Autism: When to push and when to stop

By Lauren Swick Jordan April 1

TJ and the author. (Courtesy of the author)
My son, TJ, is 15 years old. He has autism.

When TJ was in elementary school, we worked tirelessly on so many issues. Sitting up for the entire circle time. Sitting through the entire lunch time without a meltdown. Taking turns and sharing. Accepting disappointment when something didn’t meet his expectations.

All things that every child must work on.

We also focused on more TJ-specific things, like his pencil grip. From the get-go in kindergarten, his grip was all his own. Nothing like that of the other children. His teachers tried many different ways to remind him to correct his pencil grip in hopes it would become a habit: notes on his desk with proper pencil grip pictures; verbal reminders; plastic grippers on his pencil that would forcibly enforce the correct grip.

None of them worked.

Finally, when he was in middle school, his team of teachers and therapists, along with my husband Sean and I, decided that since his handwriting was clear and legible, we didn’t need to enforce the “proper” pencil grip any longer. We let him use whichever grip he used naturally.

It hasn’t been an issue since.

As an autism parent, I frequently ask myself a big question:

What tasks and traits do we keep working on with him, and what tasks and traits do we let go of? What do we accept as being “naturally TJ,” and what do we think he will benefit from if certain things change?

I remember Temple Grandin, a famous autism pioneer, author, public speaker and person with autism, saying something like this (I’m paraphrasing): “The best thing my mother ever did for me was to treat me like the rest of my siblings.”

This has always been in the back of my mind, ever since TJ was diagnosed with autism when he was just over 2 years old. In certain cases, it is very applicable, and I believe has led TJ to some great successes:

He and his brother both sort, clean, fold and put away their own laundry. They both walk the dog. They both have cleaning responsibilities around the house.

You get the idea. It has worked in these cases for us to have the same expectations of TJ as we do of his neurotypical brother, Peter.

But what about other things we want for TJ?

Take, for example, socializing. This has been one of our biggest goals for TJ and has also been the most difficult one to master.

I struggle with this goal all the time. Should we keep pushing? Should we let it go? It is the area where TJ’s skills are the most lacking, and at the same time, in our minds, one of the most important ones.

But for TJ, is it important? At all?

The back and forth is constant, but thinking back, so were so many other struggles we have encountered in the past.

I have to remind myself that just as we have found clarity on all of those other issues we have previously had, so we will eventually find clarity on this one. We just have to stick with it, for now, hoping for even a little bit of gain. And eventually, we will know when it’s time to stop pushing and let TJ’s own socializing self (or not) take its natural course.

And I have to remind myself that with each new issue that comes up, we will help TJ tackle it as best as we all can — challenging him where we can for growth, and stepping back where we need to.

Time will tell. It always does.

Lauren Swick Jordan is a frequent On Parenting writer and blogs at Laughing…like it’s my job.

How Your Sleep Position Could Affect Your Brain

By Neha Kashyap, dailyRx News Reporter

Are you a back or a stomach sleeper? The way you sleep may be linked to the likelihood of neurological decline.

Researchers from Stony Brook University found that side sleeping, compared to back or stomach sleeping, may more effectively remove brain waste and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

At this time, the research has been conducted only in mice.

“It is interesting that the lateral (side) sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals — even in the wild — and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake,” said study co-author Maiken Nedergaard, PhD, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in apress release.

The brain’s cleansing process, called the glymphatic system, clears waste when cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) filters through the brain and exchanges with interstitial fluid (ISF).

This process is similar to the way the body’s lymphatic system clears waste from the organs. It is most efficient during sleep.

Brain waste includes amyloid and tau proteins, chemicals that can negatively affect brain processes if they build up. If this waste is not properly disposed of, the chances of neurological diseases can increase.

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness and difficulties with walking, balance and coordination.

Dr. Nedergaard and team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to observe the glymphatic system.

The brains of the mice who slept in a lateral (side) position were found to more efficiently remove waste when compared to the brains of supine (facing upward) or prone (facing downward) mice.

“The study therefore adds further support to the concept that sleep serves a distinct biological function and that is to ‘clean up’ the mess that accumulates while we are awake,” Dr. Nedergaard said.

Although human studies are still needed to confirm these findings, this experiment brings new insight on how sleep position affects the brain.

This study was published August 4 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest were not available at time of publication.

Questions About ADHD!

First off, I want to say thank you for all the emails I have been receiving from my readers.  It is a great feeling knowing that my articles are being read and people are looking to me for help.  It is what I enjoy most, helping people!

I have been asked a lot of questions about ADHD and advice.  Half of my cognitive assessment meetings are with parents looking for help with their child that has been diagnosed with ADHD. They are looking for an alternate treatment for ADHD rather than medication.  I stand behind LearningRx of Fresno to help treat child with ADHD.  Our cognitive brain training has done wonders for our clients and in some cases has helped the child stop taking medicine completely.

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My Summer Cold!

Summer colds are bad enough as it is, but when you live in Fresno…  a summer cold is unbearable.  The mixture of dry air, smoke from local fires, air pollution and temperatures in the high 90s, equals a recipe for a long miserable cold with little hope for a speedy recovery.

So I looked to the internet for some tips and I have concluded that eating the right food (mixed with piles of cough medicine and decongestants) was the solution I was looking for.

I came across this article on the CNN website.  If you or your child has ever had a summer cold, you know it is bound to happen again.  So make sure you take note of this article and be prepared for that summer cold!

Here is the article:

The worst foods to eat when you’re sick, and the best ones

 

This Is Your Brain on Junk Food

Junk-Food-300x200

We’re not going to tell you junk food is bad for your body (you already know that).

We’re not even going to tell you junk food is bad for your brain (you probably figured as much).

But what you might not know is how junk food is bad for your brain. Turns out, there’s actually quite a lot going on in that head of yours when you fuel your noggin with fatty, sugary foods.

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Eat Your Way to a Healthier Mind

To Lower Alzheimer’s Risk, Eat More of These 10 Foods (And Less of These 5)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with one in three senior adults being impacted by the disease.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that a new study offers hope for people who want to lower their risk for Alzheimer’s..

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