we just reflect, reflect, reflect until our autistic young adult can really feel heard. And we notice what's going on in our own inner dialogue. And you know, we figure out the best way to be the kind of parent that is encouraging, warning only when necessary and there to coach and be consulted by our young adults.
So, we practice noticing our own steer maps, when we look at the facts of the situation. There's my child, obviously you know, in a heightened state, all right, that's gonna make me think what's going on. My emotion is worry/concern, my actions, hopefully at this point, we're going to train ourselves to practice listening, so that the result can be I'll figure out what is going on. Notice how that figuring out what's going on is going to tie back to that thought of, I don't understand what's going on. If we do that action of reflecting, then our result will be that we will figure out what's going on. And that helps us notice our own stear maps and then we can imagine what's going on with them. What is the fact that has triggered the thoughts that are getting him or her in a highly aroused state where they've just been so fearful or unhappy that they are lashing out. And the result is that they're not getting their needs met, in a way because it's really hard to figure out what needs to be done when you're in such a heightened state. And unfortunately when we see them in the heightened state, we tend to tell them what's going to be happening next. And that's not what they want. They want us to support their thinking and what they believe are the right next steps for them. But we can't do that when we're in that heightened state. So what we want to do of course, is borrow the collaborative problem solving proactive solving solutions that Dr. Ross Green advocates where we agree on the facts, we listen to their stear map, we know we present our stear map pastime but we really need for you to learn how to manage your emotions. You know your thinking better. So that you know when you're in a job or in a relationship or who knows what's going to happen over the next 50 years of your life, we want you to be the adult who can manage themselves the way they want to in any given situation. That's going to be ours. And then of course, we're going to try and figure out what are the next steps, their thoughts, our thoughts come together. How we can link those two together to figure out what we want to practice next.
We really want to co create this solution together. Because that helps us help them know that it's normal to not know what to do next. That, you know, we're allowed to have mistakes and failures. In fact, we're encouraged to have them because the person who's successful has probably failed more than the person who isn't successful because they're willing to deal with the consequences and difficulty of failure and learn from it.
We're going to keep that parent young adult relationship as strong as we can by being responsive, authentic, consistent, committed and solutions oriented. In fact, our vision of where we want to go with our autistic young adult I’m hoping is also where they want to go. I mean, they want to be responsive. They want to be responsible. They want to respond in the way that works best for them, and still stay true to themselves, and practice it enough where it becomes more automatic. And they're committed to being who they really want to be and creating a result that really does work for them over the long haul. So that the life that they're creating is one they love and it works. And then you know when we come together, we can do a much better job coming up with a better solution for all of us. I'm inspired by Steve Covey and his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People where he says, quote,
"The more genuine the involvement, the more sincere and sustained the participation in analyzing and solving problems, the greater the release of everyone's creativity and their commitment to what they create."
He's no longer with us but I really admire the way that he created the seven habits book. It's such a classic and it's really worth seeing what he taught and how it could apply to our situations today.
Please join me anytime you can at www.LynnCDavison.com/blog. You'll see a replay of this video and its transcript.
Explore around and look at all the other blogs that I've created with my suggestions on things to consider when we're trying to solve these problems with our autistic young adults together.
Bye for now.