#74 | Strategic Life Creators Series #4: How to Loving Move the Monkey Off Our Back and On to Theirs

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Deb Douglas’ blog, GTCarpeDiem.com

Here's my best take on eight ways to lovingly move the monkey of responsibility off of our shoulders to our boss sets of artistic high school graduates' shoulders. This monkey represents the responsibility for creating a life that they loved. 

When I was in high school, my parents made it really clear that I had until age 21 to complete my education, and then there would be no more money supporting me. 

That approach worked for two out of three of my siblings. But it did not work for one of my siblings. And I think I've figured out why, now that I have six adult children, several are autistic and all are alternative learners. 

Here's what I've learned is that autistic high school graduates in fact, alternative learners need direct instruction in self advocacy to create a life they love. What do I mean by that? 

Well, here are the eight ways that I suggest that we cultivate self advocacy in our autistic high school graduates. 

  1. First, we both need a flexible roadmap 
  2. We need to remember that all problems are thoughts
  3. We want to practice an adult mindset
  4. When we create collaborative proactive solutions, we're helping them practice the set of tools that help them discover solutions with others because none of us succeed alone. 
  5. We want to encourage those mistakes, turn them into learning opportunities and move on. 
  6. When we suggest advice and criticize, it can turn our autistic young adults off. We need to ask their permission before we offer our thoughts. 
  7. After the fundamentals have been decided, what are we going to do every day no matter how we feel to keep our life on track. Then we need to decide on the one thing we're going to improve, just one thing.
  8. We regularly cue and practice. We repeat for emphasis. We repeat for emphasis, because practice is what's required to get the skills in place so we can create what we love. 

So let's look at each one of these one at a time. 

#1 We need to create flexible plans, flexible roadmaps for both of us. Here's why. We need to be comfortable in the direction that our life is heading. We need to have our own roadmap that's working for us that's creating the kinds of emotions that nurture our autistic young adults. This is important because often I read on the Facebook page of supporting autistic parents of autistic young adults and teens, that their life just would be easier if their kid wasn't autistic. And I hear you know, some resentment I definitely hear overwhelmed a lot. I definitely hear, “I don't know.” And all of us are coming from a place of, “This is harder than I thought it was going to be.” 

And yeah, it is. No, I'm not saying that parents with non-alternative learners aren't having a hard time. Because yall kids can go down the wrong path, and to make decisions that can impact the rest of their life when they're young. 


At the same time, though, I think that the nature of having an autistic brain has presented us with some unique challenges and we need to acknowledge that those are totally out of our own experience, and that we don't always know who to consult. Frankly, it might be best if we just consulted our young adults. 

Then we start with your own life audit. I went over that in the strategic life creators. Video number one, this is Strategic Life Creators: #4. We want to start with our own life audit. We want to look at what we've created so far, and where we would like to level up our life. And then what are our next actions and once we've done that, we become so much more likely to achieve what we want. Just writing down the words makes a huge difference, just getting clear on what it is that we want. And of course, keep continuously improving how well those words really do reflect what's most important to us. 

Then we want to encourage them to do their own life audit. Okay. I know several of us have young adults who are very resistant to this idea. 

So let me tell you the easiest way that I found how to do it with one of my adult young adults. We decided to take walks three times a week at five o'clock. It helped me shut down my business at five o'clock because I have a tendency to keep going. It helped them to find a way to talk to me that worked for them side by side outside and walking seems to be the perfect way to lubricate the thoughts coming out and then being willing to share them with me. So that was so important. 

So I knew I had to take this whole life audit process down to just 10 words, and the 10 words or the 10 domains, and I'll quickly sing them to you. 

  1. finance 
  2. food 
  3. health that’s mental 
  4. health that’s physical
  5. home 
  6. jobs 
  7. Keeping 
  8. learning 
  9. relationships create a 
  10. Virtuous life. 

All right, that’s the list.

