Helping your neurodiverse child stop tuning you out

Hoping our kids learn important lessons through lecture is a fruitless strategy.
All your kid really gets better at is tuning you out.
I’ve learned (especially with ND kids), introspection is a more powerful teacher.
But ND kids tend to avoid introspection. Their self-consciousness and inner critic make it something they want to avoid.
We can get around that, however, by engaging curiosity.
Learning to ask questions in a way that compels them to think about it.
The answer ultimately comes from within them so there’s little resistance to it.
It also helps them practice stopping and thinking, self-awareness, problem solving, etc.
All those executive functions you’re eager to help them exercise are so accessible to you.
When you utilize teachable moments to encourage reflection with questions like,
“When did you decide that was true,” or “How is it useful to believe that?”
You open your child up to their own inner world. The place they’ll find the greatest source of strength.
They’ll need it while navigating this world that still has a lot of learning to do.
We’ll get there, together.

A useful way to manage anxiety

Let me tell you something about anxiety. Anxiety is stored up energy for action you can’t take.
When you fret about the past, thinking about how it should have gone, what you should’ve done – you’re suggesting to yourself another course of action is possible.
Your subconscious mind thinks, “Yeah, let’s do that!” Then it starts firing your nervous system to get you to act toward this new option.
But you can’t go back in time and do it over. It’s impossible to implement a should’ve.
So your body is now primed to take action on a moment long since past.
With nowhere for the energy to go, it often stays inside you.
You run into a similar issue with the future. You imagine scenarios where you may feel embarrassed or upset in some way.
The anxiety that comes with that imagining wants you to act to protect it from that danger.
But the danger doesn’t come in reality. The energy has no where else to go.
Now image living your life in such a way. That your thinking is primarily about what happened yesterday or what could happen tomorrow?
In doing so you end up manufacturing anxiety that accumulates over time. This isn’t good for your health or your morale.
The way out of that mess is in this moment.
I suspect there is no immediate threat for you to do anything about right now, true?
Give all of your attention to the feeling of safety that comes with that realization. Allow it to wash over you.
You’re welcome.

Getting beyond RSD with ADHD

I have an idea about RSD (Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria) experienced by many with ADHD.
I’ve noticed those that experience it perceive relationships in an all or nothing way.
You’re loved or unloved, given attention or ignored, you’re happy when they’re happy.
When in a relationship it’s often co-dependent. Wanting constant access to the other person and the dopamine hits that come from their approval.
Having the need for acceptance finally met after so many failed attempts can feel like breathing fresh air.
Whereas the loss of this feeling can feel like suffocation.
To approach relationships in this way causes you to idealize the people you’re in relationships with.
After inflating the value of the relationship, the loss of it can feel like a death. All-or-nothing.
But why do some folks experience RSD when they feel rejected by strangers?
That’s because all-or-nothing thinking treats all rejection the same. It’s a catastrophe no matter who it’s from.
The deeper experiences originated with those they felt close to, then were generalized to everyone else.
What’s the solution?
First recognize this is caused by a feature of ADHD. It IS NOT a character flaw!!!
Second, as it’s a feature of ADHD you know it’s glitchy so you need to question what it tells you.
Practice catching yourself having an all or nothing thought:
“I always…”
“You never…”
“Everybody knows…”
Then say to yourself, “Now you know that’s the all-or-nothing talking. What is more likely to be the case?”
“I sometimes…”
“You occasionally…”
“People I know…”
I hope this is helpful.

He’s going to be an adult someday so he may as well learn it now

“He’s going to be an adult someday so he may as well learn it now.”
This is a concerning belief in the mind of many parents raising a child with neurodivergence (ND).
It demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding about how our kids learn.
Believing a consequence needs to be harsh and effective the first time is punishment logic NOT problem solving.
Its important to teach our kids how to make better decisions, not simply how to feel bad for the decisions they’ve made.
We have an epidemic of shame and guilt in this world and it stems from beliefs like this. Shame and guilt primarily lead to changed behavior to avoid feeling more shame and guilt.
Is this what you want for your child?
Yes, our kids are going to be adults someday. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be adults tomorrow and today’s consequence better prepare them for being so.
It’s the parents own all or nothing thinking that believes a child needs to learn the lesson NOW, instead of as a process.
I live with an ND mind and am raising several children with ND. Our brains have difficulty processing, retaining and retrieving what we know.
Inconsistently applying what we know is the result of this glitchy web browser in our brains. It isn’t about defiance, disrespect or anything else you tell yourself to convince you its intentional.
Do you honestly believe your child lives to bring down as much pain upon themselves as possible.
Our kids learn best by learning to think through the situation you want them to become better at problem solving.
Not by lecturing and telling them what to do, that will not work. They need to be guided in solving the problem doing the thinking themselves.
I just taught the members of my Inner Circle how to do this.

