Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Autism Awareness – Homeland Preparedness

April, according to the powers-that-be, is Autism Awareness Month.  As the mother of a 15 year son with autism, every day is another day to discover new things about autism and I do like to say that we strive to find the “awe” in the middle of it all.  In addition to Autism Awareness Month, April is also historically the month of showers that precedes May flowers and the color chosen to symbolize Autism Awareness Month is blue… ironic, because both are adequate symbols of the occasional tears and sadness that come with autism.  For both parent and child.

 

While I’m happy that autism has its own month, research foundations, catchy slogans and bumper stickers, autism and I are not friends.  I don’t like it, not one little bit.  It is, at times, terrorizing.  There’s a long list of things that I don’t care for about autism, but in particular the rage-filled anger, anxiety and the self-injurious behavior that comes with my son’s inability to communicate (which sometimes overflows and hurts me) are the things I truly dislike.  You may have heard, but the word “hate” is not one I use loosely, and honestly, I can’t even say that I hate autism… because I love my son.  

 

One of the most difficult aspects of autism is that it is incredibly difficult to reason with one who doesn’t have very good communication skills, or an open heart or any sort of willingness to compromise.  To me, it has been the equivalent of living with emotional terrorism.  But, as a mother (or any person in a difficult relationship, really) one has to try.  And, if you’re me, you go out and see what skills the FBI and expert negotiators use.  One such fellow, former FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss, has some mighty fine tips, too.

 

  1. Show Your Interest – use body language or brief verbal replies like, “Yes.” Or “OK.” to indicate interest and concern. It encourages the other person to talk and relinquish control.
  2. Paraphrase – quote or summarize what they say so they know you’re hearing them.
  3. Emotion Labeling – identify the feelings that the other person is showing, letting them know you are paying attention to them and their emotional involvement in the situation.  It helps to identify their issues and feelings that might be driving their behavior.
  4. Mirroring – repeat the last words or phrases you’re hearing, to show you understand and are interested in what’s being said to you.
  5. Open-Ended Questions – don’t just ask “Why?” which is interrogatory and might feel threatening.  “Tell me more…” is a good opener for your question.
  6. “I” Messages – show you’re relatable and invested.  “I feel frustrated, when…”
  7. Effective Pauses – people will speak to fill an empty space in the conversation.  Create space that will encourage the other person to communicate and provide information.

 

Autism has communication limits, but all of the above-mentioned tactics have come in handy with my son (listen, the FBI may have refined the methods, but I've instinctively used them for years).  These tools have been extremely effective in breaking down some of the more tense situations that come with autism.  You might find them very helpful using them with the average bear, especially incredibly hostile and uncommunicative bears. 

 

“Prepare, Prevent and Respond” has been the motto of those Homeland Security people.  Works for me.  I’m very aware and I am always watching you, autism.  And I can take you.  Just sayin’.

 

Leave a Reply