The Wellbeing of Parents

The title art for the RDIconnect podcast "Autism: A New Perspective." The subtitle reads "The podcast show to understand what's going on in the mind of your child and encourage you that growth IS possible! Hosted by RDI Certified Consultant Kat Lee."
Autism: A New Perspective
The Wellbeing of Parents

In today’s episode, special guest Dr. Tom Atkinson, an RDI® parent, RDI® consultant and psychologist, talks to us about the importance of wellbeing in parents of children who are vulnerable.

What is Wellbeing?

Wellbeing is defined as the state of being “comfortable, healthy, and happy,” a simple definition for something that, for many people, isn’t quite so simple. Life gets in the way of our self-care and our wellbeing, and this can be especially true for parents of children who have special needs.

Wellbeing includes all the different aspects of personal wellness in our lives: our physical, emotional, financial, social, occupational, spiritual, intellectual, and environmental wellness. Thinking about these different categories, do you think you’re as well as you could be? Have any of these parts of your life suffered due to putting yourself on the back burner?

Why Is It So Hard for Parents to Focus on Their Own Wellbeing?

Parents are often focused on their child’s wellbeing, and this is especially true for parents of children with special needs, especially in the early stages, shortly after a diagnosis. They may be more focused on finding out what the issues are, how to address them, and where they can get help. 

Related: Am I Overparenting or Overcompensating?

Give Yourself Permission to Take a Break and Focus on Your Own Wellbeing

As parents, we often feel guilty when we redirect the focus to ourselves, but you’re not only a parent – you have relationships with others and many other aspects of your life and personality that you need to nurture. Give yourself permission to take a break, and if that makes you feel guilty, then think of it this way: you’re helping yourself so you can better help your child. If you’re stressed and burned out, you won’t be able to give your child and your family the best version of yourself.

Stress and Its Impact on Wellbeing – And How to Fight It

We see a lot of parents dealing with high levels of stress, and it’s no wonder. But you must make the time to care for yourself, not only because it helps you to care better for others, but because you deserve it. 

Listen to the episode to learn some of the ways you can battle the stress and mental and physical fatigue that can come with special needs parenting, and how you can make goals for improving your wellbeing and plan for the future.

Autism: A New Perspective is available on iTunes!

Full Transcript

Kat Lee: Welcome back to Autism: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. And we do always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee, and in this special podcast we have a special guest, Dr. Tom Atkinson. Tom is an RDI parent, an RDI consultant, and a psychologist. And he talks to us about the need for wellbeing for our parents of children who are vulnerable. Let’s listen in. Today, we are talking about wellbeing and our parents. I have a wonderful guest that I had the privilege of hearing speak recently at a conference, Tom Atkinson. And one of the things that really touches me the most about Tom presenting on this topic is that he is also an RDI parent, also was certified in 2011 as an RDI consultant. We serve on the advisory board member for RDI, so I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him. He’s a research psychologist, a learning and development consultant. We really couldn’t be in better hands to talk about this topic of wellbeing as parents. And Tom, I wanted to welcome you first. Thank you for being here. And I wanted to start off by saying as a lay person to wellbeing, I just decided to Google what wellbeing was, and it said the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. Do you agree with this? I thought it was pretty simplistic.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Sounds good to me. Yeah, I’ll go with that. Well, being comfortable, healthy, and happy. Yeah, I think that’s a nice congregation.

Kat Lee: I thought it was really interesting that it was so simple, because it turns out it’s not really that simple to have wellbeing.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Yes, easier said than done. Sure.

Kat Lee: So that’s why we’re talking today about this. The other thing I found when I’m doing my little personal search, and I have to confess, this slide is in here because I like the diagram. I like the way they designed it.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Sure.

Kat Lee: But the thing that I found, Tom, and I wanted to ask you first is there are a lot of things around that dimensions of wellbeing. I mean, does it take a couple of them being off for wellbeing to suffer, or just only one? I mean, they all seem pretty important to me.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Sure, sure.

