#73 | When your autistic young adult rejects you and your family, now what?

May 31, 2022

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Bill Nasson The Autism Discussion Page

SEEING AUTISM by Barb Avila: https://www.lynncdavison.com/pl/2147533610

Hi everyone. Today we're going to talk about when our autistic young adult rejects you and your family. Now, what do you do?

This comes from a member of our art of adulting Facebook group. She shares that her son claims that he hates us. He has obstinance and ups the ante when he doesn't call the shots. He has a hang up with elevating his GPA, like a challenging game, but with a high price tag.

They've told him that they're not going to pay for any more tuition because he qualifies to get a degree. But it seems like he's stalling because he liked to elevate his GPA. And that's expensive.

So I get it, Mom, it's not an easy topic because you can't work it out with your autistic young adult when he won't communicate with you. Let's get still though, remind ourselves that what we're trying to accomplish here is to encourage our high school graduates to practice the set of mental tools that help them manage their thoughts, their emotions and their actions, so they can achieve goals set by them for them.

And our role in this process is to encourage them to take those actions, to warn them about risks that we are aware of that may not they may not be because they just haven't lived as long as we have, and to be there to be consulted by them. So we want to hopefully be in a place where they feel seen, safe, soothe and secure so that they can have a conversation with us about whatever they're struggling with.

It does seem from the comments that emotions are high in this situation, as they are in most struggles that we have with our autistic and adults.

I love this quote from Bill Nasson. He was author of this amazing Facebook Page, The Autism Discussion Page. He's now retiring or maybe he has actually retired. But if you go there, you're going to find just an incredible resource. He wrote about his experiences of more than 30 years helping autistic people. And he understands so much about what happens in our family dynamic when we're trying to solve these problems together. So I get it when he says there are lots of intense emotions running on around here.

Let's borrow Barb Avila's process, from her wonderful book, Seeing Autism and go through those three steps where

  1. we understand what's going on.
  2. we connect well with ourselves and with them,
  3. and we figure out what is the practice at this point.

So I just want to remind us that autistic people need, they don't just prefer, they need the following. This list came from my daughter's therapist who works with a lot of autistic people and has really synthesized what is necessary for an autistic person to feel like they are capable in this world.

  • They need to feel productive
  • They need to feel efficient
  • They need predictability in their days
  • And it sure helps if there's a sense of certainty, like they know what to expect.
  • They really value specificity of language, because that really helps them understand better what the expectations are from the world from themselves.
  • It really helps for them to have someone to listen to their thoughts, because it's kind of turns into, just as it does with all of us, a spin cycle in our brain where we cannot distinguish one thought from the next. So it's really helpful to have another person listening and reflecting what our thoughts are. And I would advocate scribing writing down so that writing down those thoughts so that we have joint attention on what's going on in their brains, and somehow the act of writing it down gives us some distance where we realize that we are not our thoughts, but they do certainly influence the way we show up and need enough time to process what's going on.
  • And really give them that time. That space so that they can slow down and figure out what's going on for them.
  • And they really do need their own roadmap. We have ours, they have theirs. When they author their own roadmap, they know the steps that they're taking; they know the area of their life that they're focusing on. And it's just one area of 10. So it helps to reduce that overwhelm when they create their own detailed plan of how their life is going to turn out.

So I know that being cut out and separated from your child where they just refuse to speak is really a gut kick. It has happened in our family and it is difficult to process it. It really feels like a rejection of everything we've ever done for them. And certainly we've done a lot for them and with them. And so to have this total shutdown and communication really is hard to process and hard to figure out. Okay, this has happened, now how do I want to think about it?

So I just suggest that your son has his own thoughts and feelings right now. And I invite you to let him have them. This has helped me a lot when I'm at odds with my adult children. They are going to have their thoughts, just as I have always had my thoughts and my thoughts have always been separate from my parents. They're not going to align with mine a lot of the time. They're just not going to align and so I'm gonna let him have his thoughts or her have her thoughts or they have their thoughts.

And when I hear what they're saying, I'm going to say Okay, those are their thoughts. Good to know. Better to know than not know what their thoughts are. I'd suggest to you that I have found that it is really helpful when I record my thoughts about a situation like this or I scribe for my parenting partner, and really get those thoughts down on a piece of paper, because they tend to just keep repeating themselves. Our brain loves to repeat the same thoughts because it doesn't take a lot of energy to create them again.

And our thoughts really are not our facts about the situation. They're separate from the facts. They are the way that we are interpreting the fact that he will not answer our phone calls or respond to our text messages. That we can prove in a court of law. We can prove that we called him and he hasn't answered. We can prove that we've sent him text messages and he hasn't responded. Our thoughts about that or how we interpret that action he's taking. So that's our story. And I think it's really important and helpful to write down those thoughts.

