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What to do if you're tired of your program

You've been working on your program of activities for, say, weeks, or months, and you feel burnt out. Yes, you felt that your program was good for you, but you're bored, or resentful for having to work on getting better in the first place, or tired of not reaching your goals yet. So now what? 

Here are a few thoughts, some of which may work for you.


  1. Accept yourself and your feelings. You're not the first or the last who feels like this, and it's okay. Feeling guilty or beating up on yourself will just make you feel worse and add to your stress. 
  2. Consider taking a break from your program altogether. But rather than just letting all your work so far fizzle, make a decision in advance about the length of your break. Do you need a week? A month? Until after the holidays? Set a date in your calendar to return to your program. 
  3. Consider shortening your program for a period of time. Even if it was a 10-minute-a-day program, make it shorter. One way to do it is to rotate between activities. The ones you didn't do today can be the ones you start with tomorrow. Another way to do it is to choose a few, and stick with them. My experience has been that if the activities you stick with are ones that specifically address the vestibular system, you may even make progress if this is all you do. The vestibular system supports the sense of body-in-space, and muscle tone, and visual function, and your general sense of safety in the world, as well as other parts of the nervous system. If I had to pick one system to support, this would be the one.
  4. If you've been doing your activities 7 days a week, you can give yourself a break by practicing 5 days and taking two days a week off. And no, I'm not going to suggest that if you were practicing 5 days a week you bring it down to three. In this case you may as well take a complete break and rest from your program altogether.
  5. If you've used other activities earlier in your program of self-help, think of those as your "tool box". If what you need is just to freshen up your daily program, return to some of the activities which you liked in the past, and take a break from those that you're tired of doing right now. 
  6. Better yet, get together with your practitioner and challenge her or him to replace the activities that you don't care to continue. 


Your challenge may be different - perhaps the program you're following is not for yourself at all, but for your child or someone else you are helping. And that daily repetition can be tiring. If the person you're caring for is the one who needs the break, then all the suggestions above are relevant just the same. But if the person you're helping wishes to continue while you are the one who is burnt out, try to get help. Recruit, if possible, a family member, a roommate, a friend, a volunteer, who can come in more or less regularly and relieve you of some of your caregiving responsibilities, including, specifically, the program of activities that you're tired of following. And make a point of taking care of yourself.


Food and Behavior: A natural connection, by Barbara Reed Stitt

Does food have anything to do with "brain fog", rage, hyperactivity, violence, depression, nervousness, delinquency and a host of other behaviors or psychiatric symptoms? Well, yes. Often the culprit is sugar, but a junk-food based diet can lead to other imbalances. Reed Stitt worked as chief probation officer in her town in Ohio and addressed the challenges of thousands of probationers by exploring whether they suffered from malnutrition, and then modifying their diet. The results were often very dramatic. 

Her book generously offers some of the questionnaires that she'd used, as well as dietary recommendations, and of course stories of some of the people who changed their lives around. I found it a very worthwhile read - and felt that it offered hope and non-judgment. 




What do you tell the kids?

I recently read the book As Long As I Live: The Life Story of Aharon Margalit by Moshe Gutman and Ruth Lewis. A fascinating, inspiring book (Thank you, Raisel, for your gift) describing how Margalit maintained his love of life and optimism through battles with polio, severe stuttering and cancer. There’s one part of the book that I found particularly interesting, which dealt with the question of what to tell his family, and specifically the kids. Facing scary diagnoses and medical interventions, he grapples with the question of whether to share this information with his children and grandchildren, whether to keep it secret – to protect them – and whether keeping all this secret would actually leave them feeling alienated and distanced while costing him a tremendous amount of energy that he couldn’t spare. He chooses to ask his sons and daughters how much they actually want to know, and he gathers all his grandchildren – all of them under 13 – for a conversation, preparing them for a period of time in which he’d look different and feel different, and welcoming their questions. I’d love to know what you think of this approach.