Kat Lee: What do you find? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: I think the audience will have ideas about what the dimensions are for them. This is a good list of triggers, potential triggers. And what I think of is, well, a couple of thoughts. One is I think about the world that we’re living in these days where we have so many literally existential crises. We worry about the fate of the planet, we worry about COVID on a global basis, we worry about economic things, we worry about wars, and every one of those affects our wellbeing. We’re just one person on the planet, but it’s our planet, and those things are happening around us all the time. I think of this also as sort of like an alarm panel. You can have red lights or green lights, and if any one of those starts flashing, that sets you off, so there…

Kat Lee: That’s a really interesting imagery, because I also think of, Tom, when one red light comes on and then another one comes on and you feel like there’s going to be a whole system failure. It’s almost like one leads to another, you know? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Sure, sure. And yeah, we don’t want to live in a bubble where we’re oblivious to everything around us, but we have to manage our intake of information, particularly things that we can’t really do anything about. All we can do is feel bad or worried, so we want to try to manage that input. Some people go on sort of news diets. I’m bad at this ’cause I tend to start my day and end my day with news, but I think the reason I do that is because I care about myself and the people around me and my community and the planet, and I want to know, how are we doing? And unfortunately, a lot of the channels where you get that information want to say, “There’s a problem, there’s a problem, there’s a problem.” So you have to be careful what you take in and also how you act on it.

Kat Lee: Yeah. I know you know that back in the day, as they say, I was in news for about 15 years, and they always told me, particularly when I was reporting news, like on radio morning shows, that kind of thing, “We want you to lead with all these,” what we would now call kind of trigger topics, financial heart things, and they gave me a list. I had to find stories connected to that. And the interesting thing was, most of it was not positive. Most of what you could find on those stories was more negative in nature, sadly, but that was more what what drove ratings. Isn’t that…

Dr. Tom Atkinson: I remember the slogan, “If it bleeds, it leads”. Remember that one? 

Kat Lee: It’s still true. It clicks. It’s clicks now. But it’s likes and not likes and all kinds of things like that. But it’s still the same thing. So I think that’s really good input. So I wanted everybody to kind of see this so they could think about their lives. Because when you have a vulnerable child, there’s so many circles that get affected. So both you and I have raised vulnerable children. And that’s just that’s just a whole nother level of parenting and emotional struggles. And it really challenges the wellbeing of our parents. We know that as parents. So this is the big question that we want you to answer. [chuckle] It’s such a simple question. Why is it so hard for our parents to focus on their own wellbeing Tom? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Sure. Well, I really do feel connected to this community ’cause I feel like I’m a member of the community and I have a vulnerable child. And so I feel like I’m sort of in the game with everybody else. And fortunately, I also bring other perspectives to the table from my academic background, research background, like, as a psychologist. So I kind of wear multiple hats. But one of them is certainly a parent. And I do know that it’s hard for parents to focus on wellbeing particularly, I’d say, in the early stages of realizing your child is vulnerable and so you’re trying to figure out what the problem is and what we should do about it and who is going to help. It’s easy to get wrapped up in focusing on the child, and forget about world events as we were just talking about now, just worried about your home and the community, helping out and things work day to day. And I think as a result, our own wellbeing often takes a backseat. And I’ve had conversations with parents about this. And some parents are even mixed about whether or not wellbeing is a good thing to focus on.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: It’s like, “I don’t have time for wellbeing. I have time for wellbeing of my child.” And that’s, forget about happiness. And they don’t often say that but sometimes they act that that way. But I think about the airlines and they always say in the event of an emergency, put your own mask on first before helping others. And I think that there’s wisdom to that, because if you’re a stressed out parent, you’re not as… Well, your child’s learning from you, perhaps is how to be stressed out versus how to handle situations in a way that fosters wellbeing. And that is easier said than done. So I always encourage parents to just give themselves permission to take a break and focus on their own wellbeing because… And if that makes you feel guilty, think of it as a way that you’re going to bring even more benefit to your child and to your family, because you’re grounded and centered and feeling good. By the way, there’s been some… I’ve noticed over the years that there’s been some change in the wording of wellbeing and even as you did a Google search for the title of this topic.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: It used to be happiness was the thing. And there’s a whole field of positive psychology that is… The vision was can we focus not just on helping people overcome mental illness, but on just, even if they don’t have mental illness, how can they be happier in life? But some people say, “Well, my goal in life isn’t to be jubilant or even to be giddy happy all the time. That’s a nice side effect of me doing something that is valuable to me.” And so I think the term has evolved into wellbeing, which is hard to disagree with, but… Or self actualization is a term that’s been around since Abraham Maslow. But the idea is wellbeing on a sort of a higher level. So the pieces fit together and I’m doing the best I can do in my situation, not necessarily ecstatic, but I’m where I want to be.