Sometimes they come so fast that it's hard to keep up with them. In that case, I would recommend using a tool: a voice to text tool. Just speak someplace privately, you know, in your bathroom with a shower going, and the fan thing and so that no one overhears you, but you can speak into your phone and get those thoughts out of your head in a transcription some way. My favorite tool is Otter.ai. Having those thoughts then helps us to understand, okay, here's what we're feeling. And when this happened in our family, I felt rejected Okay, so rejected. There's the name of it. Okay, where is it in my body? I can feel it going up at the back of my neck. It's like, pushed back. It's like um, it's like I don't know my chest is like almost frozen. It's like what is going on? It's like this block of ice that inside of me that I can't thaw.

And yet when I sit with that feeling of rejection, I notice that it will fade after about a minute and a half if I'm willing to just have that one sentence: He has cut us off.

Okay, that makes me feel rejected; just that one sentence. Not all the other stories, just stay with that one sentence because if we think of all the other stories, we're gonna have more feelings that are going to be created by our thoughts. So let's just stay with that one.

He has cut us off. I'm feeling rejected. And I think you'll find it's really helpful that if we just sit with it, and describe how it feels in our body and picture how it is happening inside of our body. What color is it to me, it's the color of ice. And I remind myself to stay with this feeling that is caused by sentences in my mind. This is caused by a sentence. He cut us off, rejected, okay.

Then I stay with that feeling until it fades. And wow. If I can do that, then I can figure out okay. If that's what's going on with me, then I need to figure out where my thinking is. What's causing all of this?

So what's the practice? The practice becomes finding the thoughts and deciding where I want my thoughts to take me.

So, we've all heard this poem. God Grant Me the Serenity. Okay, that's a feeling if I want to feel serene, I need to create a sentence that makes that happen. inside my body.

To accept the things I cannot change, the courage. Okay, when I'm feeling courageous, that's a different feeling. What is the sentence I need for that?

To change the things I can and the wisdom when I'm feeling wise and centered and you know, I feel really smart like I'm, I've taken all the lessons in life and I'm applying them here. I've extrapolated what I can from my life, and I'm going to use that knowledge to respond the way that I want to so that I create the result that I want.

And you know that I'm using the STEAR Map in this process, you know, that I'm looking at okay, he stopped at just the facts.

  • He doesn't answer our calls. He doesn't respond to our texts.
  • My thought is he's cut us off.
  • My emotions are rejected.
  • My actions are I create a whole story around why this is happening. And I do have some facts about what I've noticed happening. So you know, my story is informed but it is, you know, kind of spinning in that story because it really bothers me that this is happening.
  • And so the result is I'm kind of stuck. I don't know what to do. Good to know.

That's  what's happening.

And then, if we take the time to take on his perspective, what if we were going to create a STEAR Map for him? What would it be like? All right. So based on the facts that I know, the facts would be, they said these words we're not paying for any more classes.

My thought was they're not providing what I need. I need to take the next class to raise my GPA. And his emotion when he has that is probably betrayal and anger. Very uncomfortable anger. And he doesn't have to tell us exactly the emotion he's feeling. We can tell that he is uncomfortable, and that's why he's cut us off. He's trying to get back the control that helps him manage his life.

If we go back to this list of what autistic people need. He's looking to be efficient and predictable and have some certainty. Perhaps the thought of graduating is, maybe he's afraid to graduate. Maybe the fact that he is no longer going to have a predictable routine in his days is really scary for him. Maybe not having a course to pass, which is very specific about what the requirements are, is just, you know, horrible for him to contemplate. And he can't imagine a future that's different from the way that he's been behaving. You know, he's been successful. I mean, he has been successful. You say he's gotten enough credits to get a degree and right now he's, instead of focusing on the next step in his life, what can I do with this degree? He's focusing on what can I do to raise my GPA?

Interesting and so helpful. If we can take that STEAR map and map out how he may be processing the facts that are happening in his life. And sometimes this is all that we can do. We have to accept that that's where he's going to be for a while. And he's going to have those thoughts for a while and he just may not communicate with us for a while.

And I understand the frustration because it feels like you can't do anything about the situation to resolve it. I invite you just to sit with your own discomfort about everything. I mean, it is uncomfortable when your kid won't respond. Worry about if he's okay, if he's gonna, you know, do anything radical that could harm him. Or, you know, where he's living or the people that are around him. I mean, there's all kinds of imagined scenarios and our brains will spin on those.

