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Dear Reader,

Stories or “narratives” are created throughout our lives. They are constructed by our experiences, the relationships we have with those around, societal/cultural norms, our values and beliefs, etc. Often, these narratives can take on a negative flavor and cause us problems. Narrative therapy works to help the individual tell his/her story while externalizing the problem (Separating the problem from the individual. Think of Rock Brain in the social learning curriculum) and coming up with alternative stories. This practice believes that by helping you author and tell your story (becoming aware of the narratives you hold), with supportive feedback and perspective from others around you (who do not guide or shape your story), that you can find a way of writing a new narrative that works for you. It may come as no surprise to those who work with me that I prescribe to this philosophy strongly in my cartooning work with kids.

Check out this great slideshow explaining Narrative therapy in more detail:

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Event: Take off.

Calming technique: Deep, slow belly breathing (in through the nose all the way down to the belly button, slowly out through mouth). Eyes closed.

Visual imagery: Imagining plane slowly pulling up from the run way to the sky and leveling out.

Negative Automatic thoughts (NATs): Thoughts and image of plane crash occur in the midst of visual imagery and breathing.

Calming technique: Continue deep, slow belly breathing. Eyes closed. Allowed NATs to come in, and go out. Did not question whether this would occur. Just accepted that the NAT was present, continued breathing, continued positive imagery.

Reality/Outcome: Smooth leveling occurs within 20 seconds to 1 minute.

Eyes open.

Normal breathing begins.

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The above visual is one I made to explain how awareness is the key to insight which leads to change. 

It’s no surprise to those who work with me that my favorite tool for trying new things, battling anxious thoughts, and pushing (gradually) to overcome worries, is AWARENESS. I feel this way because awareness of our environment, our bodies, our thoughts, our triggers (those things that set off the cascade of worries), and our behaviors are really the only true control we have. We can’t control what is outside of ourselves (as much as we may try). The nice part about becoming more aware or mindful of yourself is that it allows you to prepare or plan. “What will I do if i start to feel this way? If i start to feel X in my body, i know it’s likely my worries activating my physical system. If i’m aware that this is a normal part of anxiety and I am safe/not in danger, I can find a way to override this feeling, completely remove myself from the trigger, or take a break and return when I’ve regained control.”

In other words:

IF WE ARE AWARE, WE CAN PREPARE. 

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There is no-play-by play manual to parenting. You set the ground work with clear expectations and predetermined consequences (not in the moment reactive ones). You praise and reward, with tangibles and intangibles, mostly with love. You validate feelings and put language to when your child is overwhelmed and cannot express why. You console and love.
You remain steadfast and consistent with what you say and do, to the best of your ability. This requires you to battle some major waves of opposition at first.
You make calculated predictions based on history of behaviors in certain settings, with certain people, under certain conditions. You try your best to prepare your child beforehand to succeed in these setting with these people, in these conditions.
You discuss with them afterwards on whether the prediction was correct, how they handled it, how you handled it,and possibly any alternative ways to try next time around. You do this all with a hug, with reassurance and love, with a stern but patient tone.

Just some thoughts I wanted to write down. Please add your own in the comments section.

HR 2

A while back I bought a heart rate monitor. I wanted to see if there was any correlation between the physiological response that one has when feeling anxious and heart rate elevation. I was excited to have a possible tool that would help those with anxiety self-regulate. In my case, it turned out that the correlation was not very strong. On several occasions over a period of months, I strapped myself up when feeling uneasy or anxious and saw heart rates similar to that of a Yogi. The heart rate clearly did not match the feeling I was having and was therefore a poor tool for detection.

I was bummed, because I felt like this would’ve been a great tool to help others (especially the kids I work with who were not so aware of the cues their bodies often send) have a way to self-monitor anxiety. Imagine an alarm going off on your wrist that tells you, take a break, with concrete numerical data (not parents or teachers) to back it up.

Instead of giving up, I tried something else. I began testing what it would be like if I matched my heart rate to my feeling. For example, if I was feeling anxious, I’d sprint or climb stairs rapidly in order to get my heart rate up. If I could do this, maybe I could then control/bring the heart rate back down, and in doing so find a sense of self-regulation (taking back control of my body’s ascending and descending heart rate). A feeling of control is what is often lost when anxious thoughts and feelings arise.
This is still an experiment in progress but it seems to have some legs. I’ve noticed that by increasing my heart rate to fit my level of anxiety or nervousness, I am then forced to sit back, breath deeply, and let my heart, my lungs, and my muscles come back down to regulation.

The following is a post from a very good blog I follow called “Life with Aspergers”. The writer speaks with clear language and examples about how executive functioning challenges effect the lives of kids, teens and adults on the spectrum.

Here’s the link to his post:

http://life-with-aspergers.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-lack-of-executive-functioning-may.html

The question becomes, how do we recongize this deficit area and change our strategy? For one idea, view my last post on Chunking.

My major chore in the home is dishes. I do them every night and after breakfast in the morning. Here is my sink with a pretty representative amount of morning dishes (theres only 2 of us). To me, this looks chaotic, not contained, and disorganized. It makes me want to clean it but it also makes me wonder where to start.

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So, to begin, before I turn on any water at all, I always organize. Cups with cups, bowls with bowls, flat surfaced things with flat surface things.

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Then I begin to tackle one category at a time. First comes the flats. I wash them in a basin of soapy water and then rinse them and put them on the dish rack.

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One category down, two to go.

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Then comes the bowls.

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Lastly, the cups.

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Nothing left on that messy counter.

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All drying on the rack.

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Except for the silverware. I hate doing silverware.

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Luckily, my wife accepts this annoying eccentricity 🙂

Why am I showing you this? Well, because when we speak about kids with executive functioning challenges (many kids with autism and ADHD for example), we are told to help them “chunk” large tasks into manageable and more contained steps. Why? One, because it takes some of the chaos and disorienting feeling out of starting a task (“Where do I even begin? It’s too much. Oh, forget it”). Two, because it gives intermediate goals/steps/or chunks to achieve (“I’m done with the bowls, now i’ll do the cups”). It feels less all or nothing.