Kat Lee: I like that. And I really felt for what you were saying about parents saying, “I don’t need to think about my wellbeing. I want to think about my child’s wellbeing,” but that those things can’t be, so to speak, divorced from themselves, that if a parent is not having wellbeing, that’s going to affect their child. And this is a slide that you presented at a conference, predictors of wellbeing and longevity. I inserted it here as we’re talking about our parents who struggle, because I think… I really think so many of these things that they might have been maybe not thinking about with this kind of wording, but thinking about in their lives before they had a vulnerable child, after they stopped thinking about them, what do you think? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Yeah. Sure, sure. Well, sure, I think having vulnerable child changes your perspective on a number of ways. Just I can give you a little background on this slide. This comes from a wellbeing research. And there’s a study done by Harvard University. It’s like the longest longitudinal study ever of people. And they were started in the 1930s. And they wanted to know what leads to a long, happy life. And they followed a group of people, some were Harvard students, and some were just people, normal people from the City of Boston. They all were men ’cause it was 1930s and that’s what they did in studies at that time. But they tracked them over essentially their whole lives. And they tried to figure out of the people who are having the best outcomes in living the longest, what do they have in common? And they took all their 100 years of research, and they come up with three buckets. And the short story is, it’s not fame or fortune or control or power. It’s about number one, having values and purpose. So I feel like there’s a good reason to get up in the morning and I’m living the values that are important to me.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: That’s number one. The second is life affirming relationships, which you can think of it as not being isolated. That you don’t necessarily have a thousand contacts on the internet, but you’ve got a core group of people who care about each other. They care about you, you care about them. And they kind of are life affirming. I spoke to a researcher once who studied thousands of people on the topic of stress management. And I said to him after this talk, I said, “There was only one question that you could ask somebody to know how they’re going to do when times get tough. What would you ask them?” He said, “I would say, is there somebody in your life who will just appear at the right moment, look you in the eye and say, “Kat, are you okay?” He said, “That predicts which path you’re going to take in life.” Not everybody can say yes, unfortunately. So that’s something we can work on. So life affirming relationships, a lot to say about relationships. The other thing is responding to challenges. And this is something every parent needs to know when things go wrong, what do you do? What kind of stress management do you do? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Some people when faced with a minor challenge, kids perhaps as they’re developing, will fall apart or raise the flag of distress. And other people have lots of challenges and they sort of take them in stride. So what makes the difference there? And from personal experience, I once interviewed a physician in an emergency room in a hospital. I said, “What’s the first thing you do when an ambulance is driving up to your building and you know a seriously injured person is going to be inside?” He said, “The first thing I do is I stop, focus on my breathing and I take my pulse. Start here. So then I can take care of other people.” So those are three things. Very important buckets. And there’s a lot to say about each one of those, but they’re pretty simple to describe. But in your own life, you can think about how powerful those things might be.

Kat Lee: Oh, yeah. And the challenges that come our way as parents are many times things we, I’ll speak for myself, weren’t really prepared for. And when that’s the case, it kind of just affects everything else, your purpose, your life affirming relationships, everything. And that’s not in the form of a complaint. It’s just a reality that happens. So this is another slide you presented. I’m actually happy to laugh. You know, when I talk to my parents about stress and coping with stress, in some ways they’ve accepted this level of stress that they live with as, “Oh, Tom, maybe they’re natural.” Like it just become a thing that they feel they just got to be under. And I don’t think that’s necessarily coping. Am I wrong? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Well, I guess the question is, can you do anything about it or not? There are certain things that maybe we do need to just find ways to adapt to, but oftentimes we can take some action to change the environment, to change something that would remove the stress versus just becoming resolved to it. I think becoming resolved to stress would not be a good coping mechanism, saying Just life is tough and you just, things just pile up. There’s always, there’s often actions we can take.

Kat Lee: Yeah. It’s like the… I had a woman in my life when I was growing up, she was kind of like a mother to my mom and she would say life is hard at best. And I remember thinking when I was a little kid, I mean, I was just a little kid, I was like, “That’s kind of negative.” [laughter] But this was a woman who’d been through World War II, her husband had been in an internment camp. I mean, she had been through a lot, right? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Sure.