What we would do is we would do three, four on Monday, three on Wednesday, and three more on Friday. And that's all we would do is we would just talk about what was going on in their life in each one of those domains. That's as formal of a process as you have to put in place. It can just be talking about this. 

What I found very helpful was of course when I got home, I would send them a quick text. It just sort of covered what we were. We talked about and then we evolved that to having an online Notes app, because it's hard to text, all that stuff. And I could just send it to them. And then they could just copy it and put it in their notes app. 

So there's ways to do this where it's just not so overwhelming, but the whole idea is to get a dialogue going about what it is in their life that they want, what they already created, and what they want next, and then what they're going to do about it and maybe what we need to do to support them in that. That's about as good a life audit as we need. 

We need to ask ourselves the same questions too. And so this way, we're not only creating their life, map, their life roadmap, we're also creating ours so we can kind of see this joint process of taking one little step at a time is really how we all create the life that we love. It really is just one little step at a time so that having those 10 categories gives us a common language we can use to get on the same page with each other. Personally, this is powerful stuff. 

Here's a quote from Deb Douglas at her website, GTcarpediem.com. I'll link to it in the notes. But I just wanted to make sure that you all knew that these were not original to me, that they are from Deb. 

“By allowing children to voice and seeking solutions, we show them that we respect their abilities to face adult size issues, and are giving them a chance to alter their world for the better. A lesson too seldom if ever learned by some adults.” This is Jim Delisle. W hat he's suggesting is that the dialogue is what's important. 

I also advocate that the structure, if we can share the common roadmap together, those 10 domains and if we can just talk about them together, we help them seek solutions with us. 

#2 And next part, the next way to lovingly move that monkey off of our back to theirs is to acknowledge that all problems are our thoughts. 

Our steer map tells us that we have this situation, and that our thoughts, emotions, actions, create our result. And it's really important that we understand and it's been taught for millennia, that the facts are outside of our control. And they are neutral. It is how we interpret them, which causes the way that we feel about them, which influences the way that we show up and all those impacts the way that we create our results. 

So all problems are thoughts. They start here because the situation is always neutral. That's where this poem came from, where we want to accept, you know, to get to serenity and accept the things that we cannot change. Acceptance is right there. The courage to change the things that we can and the wisdom to know the difference. We are wise now and we're on to it that the facts we cannot change but we have the power to change our thoughts, emotions and actions. Our TEA which creates our results.


We will drive those thoughts to. Or if we just let ourselves go on the default brain, our thoughts will drive us. And that's where we want to make sure that we distinguish between the fact and the story that we're making up about that and about the facts and decide whether or not that story those thoughts are working for us. 

#3 And that's how we number three, practice and adult mindset.

An adult mindset is the same thing as intentional mindset. This is where we take responsibility for the thoughts that we're thinking and decide whether they're working for us or not. If they are, let's keep on practicing them. And if they're not, let's discover them. And nail him down and look at him and say, There's a billion possibilities of the ways that I can think about this particular set of facts, which is the way to think about it that's going to work best for me. It's going to create the results that I want. 

What a powerful tool to teach our autistic young adults. This is when they make the leap from childhood. Emotional childhood to emotional adulthood is when they understand that they are responsible for their thinking, and their thinking is going to influence their emotions in their actions which are going to create their results. They move from emotional childhood to emotional adulthood. And that's what we're encouraging in order to get that monkey from our back to theirs. 

Because we do become what we think about. We need to figure out how to release the beliefs that no longer serve us. Beliefs are just a collection of thoughts that we thought so often, they become automatic. This is how we create new beliefs that do work better for us is by looking at those thoughts and deciding can maybe wiggle a little bit. 

If I add at the end of the sentence, “and that's okay,” at the end of that thought, does that take me just to a slightly different place? 

Or if I add maybe at the beginning of that sentence, does that give me just a little bit of wiggle room to try to think about this situation slightly differently so that I show up more as the person that I want to become, as the person that I want to be? Moment to moment to moment. 

