April is Autism Awareness Month and also Occupational Therapy Awareness Month
By now most of us are aware of autism. What we need are solutions.
Enter in Dr. Karen Ruskin…
She is a media Psychotherapist guest expert on relationships, parenting, hot topics in the news. She appears on FOX News Channel’s: The O’Reilly Factor, FOX & Friends, FOX & Friends FIRST, America Live, Hannity, and FOX Business Network’s: Cavuto. Regular go–to for FOX News Boston including the Ask Dr. Karen segment. She also appeared on The Steve Harvey TV Show, and more. She is a reliable radio guest expert and columnist and she often quoted in various print media: FOX Business, FOX News Magazine, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Care.com, Good Housekeeping, Yahoo Shine, Parents, Parenting, CNN, TIME, Woman’s Day, Men’s Health, USA Today, and more. Dr. Karen is the Owner/Founder/President: Dr. Karen Ruskin & Associates, Inc.
She posted this on her blog:
Collaborative Treatment Approach
I urge marriage and family therapists (MFT) to have a trusted occupational therapist (OT) who practices in their town – for collaborative treatment. (As a business owner of a mental health/wellness practice I will state that this approach works and is a significant piece of the difference that makes the difference in the treatment success for autistic children and in helping the couple get to a better place). When a couple comes in for marriage counseling reporting the fine and gross motor skill struggles their autistic child is having, to be able to refer them to a trusted occupational therapist is extremely helpful. Release of information paperwork is signed and the MFT and the OT can communicate with one another.
For an example, imagine the scenario where a child is struggling reaching for objects thus is constantly knocking over items. During family dinner the child reaches to get the pepper but does not have the capability to reach so his upper body finds its way onto the dinner table and in the process he knocks over his sister’s milk. The children go at it, then the father yells at the child who knocked over the milk (the autistic child), and the mother yells at the father for yelling at the child. If the OT and MFT are communicating/collaborating, the OT shares with the MFT that the autistic child is not purposefully causing trouble and rather having trouble reaching across. This is helpful for the MFT to know. The way the parents present their frustration explaining in the counseling session the event that occurred at home is that their autistic child intentionally is physically disruptive with his sibling at the dinner table once again causing their vision of family dinner to collapse and rather dinner is about managing their autistic child’s behavior. The MFT with insight into the OT’s analysis can then discuss this with the parents and come up with coping strategies for the parents. The MFT likely would discuss with the parents tips for recognizing what the actual problem is (e.g., behavioral or fine/gross motor) and how to interact more effectively when they see a given problem. The MFT can help the couple with words and actions they can use to show their being supportive of the autistic’s child attempt to reach, while also attending to their other child’s experience, needs, and life journey. All the while the OT works with the child on mobility.
Here in Sharon Massachusetts at Dr. Karen Ruskin & Associates, the Occupational Therapist
I collaborate with is Function Therapy – Lisa Shooman.
Here at GraspRite, LLC we are delighted to be able to collaborate with Dr. Karen Ruskin on a regular basis.
Dr. Karen says the top 4 most common challenges/struggles parents of autistic children face are…
Problem #1: Family life and parenting is not fun and not what the couple expected/envisioned their family life to be.
a) Parents report time together as a family whether the autistic child is an only, or if there are siblings, always feels strained with all attention on managing the autistic child’s behavior.
b) Parents feel they are missing out on activities they thought they would do as a family but cannot because of the autistic child.
Solution: Shift in expectations and creating a different kind of fun.
(E.g., Beach loving adults envisioned that as parents they would be laying on the beach as husband and wife while the kids play in the sand. They cannot do so because the autistic child is bothering other families on the beach. Thus, once again needing and requiring attention and management. This therapist says; that doesn’t mean the beach is out. Be creative! Bring potato sacks and jump around as a family).
Problem #2: Socialization
All parents want their children to be able to participate in interactive activities with other children. Socialization is such an important part of childhood. It breaks their heart that their child does not have the capability to participate in many of the activities that invites social interaction (e.g., sports).
Solution: Pick a social activity to do with your child and provide consistent positive feedback so they will feel emotionally capable. Bring them to an occupational therapist who specializes in children with autism to help them with their fine and gross motor skills to strengthen – so they can be physically capable.
(E.g. Baseball, bike riding, basketball).
Problem #3: Communication Challenges
Children with autism struggle with communication.
Solution: Be open to the various tools of communication. Use technology! Provide your autistic child with the option of typing what they want to say to you. Sit next to them and read out loud what they are typing to you on the computer. Show your response with your words, tone, and body language.
Problem #4: Marital Intimacy
Couples who have an autistic child typically report there is no longer a marriage. Their function is solely as parents. The 3 legs of marriage includes; emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy with an overall umbrella of communication. The 3 legs is next to none as all their energy and time is for the child as a parenting team. Couples who take the time to make the time to water the plant of marriage to have a healthy marriage are stronger as a parenting team.
Solution: Be mindful of and attend to the 3 legs of marriage. Note the following examples. Have a weekly to 2x per week block of time to connect with one another sexually (sexual). Each day be mindful of 1 thing you can do by action or say with words to show your spouse they are special to you (emotional e.g., put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror that says; I appreciate you, in the morning before you check your email tell your spouse one of your favorite qualities about them). Each day be mindful of physically connecting, even if but only for 1 minute (physical e.g., hug hello, kiss on the neck while the other is cooking dinner).
Do Parents Of Autistic Children Have Other Problems?
Of course there are more than just the aforementioned 4 problems that parents of autistic children are faced with. Problems including but not limited to: financial, finding the right medical doctor, interacting with teachers and other parents, and more . . . The 4 explained above are the most common problems parents of autistic children attend couples counseling with a marriage and family therapist, that they wish to focus their solution strategies on. Certainly the wide range of other struggles exist, many of which are discussed in session.
View the full post from Dr. Karen Ruskin here.