Kat Lee: And so she had seen a lot of hardship. But I think what I like about this is you go through identifying what is stress? What are the sources of stress? How do you deal with stress? This is a great, great slide.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: So thinking about how it affects me and why it’s affecting me and what does it mean to me? Is it affecting me in terms of my relationships? Is it financial stress? Is it physical, sorry, am I worried about my physical health? COVID is a great example of a stressful life event, just the idea of COVID. First of all, what’s kind of odd about it is that first of all, it’s invisible. You don’t want to… Talk to any military person on the planet, they’ll say we don’t do invisible. You got to see what you’re up against. And it affects everybody. And it can be physically debilitating, or not. Maybe it’s just a common cold or maybe it’ll kill you. It’s like early on, we didn’t know the difference. So it’s like designed to be stressful. So that would be an example of a very stressful event. But another event, when I was in grad school, I studied unemployment because that was something that was identified as being very… An event that carries a lot of weight because it affects your financial ability, your ability to put food on the table, a roof over your head.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: It affects how you look at yourself and how your network looks at, your relationships. So it has multiple levels. And I’d certainly put our vulnerable children in that category ’cause it affects how we spend our time and who we spend our time with. I spend a lot of time with professionals and other parents and kids in those days, but it wasn’t my network I had before then. So of course, that wasn’t necessarily a source of trigger. That was a good thing. I get a lot of value from those relationships.

Kat Lee: Well, when I talk to my parents about stress, I think they feel like they can identify it because they are already knowing the situation they’re in that’s stressful. I think they can definitely identify at least some trigger. It may be just the fact that their child is so vulnerable at some points, and other points more specific, but when it comes to the coping or the tools, that’s more challenging because some of the coping can… And I understand this. I know we both do, can be to just kind of either dismiss the stress as, “Well, I’ve just got to power through the stress ’cause I’ve got to power through it.”

Kat Lee: If you talk about positive, which we’re gonna to talk about positive psychology, but when you talk about that, not particularly feeling positive about there being… Having somebody struggling about planning and trying to deal with their own stress, Tom, I think it sounds time-consuming to them, which is often, and I know you know this, one of the things parents feel like they don’t have, right? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Sure. They don’t have a lot of free time. And I’ll tell you just a funny little anecdote. I was in a fitness club once with a bunch of male business executives and two of them were complaining to each other about how stressful their jobs were, and one said to the other, he said, “Joe, did you ever think about meditation?” And Joe rolled his eyes and says, “Oh, all those people want you to do is breathe in and out all day long. I’m a busy person.” But as parents, we’re busy too, although we do need to breathe in and out, right? 

Kat Lee: Yeah.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: And so do our kids, it’s helpful to kind of focus on that as a stress management as the beginning of stress management, a lot of it’s about breathing and focusing on your body.

Kat Lee: Absolutely. So I think we’re gonna talk some more about these things and I really love what’s coming up here. Thank you for that. One of the things that I heard you speak on was practicing gratitude and positive thinking and I really appreciate your perspective on this as a parent, because I know that your child is older now. So you’ve been through some things as I have, and I think the fact that you can speak about a positive practice of gratitude and positive thinking to us as parents is really a great thing. How do you do that? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Well, there’s a whole body of research on this. Actually, we know that The School of Positive Psychology has studied this and they know that practicing gratitude really leads to a feeling of wellbeing and all the good things that go with that, and they’ve done it. They’ve done research studies. They’ve had people do gratitude logs. Every day they write things down and they’ve done it very systematically or just simply to set aside time. I do this myself, set aside time in the morning to just think about sort of the checklists of things that I feel good about, and those things really do have a big payoff, and also it goes both ways. When you practice gratitude and you express gratitude to somebody else, that helps them improve their own wellbeing. So gratitude and positive thinking are very powerful. The other thing I say about gratitude is as a vulnerable parent, I’ve spent more time than I ever wanted to in clinics and medical facilities and doctors’ offices and stuff, but I’ll tell you, I rarely have gone to a place like that, not come away feeling grateful that I’m not in the situation of somebody else I’ve encountered there.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: So it helps you put things into perspective and that you see… I always see people with challenges bigger than mine. So gratitude and positive thinking is one key thing to focus on. It’s also easy… I think it’s easy to do and you don’t have… It doesn’t take hours of time. It’s really a thought exercise. Something there, if you go to a home decor store these days, you can buy like a little jug that they sell where you put things you’re grateful for in it, inside it. Grateful jar. You can make one yourself. You don’t have to buy one, but some people do those and do little rituals at the end of the year. When they’re feeling down, they reach inside and pull something out. There’s all kinds of ways you can make this happen, but the old idea is just taking time to express gratitude as opposed to the opposite feeling like you’re a victim and things are never gonna get better, that way. So that’s one. Do you want me to keep going? 

