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Autism, Families, Resiliency and Symbiosis

Three days ago, a new controlled study was published online which showed improved resiliency in parents of children with autism who engaged in an eight session one hour to one and a half hours virtual mind-body group program which included "relaxation techniques, stress awareness discussion, and adaptive strategies for coping with stress." Resiliency is the ability to adapt (bounce back) to stressors. In this study, the treatment group showed improvements in resiliency and stress/reactivity compared to the control group, (Kuhlthau, KA, Luberto CM, Traeger L, et al. "A Virtual Resiliency Intervention for Parents of Children with Autism: A Randomized Pilot Trial," J Autism and Developmental Disorders, (March 21, 2019): 1-14.

As a parent and a sibling of individuals with autism, there is a lot I get stress out about. I have a child Talia who needs constant supervision, who among other behaviors bangs her head, bites and makes loud noises during the night. I have to think about how I am going to pay the next autism school tuition installment while dreading the possibility of an impartial hearing. I also have to run the house and get involved with my brothers' issues, especially Stuart who has no access to ABA, has problem behaviors, numerous side effects to medications and often is so sedated he basically lives in a chemical prison.

Stuart often refuses his day program and either lies in bed all day or sits on a chair. He does not go out on weekends. He is morbidly obese and has permanent tardive dyskinesia.

A month ago, I told him I would have a Purim party at my house and I told him I would have a favorite dessert for him, but he had to attend program every day, and he did! When he came over, he started bothering my mother with repetitive nonsense, "You have a thin head." I needed to cook for ten people and did care to deal with this. Talia wanted to play in the occupational therapy gym I installed years ago in the basement, so I asked Stuart to watch his niece. He actually did very well. Once she tried to leave the gym and walk towards the laundry room, Stuart told her right away to come back and she listened to him. We had autism symbiosis! This is another reason we should not focus simply on deficits and look at what people with special needs can do. As I have stated many times before we need to prioritize psychosocial interventions, including applied behavior analysis rather than drugs.