Parent Perspectives: Parent Self-Regulation
On this edition of Parent Perspectives from Affect Autism, we have a parent discussion with an autistic parent of two autistic daughters about parent self-regulation with some great examples. Parent Perspectives is an addition to the usual podcasts.
This Week’s Guest
This edition of Parent Perspectives features Cass Griffin Bennett in Washington State, who is the mother of two girls, aged 6 and 4, both autistic. Cass was diagnosed with ADHD as a young adult and since her girls were diagnosed, found out that she is also autistic, which has helped with her insight into her daughters as she realized that the things that helped them, helped her as well, and vice versa. Her youngest is non-speaking and began robust high-tech AAC at age 2.
- Modelling the use of low tech alternative communication with no expectations sparks curiosity in our children
- DIR is really about the parents changing to support your child
- Parents have different levels of support needs themselves
- You can’t dwell on what you didn’t do in the past and you can’t blame yourself for what you cannot do in the present
- There can be competing sensory needs in families
- Supporting your own regulation is a constantly evolving process that helps us find that calm center and de-escalate as we learn to support our own nervous system
- Children seeing how we support our own regulation helps them
- It’s not realistic for our children to think that we are always regulated
- Accommodations are helpful for everybody
- Different bodies need different things
- Learning how to support your own needs while being in community is a real social skill that takes the self-awareness of what you need, being intrinsically motivated to be in community, and realizing that everybody has different needs
- Letting our kids know and realize that other people experience the world in different ways is a real way of developing theory of mind as well and promotes the learning of the need to self-advocate
- Cass knew how important co-regulation was, but hearing how important it was over and over made her feel like a failure because she was told to do self-care which was either was not realistic, or didn’t help her in the moment
- Inserting the pause, as Dr. Stuart Shanker says, might just be enough to help you regroup and self-regulate when with your child such as pausing to say, “Whew, you’re asking a lot of questions right now.“
- Cass has a few velcro picture cards that say, “I need to press PAUSE” up around the house that she can see to reminder her to pause–not to be used as a threat, but to be a self-regulation tool for herself, that she is also modelling to her children
- Modelling using the communication pictures helps her children to see that they, too, can figure out their own self-regulation tools; they have their own backgrounds on their strips that they chose to personalize, where they stick their own picture cards
- If you are struggling with self-regulation in one situation, always remember that you can do it differently next time (i.e., we can’t get caught up in the ‘shame spiral’)
A lot of times, we don’t give our kids that direct chain of what we’re doing when we’re self-regulating. And for autistic kids, in particular, the more of those little insights into how we’re keeping our cool when we’re keeping our cool, so to speak, the better off they’ll be with experimenting with strategies themselves to see what works for them.
By modelling what works for you, and that you’re a person who’s always trying to figure out better ways of meeting your own needs, you’re also showing them that being in community requires understanding that everybody has different needs, which is a building step towards being in community.
Thinking more about experimenting and being curious about regulation tools for ourselves is one of the most meaningful things we can do as parents to support our own health and then to support our children learning those skills themselves.
If there’s something you need to hear daily on your parenting journey, put it somewhere where you can see it.
Thank you to Cass Griffin Bennett for sharing her wonderful self-regulation tools that help her and her family! Please feel free to share this podcast and blog on social media and please share your own techniques you and your family find helpful in the Comments section below.
Until next time, here’s to choosing play and experiencing joy everyday!