Here's where we get out of default mode. These are the collection of thoughts that I've had my whole life.  I've never stopped to imagine, to examine them, to be aware of them and discover whether or not they really are creating the life that I love. Am I showing up? Consistent with my virtues, the things that matter most to me. My unique footprint of virtues that really matter most to me: strength, compassion, action, regulation and focus are the five that I live by. And I remind myself of those every day after I take shower. 

#4 Then the fourth skill, the fourth way that we can help give that monkey from our back in lovingly placed on their back is to help us to create collaborative, proactive solutions with them. 

This is Dr. Ross Greene's approach to helping kids figure out what they need and say it and get it. This is the tool that we use to teach them self advocacy. Self Advocacy is the way to help our kids get what they need out of life and not only from themselves, but also from the people who are going to be there to love and support them throughout their life. 

“In order to grow, every child needs an appropriately challenged challenging education and effective social and emotional support.” Wow. Deb Douglass, wouldn't that be lovely? 

Well, hey, we can do this. We can provide that social and emotional support that our kids need to encourage them to create a life that they love. 

#5 And the fifth way we do it is by encouraging mistakes, learning and moving on. In other words, the scientific method.

We all learn this in school, where we put out a hypothesis about the reason why things are happening the way they are. Oh, okay. That's my theory. That's my STEAR Map. This is what's happening to me now. 

And then we set up an experiment. We say, “I wonder if I change that thought, or I wonder if I changed my routine, my habits? Could I create something different?” And we go do it. 

Then we review the results. We recognize in the scientific method that we are not going to come up with the right answer the first time every time. That’s impossible. impossible. 

So let's apply the scientific method to our way of solving problems together. And notice that that's going to teach them how to articulate what needs to change in their lives. 

So many times when we ask our kids what they want in life, their answer is, I don't know. So typical of all kids, of all young adults, they're trying to figure out what they want in life. Through this process. We help them figure it out, together, and then as they get better and better at it, they're going to know how to do this for themselves. 

And thank goodness because we're not always going to be there to meet the social and emotional support that they need. 

So here's such a good quote. “Learning to live well in this world to be happy, have strong personal relationships, to know oneself and to belong to small and large communities requires skills, practice mistakes from which we learn and time.” Thank you, Lisa Rivero. So well said.

Here's another one. “The surest path to positive self esteem is to succeed at something which one perceived would be difficult. Each time we steal a student's (or our child's) struggle by insisting that they do work too easy for them, (or insist on our way) we steal their opportunity to have an esteem building experience.” Sylvia Rimm 

What we really want to do is make sure that they create the solution and they try it out, and then they decide what changes they'd like to make. 

#6 Here's the sixth one: we want to suggest, advise and warn with permission.

Those are the three roles to just advise and warn. Those are our, you know, default parenting actions, but we can do them with our autistic and adults only after we have reflectively listened to truly understand what is going on with them, and then asking them permission, if they would like to hear our suggestion or advice or our warning. 

Yes, asking permission after we have thoroughly listened and listened and listened enough, then we can say, hey, I've got some ideas here. Would you like to hear them? That's what I mean by asking permission. But it's only after we have listened and they have truly felt seen, safe, secure and soothed in our process. 

Then it's become a collaborative, “Hey, I tried this in you know, this worked for me. Do you think that might work for you?” It's the best way that I know how, by asking permission, 

And sharing, you know, the struggles that we all have together. 

So when things are difficult in our lives, our kids notice that and when we say to them, “Gosh, I've been having a hard time lately, you know after her dog died, you know, it's just very sad for me. And I just appreciate how much you have noticed that income and given me hugs from time to time and we share how much we miss the dog. 

I mean let's talk about our struggles together. And let's make sure that we ask permission before we advise. 