Preventing Autism - 12 do's and don'ts before and during pregnancy

The Autism Revolution - whole-body strategies for making life all it can be by Martha Herbert, MD, PHD with Karen Weintraub, not only makes sense of current medical understanding of Autism, but it offers some very specific suggestions. One of the questions I've been asked often is about prevention. What can a mom-to-be do to minimize the risk of her child suffering from autism? I've heard this question from mothers of those who are struggling as well as from future moms who realize that the statistics alone put everyone at a rather high risk. So I've collected here some of Dr. Herbert's suggestions, and I hope this will encourage you to read the whole book by yourself. 

So here are a few things you can do before and during pregnancy. And yes, the book includes things you can do after your baby is born. 

1. Eat organic foods, stay away from processed foods and from pesticides. Maintain a diet that is high in nutrient density and plant-based - try to consume veggies and fruit of many colors, high quality proteins and whole grains. See also http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/HealthEducators/ucm081839.htm


2. Take a good prenatal vitamin. Supplements that are considered important are folic acid, essential fatty acids and vitamin D (did you know that a study showed a 60% increased risk of having a child with autism in women who did not take prenatal vitamins?). Consider also Zinc, vitamin B12 and Selenium

3. Avoid environmental triggers and foods that cause you allergy problems

4. Stay away from mold

5. Use green household products

6. Don't remodel your house now while you're pregnant. Remodeling introduces toxins to your environment.

7. Get a flu shot before getting pregnant

7. Avoid elective surgery, unnecessary medications and dental work. 

8. Don't do a detoxification program during your pregnancy or even 6-12 months before becoming pregnant, if possible, because this may release substances that will then circulate in your body and may end up in your child

9. Avoid colds and other contagious bugs and the flu - wash your hands often, don't share food with others (that includes your kids, if you have any). Reduce your risk of getting insect-borne illnesses (long clothes can increase your protection from mosquitoes). Now is not a good time to travel to the tropics: minimize the risk of tropical diseases

10. Have someone else clean the cat box. Cats can transmit toxoplasmosis which can affect your child's brain.

11. Exercise regularly - an evening walk, gentle yoga etc.

12. Get plenty of sleep. These last two can reduce your stress - and stress during pregnancy is known to affect development. 


A Few Thoughts About Acceptance

I recently read the book A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism by Laura Shumaker. If your life seems like a series of meltdowns, and you think you'll enjoy discovering that you're not alone, read it. I think my favorite part, however, was a description of Camphill in Pennsylvania, a special school for young folks with developmental disabilities. 

Near the end of the book, in a chapter called "Acceptance", Shumaker describes her reaction to a phone message her brother left her about new treatment modalities for autism. Here's what she writes:

"I have grown to dread the news reports on autism breakthroughs and the phone calls that followed them because of the way they make me feel. Angry. Offended. Insecure. Guilty.

 "I feel angry because I have tried so many treatments already: speech therapy, psychotherapy, auditory training, behavior modification, psychotropic drugs. Can't people see how hard I've worked?

 "I'm offended because they can't accept Matthew as he is. Can't they appreciate his honesty, his humor, and the pureness of his soul?"... "Matthew is now an adult, and I accepted long ago that he will not be cured of autism. I want others to accept this, too." 

This issue comes up often in my conversations with teachers and parents. I hope that you, the reader, explore the subject too.  And let's take this beyond autism, to any challenge your loved one or student or client has. 

Acceptance can mean Okay. They're alright the way they are. They can be respected for who they are. Recognized for who they are. Loved for who they are. Such acceptance does not need to get in the way of helping them take their next step, or searching for new ways to address their challenges.

Acceptance can mean acknowledgment. Acknowledging that a person has a disability that may always get in their way, for example, rather than denying it. I think this is the kind of acceptance that Shumaker was hoping to get from her brother and others.

But then we need to watch out for that fine line between acknowledgment and resignation, the giving up, the surrender. "I want these parents to understand that this child will never speak!" a teacher's aide told me just a couple of days ago. She thought she was talking about acceptance. I disagree. Just like I disagreed with Shumaker, and wished she'd found a way to let go of her "Angry. Offended. Insecure. Guilty" feelings, let go of the "how hard I've worked", and kept her mind open to new modalities and new discoveries. Her son can't do this by himself.