And the reason why they spin is because we don't have enough information to solve them in our brain, and it is really consumed when it imagines a future because there's so many different possibilities.

It can just spin and spin and spin and we cannot resolve them. So the more that we're aware of those thoughts, the more that we realize maybe there is some wiggle room there. I mean, this is a complicated model, but I do think it's so useful.

So let's just take a little bit of time to review it. That poem that we just reviewed, encourage us to accept what is to separate what we can control and what we can't.  The Serenity Prayer. What it's trying to say to us is let's focus on what is. And watch this when we evaluate what it is and think that it could be better. That's when we go on this negative arrow here, the one at the bottom and in red.

It's hard for me to point to it. But this one over here, the red one over here. It makes us think things could be better. There's a gap between what is and what should be. And we think that way. We're very uncomfortable. Essentially this can lead us right into a depression.

When we compare what is let's see if I can use my finger over here to what could be worse. That's the green line. That's when we're in gratitude.

Now let's go above when we project the future and think that the future is going to get worse. That's the red line. That's when we produce lots of anxious thinking.

On the other hand, we are over on this side, and we think the future what the future is going to be like and it's going to get better. That's when we create hope.

So our brain is always evaluating what's going on and thinking about how to solve the problem. That's the creation piece. It does that day in and day out, even when we're asleep. We cannot stop that.

But if we can pause between what's happening, we go back to our STEAR Map and pause between the situation up here that we have no control over our autistic and an adult isn't talking to us. But recognize that we are the ones that create our thoughts about it, our emotions about it, the actions we take and the results that are inspired that are caused by the actions. That part is under our control. So we really want to take the time to notice how we're thinking.

See if maybe another thought, you know if we can just wiggle it a little bit. I often recommend that we just say, "..and that's okay," at the end of the sentence.

So let's go back to that STEAR Map that I'm imagining you might have something similar to. He doesn't answer our calls. He doesn't respond to our texts. He's cut us off, and that's okay. And we'll just add that phrase on just go to that acceptance place of okay. That's what's going on.

Then we can decide between the situation and now we're deciding how we're going to think about it, how we're going to feel about it, how we're going to act upon those that those two thoughts and emotions and then what's the result that we're going to create?

Because here's what we want to do. We want to get strategic with our families. We want to slow things down enough so that we can think about what is the result that I really want to create and I know that I want to get to peace.

So if I put peaceful in the emotion line, I'd have to ask myself, what is the thought that is going to create the peace? He's cut us off and that's okay helps me get closer to peace.

He's cut us off and we'll figure out how we want to handle this helps me get a little bit closer to peace. He's cut us off and I'm going to give him time to entertain his thinking. And that helps give me peace. What I like about what you've done is that you have set a boundary with your autistic adult you've said, "Look, the pool of funds available for your education are finite. We're not going to continue to indulge in giving you money for raising your GPA."

I just think you know when you identify the request, we request that you apply to graduate and move on whether that's to graduate school or to a job. But in our house, the requirement is that you're either in school or you're working. So which one of those two options do you want to take? You've got to graduate and if you want to go to graduate school, then you're going to need to complete the forms that are required for you to get grants and loans.

I mean, setting those boundaries made a ton of sense to me because you know, we eventually have to fund our own retirement. Our kids have the rest of their lives to figure out how they're going to make their money. We have to start making sure that there's enough money there for us when we no longer want to work. Or maybe, you know, maybe we aren't capable of working if something catastrophic occurs.

So we really have to have some of those funds and we just can't fund an unlimited amount of coursework. I totally get that. So what we're going to do if he doesn't graduate is we're just going to say okay, no more funds; go apply and get see if you can get somebody to give you a grant or a loan.

And when he comes back, which I predict he will when he learns that he is really self funding himself his education now, we have to just say upfront, "Listen, when you have enough credits to graduate, we are not going to fund your undergraduate degree anymore." And follow through with that boundary.

I think you've done the right thing. It's just now we have to wait and see and it's uncomfortable because we sure would like to get this resolved. But the resolution that we need, we can create ourselves if we want to feel more peaceful about this. We have the control over what we're seeing.

He doesn't have control over our thoughts. Conversely, we don't have any control over his thoughts and what he's creating. When we remind ourselves of that, we realize that yes, indeed, we do have the power to create a life that we love. That works for us, as does he with the right support and the right skills and tools.

So if you'd like a transcript of this video, please feel free to go to my blog at that address. And please consider joining The Art of Adulting. This is where we really understand the concepts that help us create a life we love. And we practice them and we always practice them with an eye toward how are we going to encourage our autistic young adults to practice these things as well.

Bye for now.