One tip for you that can transform how you think about life

I have one tip for you that can transform how you think about life.
I was talking to a friend this morning who was unaware just how disabled I am by my health conditions.
She was surprised by how positive I was able to be regardless of the challenges I experience every day, including chronic pain.
I explained that I used to be very reactive. The ADHD putting me on alert or emotional wounds that I concluded made me a victim.
Over the years my commitment to self-improvement showed me seeing life through that lens wasn’t useful.
I discovered that greeting as much life experience as possible through the lens of gratitude was the game changer.
I have three boys with Asperger’s and ADHD watching me live my life. If they see me reacting to life as though its a villian, they’ll learn the same helpless mindset.
But if they learn to see adversity as an opportunity to be resourceful and resilient, then life becomes a treasure chest.
That’s what I teach my clients as well.
This is what I could be teaching you in the Inner Circle.

A secret for becoming less reactive…

I’m going to help you learn to be less reactive by teaching you something about how the Neurodiverse brain works that no one ever taught you.

Conventional wisdom tells you you have the power to choose your thoughts. If you’re feeling a certain way, just change your thinking and all is well.

Enter neurodiversity, a brain on alert and playing defense by default.

Therefore, the first thought you have in response to new sensory experience is going to be automatic.

That means you aren’t choosing it. Your brain sends a flare up saying, “Innncominnnngggg!” because it assumes anything coming in is a threat.

For example:

How easily are you startled?
👉🏻 Are your senses (e.g. smell, touch) more sensitive than others.
👉🏻 Do you avoid new places because you don’t know what it’ll feel like physically to be there?
👉🏻 Are compliments uncomfortable?

You get the idea.

This first thought might happen so fast the only thing you notice is the anxiety, anger or other reaction that thought triggered.

That’s what’s happening. What do you do about it?

You want to prevent this first thought (which assumes threat) from highjacking your brain and sending you careening into Catastrophic Canyon.
What you can do is treat those strong emotional responses as someone shaking you by the shoulders to WAKE YOU UP and get your attention.
It isn’t someone meaning to do you harm. It’s someone holding you tightly in a supportive way.
As you notice the physical sensation of fear, anger, etc., you can think to yourself, “Alright! I’m alert, you have my attention.”
Assigning this meaning to it keeps you in the moment and prevents your thinking from going full catastrophe.
The reaction will naturally subside, now that it has your attention and acceptance.
You’re now free to choose your second thought, now that the automatic one is out of the way.
It’s the calm mind that chooses best which thoughts to follow.
Is this helpful?

You need to own your triggers

I read a post the other day discouraging people from complimenting others on weight loss. The reason being that person may be recovering from an eating disorder.
Should I not tell someone they look good today in case they have body dysmorphic disorder?
I should probably avoid saying good morning in case it reminds a depressed person how depressed they are.
I don’t know if its true, but during a call yesterday I heard a story about a celebrity who has “outrage” as part of her brand.
She doesn’t shy away from demonizing people or places that commit the offense of “triggering” her.
Let’s be clear about something. A trigger is a piece of information (e.g. visual, auditory, etc) that reminds you of unresolved trauma.
This celebrity reportedly made a scene at a public clothing store after feeling triggered and demanded the store change something. The status of this celebrity resulted in loss of sales for this store.
I used to work with a woman who treated me like crap for a year and I had no idea why. One day she apologized and said her ex-husband was named Brian and just hearing the name made her crabby.
Should I have changed my name to accommodate her so she wasn’t triggered?
Who said the world has to sterilize itself so I’m never reminded I’ve have painful things happen in my life. Things I’m still working through?
The trigger exists because the pain exists. The trigger didn’t cause the reaction any more than pulling a trigger on the gun fired the bullet.
The bullet fired because there was one in the chamber. Remove the bullet and the trigger is useless.
Our culture is way too entitled when it comes to blame. From our political leaders down to the person who blames the red light for their anger.
Your triggers are the result of an ongoing hostile relationship with the world. One created when your nervous system becomes dysregulated (and stays that way) after a traumatic event.
The way you experience the world changes, most everything becomes a threat. Are you going to eliminate everything that upsets you from your life? Will you demand the rest of the world do the same?
Will you realize we live in a big universe that doesn’t revolve around you, me or any individual. Other people have needs to and those needs ARE NOT conditional on whether they trigger me or not.
I’m not that special and neither are you.
We cannot expect people to walk on egg shells around us because we’ve been unable to resolve parts of our trauma. I know first hand it can be difficult when you haven’t discovered the right strategies for yourself.
But if you think that gives you license to unload your baggage on someone who did nothing to help you pack your bags. You’re going to be lonely quite often.
I will not support you or anyone who punishes one person for another’s misdeeds.
Keep doing the work.
Self-Advocacy becomes toxic when its rooted in blame instead of a desire to inform and educate. Shame and criticism don’t educate.
Keep doing the work.