Kat Lee: Sure, sure.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Okay. We can go down of course. The second is investing in social… I’m not putting these in order although gratitude is really as a centerpiece. Investing in social relations we know is critical. I told you the research shows that if you got somebody who cares about you, you’re much more likely to weather storms than if not. And we know that people who are more extroverted tend to do better under stressful situations because they connect, they reach out, they don’t get isolated. So investing in those social… And I don’t have to tell anybody. If you’re RDI parents, I don’t have to tell you about the value of investing in social connections because that’s how you spend your life. That’s what RDI is all about. Taking care of body and soul means taking time for yourself. It’s doing your meditation, your little yoga or whatever is working for you or at least being mindful of what you’re putting into your body or just feeling good physically.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Keep in mind that you are a human being and you need to literally take care of yourself and if that makes you feel guilty, just remember that that makes you more able to help your child if you’re not sick or anxious or feeling under the weather. So those are some other thoughts there. By the way, there’s a book called “The How of Happiness” that goes into detail on this. So just you get the book and read it. There’s lots of exercises and things, but you get the idea just from this slide.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Living in the present is another one. It’s so easy to get distracted by things that have happened in the past that we can’t do anything about. What if? How did we get here anyway? What should we have done differently? You can live in the past or you can worry about the future. Like how are we ever gonna do this or what if this happens or what if that happens? And not that it has to be negative ’cause there are good things that happen in the past and in the future, but the idea of living in the present is this is where we make a difference or not. We get up in the morning and we respond to our child the best way that we can and we’re there for them, and we’re not distracted or taken away by things that we can’t control. So living in the present is another, and this doesn’t take a lot of exercise. It’s just being aware of it and of the value of it and doing it. It’s also another RDI thing. We really focus on every little aspect of relationship building that other parents probably wouldn’t even give thought to because we know it’s really important.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Are you connecting? Are you co-regulating? Does your child understand what you’re saying? Are you looking at each other? Those kinds of things, and it’s all part of living in the present. And then committing to goals. If you wanna change anything, as a psychologist, I can tell you that you need to think about what it is you wanna change, what’s your goal? What’s the benefit of doing it? What is it gonna take? What’s gonna get in the way? And there’s a little worksheet that I’ll show you that you can use for thinking about your plans for wellbeing. And then finally, managing stress, hardship, and trauma. This is when things go wrong and I don’t have to tell you about that one either. We often start in a crisis phase with RDI, but I say, when do you need to bring in the Kat Lees and teams to help you get back on track? I’ve certainly done my share of that, but also, it’s good to know that you have members of your team who can help you with an emergency and that you’re not on your own, but we’d hope that you stay out of that bucket most of the time. It’s like coping activities.

Kat Lee: Well, I love every one of these bubbles and I wanted to say that one of the things I found about trying to live in the present was important is that if you were always living in the future, like what’s this gonna be like or we’re not moving fast enough toward this or whatever, you weren’t really… As a parent, I wasn’t appreciating the moment with my child or my children or my family. And what I would say to parents is that moment, that time is not going to come again. I mean, time moves on as they say and so you don’t wanna miss out on being able to appreciate that for the fact of thinking about, “I’ve got to get to this place in three months.” It really can… There’s only so much space in your brain, or at least mine, Tom.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Sure, that’s right, that’s right. One thing I like about RDIs is it’s very visually oriented and we’re always recording. The technology’s improved over time, but we’re always recording on our phones or other devices what’s happening right now, and of course, after it’s happened, then it’s the past. We don’t wanna dwell on it, but we do wanna capture it and remember and build on it.