Once we've decided what needs to happen in each of those 10 domains, because there are just some fundamental actions that we need to take every single day, no matter how we feel. When I'm sick, I still brush my teeth. When I'm sick, I still eat most of the time. You know what, I'm sick. I'm still going to check my email. I mean, those are just the fundamental basic actions that we take every day. That's what we know that habit stack is what's helping us create a life we love moment to moment.

#7 Then we focus on just one thing we want to improve. 

Just one thing. This helps to relieve the overwhelm that we all feel in life. If we focus on one thing, what's the one thing we should focus on? You know, my answer is going to be what's most important to them. That's who's going to implement the solution anyway. Not us anymore. Not a teacher. It's them. They have to figure this out. 

So let's please, let them choose the one thing and as we build their confidence over time, we will see that other struggles can be tackled. Once they have the self confidence and once we've practiced our collaborative problem solving process enough so that they trust us to use it and to really involve them in creating a solution. 

#8 And what's the last way? We regularly review, cue and practice. And repeat for emphasis, repeat for emphasis.

Because this practice is what's going to make these new skills a habit-knit part of the way that our autistic adults are going to behave. And that's why we've been walking. One of my young adults and I have been working together for about four years now, about three to four times a week. That repetition, he knows and they know now what the 10 domains are they can say them by heart and we go through it all together and they love to share what they've created in their life in each of those 10 areas. 

And after I asked permission, I share with them the risk that I'm seeing in the various ones that they make their own mistakes, and they learn from them and then they move on. 

Because this process of “Self advocacy is the process of recognizing and meeting the needs specific to your abilities, without compromising the dignity of yourself or others,” Loring Binckerhoff. That is what we're trying to help our autistic young young adults practice so that they will do this after our runway is up. 

Let me give you a quick review. 

#1 We all need a flexible roadmap. I suggest those 10 words, those 10 domains that we share them so now on the same page, we have a common language. 

#2 All problems are thoughts, because the facts are outside of our control, but our thoughts, emotions, actions and results are within our control. And they are all driven by our thinking. 

#3 Practicing an adult mindset is the same thing as practicing an intentional mindset. When we get intentional about the way we think about our lives, then we will produce more results that are consistent with who we want to be at our core. 

#4 Creating collaborative and proactive solutions together helps our autistic young adult model that process and it's really similar to the scientific method. We do start out with, “Okay, what are the facts? What are my thoughts? What are your thoughts?”

And then how can we scientifically discover, do an experiment and discover what works and what doesn't work? This also helps cultivate the skill of perspective taking, because we've heard them and now they need to hear our perspective. And that is a valuable skill to teach our kids. 

#5 When we encourage them to make these mistakes, do these experiments, learn and move on. That's how we can build the confidence that they're going to need to solve the problems. To solve whatever challenges and struggles they face by themselves when we’re gone.

#6 We suggest, advise and warn only after reflective listening, where we really do listen to carefully grasp the essence of what they're saying and reflect it back to them, first with a feeling then with the content so that they know that they are heard. 

#7 We focus, after we've decided what the fundamentals are in each of the 10 areas, and we focus on just improving one area, relieving the overwhelm and funneling our energy into that one thing so that we build the successes that help our kids have confidence, ‘con fidere,’ with faith that they can achieve what they want in their lives. 

#8 And then we regularly review this with them, to cue them about thoughts that they need to practice or to cue them about actions that they agreed to take. 

And we just practice and practice and practice. 

That repeated effort is going to take these eight approaches and make them a habit-knit part of both of us so that we can create a life we love together. 

That is the objective of the course, coaching and community I created, The Art of Adulting, after raising six okay adult children, all alternative learners, trying to do my part to help this world work better for everyone. 

If you'd like a transcript and links to the resources I mentioned in this video, please visit my blog. 

And Deb Douglas’ blog, GTCarpeDiem.com. 

The quotes used in this video are from Deb Douglas’ website where she explains the self advocacy process. I highly recommend that you take the time to visit her website. And mine.

Bye for now.