Some great ideas for you

It isn’t necessarily useful to be so attached to beliefs you currently believe most accurate.
The universe is inherently playful and will usually challenge them regularly.
I’ve learned over the years to share my thoughts with a spirit of “would you like to try this on”?
Understanding that the beliefs you hold are like the threads of a cloak you use to wrap yourself in as you navigate life.
This cloak has a special property. Any thread can be replaced with a stronger, more refined thread whenever it’s available for doing so.
We misunderstand that only things that never give are strong. When we know the ability to take in information, learn and adapt is how we survive, thrive and grow.
Flexibility, resourcefulness and resilience it responsible for your progress but you’ve been giving credit to stubbornness.
If you think a main function of ideas is to allow you to stroke your ego by one upping others, you may as well be wiping your ass with silk.
Ideas are precious, precision instruments that create the modern world. Ideas that improve the lives of others aren’t for you, though they do come through you.
Through, as in passing through. Long enough for you to help it come to life. Then the next idea comes. Let the energy of inspiration keep moving.
So hold on to your ideas long and strong enough for them to be useful. Just not so hard they become indistinguishable from you.

When “I don’t know”, is your kid’s favorite answer

“Why did you do that?”
“I don’t know!”
If you are raising a neurodiverse kid this is a familiar exchange.
Few parents know where to go from here. Fortunately, I do.
Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Introspection doesn’t come naturally to the neurodivergent, especially when they’re living in survival mode.
Their energy is spent monitoring and reacting to the overwhelming world they live in.
You almost need to require them to introspect.
For example, say they engage in a behavior that causes harm for them or others. You ask them to explain the behavior so you understand it better and they respond with, “I don’t know”.
Your response is. “Not yet perhaps. Do you agree it would be useful to know?” (pause) Let him ponder the question and even respond.
Saying, “NO” is a choice to be helpless to change things for a better result.
Assuming his answer is, “YES,” you can explore what feeling he may have been trying to calm with the action he took.
This is the beginning of understanding the cause and effect relationship between what they feel and what they do.
Their existing way of seeing the world is, “I did it because something outside me happened.”
See the difference?
Teaching your kiddo how to introspect helps plant the seeds of self-discipline, self-control and empowerment.
Let’s work on helping your child make this important shift.

Can a single criticism crush you?

Ever felt criticized for saying something in the wrong “tone”?
In your mind you knew it wasn’t a big deal. A misunderstanding, easy enough to correct.
But seemingly out of nowhere you find yourself sobbing and feeling worthless. It’s like that one criticism reminded you of how it felt every time you were criticized. Now you’re feeling all of them.
What the hell is going on?
In a neurodivergent brain such as yours. Especially if you have ADHD or Autism Spectrum Blips running around in there. Thoughts and feelings are experienced in an all or nothing, now or not now manner.
Even though many of those criticisms happened in the past. A brain experiencing time as now or not now feels like all the emotion is happening now.
If its all being felt now its all being expressed now. Sobbing, rage, panic, with little in between.
If you wanna break free of this trap start by recognizing the all or nothing aspect of your mind is a filter that isn’t giving you the full picture.
When your mind tells you, it’s either this or that, question it. Get into the habit of pausing and generating more options on your own or ideally with others.
It’s important to learn to understand experience as a continuum. Options offers us a continuum.
With our emotions, levels of intensity and how long it takes us to calm down exist on continuums as well. Learning what this means for you improves your ability to manage your emotions instead of being drown by them.
You can think of it as installing an internal emotional brake pedal to help you navigate those sharp turns so you don’t fly off the road.
Make sense?