Kat Lee: And the other thing was some of my families, and I know we understand this, they laugh at the idea of social connections. They kind of feel like they’re… And I don’t wanna speak for everyone or tell everybody how they feel, but I’ve definitely had families who they were like, “When I ended up having a vulnerable child, my social connections fell away. Everything and everybody I thought I was gonna do something with I… ” And I think that really can happen to parents where they just fall away from those connections and they’re so important, Tom.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Yes. Yeah. Sure, and even connections within the family. There’s the temptation to spend all of your time with the vulnerable child and blocking out everything else. So that’s important to keep in mind as well, balancing those relationships. This is the plan that I pointed to earlier, just some simple questions to think about, and the benefit of thinking about what you wanna do differently and you come up with a plan is ’cause it’s more likely to happen, and so these are time-tested tools that would… Questions that would help you do that.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Just think simply about what you wanna do differently. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it could just be sort of one thing at a time. So just as an example, I was saying that we don’t wanna get overwhelmed with external events and put yourself on a kind of news diet. So what you might plan to do is maybe not watch cable TV news every night before you go to sleep. Switch to something else, or at least not every night. So that kind of thing, simple changes can make a big difference.

Kat Lee: Oh, I love this and what’s interesting is I love the questions like, why does it matter? So it’s not just what do you plan to do, but why does it matter that you’re going to do that? So it’s really thinking through that. And I love how do you measure success. That is an area, I think, Tom, that doesn’t occur to us as parents that if we put a plan into place for our wellbeing, how do we know if we’re moving toward that goal? So I love that.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Sure. One thing that doesn’t say here, but keep in mind is sharing your plan publicly. Publicly, I mean with another person, makes it more likely you’ll do it, and also, it’s a way of getting input from your relationships that you have. So you might wanna say… Particularly with other parents who might be going through similar challenges, you can say, “Here’s what I’m thinking about. What’s your idea?”

Kat Lee: I love the who might be helpful and how because I love thinking about the who, again, not cutting ourselves off or trying to go completely alone. And then the last thing there on the right, how and when might you celebrate, what does that one mean? 

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Well, it’s just thinking about… What might be a good way to put it? Acknowledge your progress and make it sort of real. So I mean, classic would be going out to dinner with your spouse maybe to think about how well you’ve done with taking action with your child, perhaps during that week, but the celebration can be at the end of the day or just the end of day. It can also… It doesn’t have to be a big set of fireworks celebration. It can be just like end of day reflection. It can almost go with your gratitude time. You’re thinking about what you’re grateful for, you can also think, “Well, that really is gratitude, isn’t it?” It’s like what might I celebrate? Well, I was able to take some action yesterday that really seemed to pay off. So I’m grateful for that.

Kat Lee: I love that, though I am disappointed not to set off fireworks, but I do..

Dr. Tom Atkinson: You can still have a good dinner.

Kat Lee: Exactly. I do find that sometimes the wonderful families I work with, they haven’t really thought of celebrating goals that met their own wellbeing. Again, I sometimes think it goes back to, do I have time to celebrate, Tom, which is interesting to think about because we really need to.

Dr. Tom Atkinson: Yeah, it might also be a celebration of something that you and the child have done together. What would be an example of something that you could point to that a child would recognize? Something that you built together, something that you’ve overcome, something… Well, my son had a phobia of dogs earlier in his life. He would literally run away if he saw a dog coming. He got over that and that was a reason for celebration and when we learned about it, it was actually… We thought he was afraid of being bitten by the dog, but it turned out he had the same reaction around babies, and you know what it was? It was the sound. He was afraid of being caught with a loud noise ’cause he just couldn’t process it. It’s like physically, he couldn’t go to the fireworks or anything like that, but through… Over time, he got used to being around dogs and actually likes dogs and he started petting his therapist dog once. That’s a cause for celebration. You’ve overcome something in your life.

Kat Lee: I love that, and I would just say to parents who are listening, we have reasons to celebrate and we need to allow ourselves to celebrate, Tom, and allow ourselves that time. Which brings me to this, which is parents, we know you love your children and what we would say is what Tom said in the beginning is that your wellbeing is important for their sake, so for your child’s sake, and for yours, and that was the message we wanted to give today. Right, Tom? 

 Dr. Tom Atkinson: Right. And one benefit of learning about wellbeing is that you have an opportunity to teach your child to learn wellbeing ’cause we know that one of the challenges Dr. Gutstein’s latest research shows is that as kids on the autism spectrum get into adulthood, they’re often challenged with wellbeing. They feel they’re vulnerable, isolated, and so forth. Here’s a way to prevent that and give your child a boost in life.

Kat Lee: And thank you for joining us for Autism: A New Perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we always encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. See you next time.


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