Fully Present by Susan L. Smalley, PhD and Diana Winston

The Science, Art and Practice of Mindfulness.

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I began reading this book initially to help my children but as it’s turned out it was also quite helpful to me too.  For the moment I don’t really have the time to squeeze meditation into my current life style, but it’s certainly given me quite a lot of material to think about and lots of tips to use with the children to help them move less painfully into their teenage years.

The book is an easy read and peppered with instances of unhelpful thought processes and examples of how to alter them.  I imagine that many parents of autistic children have already mastered many of these techniques but around here we needed a refresher course on how to tackle negativity and defeatism.  In the high octane world of autism and Alzheimer’s I need all the tricks and tips I can get.  When I read the ordinary, everyday kinds of negative concerns of other people, I found it quite reassuring, but I expect that’s just a spectrum thing.

To give you a flavor of the book, the authors retell a story which I also found here

Two Wolves

An old Cherokee told his grandson that a battle that goes on inside each us.
The battle is between two ‘wolves’.
One ‘wolf’ is Evil. It has anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other ‘wolf’ is Good. It has joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Everybody seems to have stressful lives these days and many of the mind strategies should help us all keep a bit more grounded.  In many ways it reminded me of a catechism although obviously more modern and secular.  Maybe mindfulness, emotional intelligence and spirituality have become the new religion.

As the authors quote Henry James:-

“Three things in human life are important.  The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind.  And the third is to be kind.”

And you can buy it at Amazon and elsewhere.


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Moving swiftly on

I’ve never been very good at psychobabble but many of us have moved ahead of the guidance in books such as How’s does your Engine Run by the Alert programme and The Incredible 5 point scale as our children grow older.  It’s not that we don’t use them any more, it’s more that there are new and different challenges to help them overcome, a variation on a theme.

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First up I’ve been reading Understanding Myself, A kid’s guide to intense emotions and strong feelings by Mary C Lamia.  This is great for young people and around here it helps reinforce the use of language to label and understand the emotions that bubble up along with the hormone surges.  The content may need to be adapted to grasp some of the concepts but overall this is a great ‘next step.’

For my children I’ve not read the whole thing to them nor expected them to read it themselves since this would not be a preferred topic, however, tackling one particular emotion at a time makes the pill more palatable.

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We’re also dealing with more grown up issues that some people encounter as their world view expands.  In this realm I’ve found Don’t  Panic by Reid Wilson extremely helpful.  For me the counter intuitive and obtuse approach is difficult to stomach, but guess what, it’s a perfect match for logical thinkers who don’t seem to experience the same struggle.  This is written for an adult reader but the underlying concepts can be adapted to better meet the complex needs of younger people.  I particularly like the ‘don’t fight it off’ approach as we already know from personal experience that that’s an approach which merely feeds the fear.

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In addition, Fully Present by Susan L Smalley and Diana Winston helps provide a more rounded approach to who we are and accepting our foibles in the big bad world.  I’ll let you know when I’ve finished.


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New Year’s Resolution diet – a book review

Dietary Interventions in Autism Spectrum Disorders: Why They Work When They Do, Why They Don’t When They Don’t.

By Kenneth J. Aitken

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Available from JKP and Amazon.

There is a great deal to praise about this book: the format, the style where science is both readable and comprehensible, the facts, the theories and claims, and a hefty dose of reality.

The author makes it clear from the beginning that his book not a weight loss book nor does it tackle the behavioral issues in food avoidance.  The fact that he guides the reader to Ernsperger and Stegen-Hanson [Just Take a Bite] assures me that knows what he’s talking about.

What I found most alarming was the startling information about how very few studies there have been about dietary interventions and even more shockingly, how small the sample populations were – just 237 candidates for the CF-GF diet – and how many people do you know who have adopted this diet?  Furthermore and more worryingly, the candidates are self reporting their results, or rather to be more accurate, their parents are reporting the results.

At the beginning of 2011 many people will be considering dietary interventions for their autistic children, in which case, this book is a must read.

It has been my opinion for quite some while that since so many of our children have appalling diets that just about any addition to their limited quota must have a beneficial effect.  I used to envy other parents embarking upon some new miracle diet with their children while we pushed a Goldfish cracker around the plate and washed it down with his second food, milk, with the hope that at some time during the next 24 hours we’d manage to persuade him to eat dessert, maybe a single raisin, his third ‘food.’  But of course that was a long time ago.

I would love to claim sole credit for my desensitization and multiple exposure plan of intervention, but unfortunately there are many other reasons for his improvement: therapists, teachers, aides, life, growth and the passage of time.

You can also read a very insightful interview with the author at JKP blog where I’ll share one of his best quotes:-

“Personally I don’t believe we should be waiting on the Holy Grail of a wonder treatment for everyone with ASD, however appealing this may seem to some. Some people with ASD symptomology neither need treatment nor want it.”

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