I’d like to share some conversations I recently had with Mr. Giraffe and Mr. Boat. Lest you think I’m crazy, I’m only using these pretend conversations to make a point of how you can fatten your life account.
Perhaps, like Mr. Boat and Mr. Giraffe, you’ve been feeling a bit down, cheated, and thin with your life satisfaction account.
I met a giraffe the other day.
He was lamenting his lot in life.
“Everyone makes fun of me for being so tall. I’ve got these ugly spots all over me. Everywhere I go, I bump into trees. And I can’t see anything on the ground. Why couldn’t God have made me to be an ant. Or a snake. Or a dog?”
But Mr. Giraffe, did you know that your height allows you to have an almost uncontested food source? You can reach acacia leaves that no other animal can!
And don’t you know that your spots make you unique and beautiful, while helping you blend in with your environment for protection?
And perhaps you forgot or did not know that your bulging eyes make your vision acute? And that you have a keen hearning ability? And that your skin contains insect repellants?
You and I are like Mr. Giraffe. Whether we are NT’s or Aspies on the autism spectrum, we all have moments, days, or habitual patterns of self-limiting beliefs and unmet expectations. Without meaning to, we can miss out on the tremendous gifts and advantages already in our makeup and our lives.
I met a boat the other day.
He was complaining about his anchor.
This thing is so heavy. It weights me down. It keeps me from exploring the world. It ties me down.
Perhaps, Mr. Boat, you forgot that your anchor keeps you from drifting off course, and protects you from sure destruction if you stray into sharp, jutting rocks.
Like giraffes and boats, we can make the mistake of magnifying our limitations instead of appreciating some of those limitations and growing our strengths.
Both Mr. Giraffe and Mr. Boat could get help from a concept coming out of neuroscience research: Neuroplasticity!
What I’m NOT Saying
I’m not saying that parent should try to ‘cure’ their children of autism.
I’m not saying individuals on the autism spectrum should try to fit into whatever normal is.
And if you are a ‘neurotypical’ parent or teacher reading this, you need to understand Aspergers individuals viewpoints about this:
Here are a couple quotes from Odd One Out: Reality With A Refreshing Slice of Aspie
Jim Sinclair says this in “Don’t Mourn For Us:”
This is what we know, when you tell us of your fondest hopes and dreams for us: that your greatest wish is that one day we will cease to be, and strangers you can love will move in behind our faces.
According to Wikipedia,
Neuroplasticity refers to the susceptibility to physiological changes of the nervous system, due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, or parts of the body other than the nervous system. The brain changes throughout life.
What I AM Saying
Go with the following paradox: Accept Your Aspergers, Appreciate Your Strengths and Limitations, And Don’t Let Your Limitations Hold You Back.
God, grant me the Serenity, to Accept the things I cannot change, The Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.
Accept and embrace Aspergers. Recognize the gifts and positive qualities of the autism spectrum.
Accept that some things will be more challenging for you.
But don’t let those limitations hold you back!
Here are a couple more encouraging quotes from Odd One Out: Reality With A Refreshing Slice of Aspie:
I’m a boy with Asperger’s (16yrs old) and I love who I am! Ok, life is more complicated but its a challenge and a challenge which I love!
Be proud, follow your dreams in life and you will succeed if you just believe.
mommy~dearest at The Quirk Factor: Resistance Is Futile, says this:
Autism (with a capital “A”) to me, says that I accept my child wholly. I celebrate his differences and his quirky-ness. I advocate diversity. I try to empower him. I am proud of his successes, no matter how small they seem. I hope he holds onto the compassion he has in his heart into adulthood. I do not think he needs “fixing”. I am proud that he is my son, and sometimes I am humbled by that very same thought.
Take the positive implications of neuroplasticity studies seriously if you want help for Aspergers and NT’s alike!
Here are just a few of some positive implications from different studies gathered by Science News Daily
Here is a practical guide to meditation viewed from a medical standpoint.
According to this guide from the National Institutes of Health, meditation can be effectively used with
People use meditation for various health problems, such as:
- Physical or emotional symptoms that may be associated with chronic illnesses (such as heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer) and their treatment.
Meditation is also used for overall wellness.
Here are some studies from Science News Daily attesting to the benefits of meditation:
Demystifying Meditation: Brain Imagery Illustrates How Meditation Reduces Pain
We found a big effect — about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent.”
Just 15 to 30 minutes of meditation per day can help decrease our stress levels, and increase our ability to deal with life challenges. Start small. Practice simple breathing 5 minutes per day this week. Then increase it to 6 minutes per day next week. And so on. Small changes can result in big changes over time, and help improve your life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a very helpful tool in treating mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. But, not everyone who benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy has a mental health condition. It can be a very effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.
Cognitive therapy is a beneficial empirically based method that helps the brain form new connections by altering ways of thinking and perception.
We know that cognitive therapy can help form healthy brain pathways, as exemplified by this study.
Negative Emotions Influence Brain Activity During Anticipation and Experience of Pain
Neuroticism — the tendency to experience negative emotions — significantly affects brain processing during pain, as well as during the anticipation of pain, according to a new study in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.
Cognitive therapy helps patients recognize their emotions, their triggers, and their automatic thoughts that sharpen their negative emotions. It also helps them change their responses to their perceptions, and even their real perceptions, so that they can lower their subjective experience of pain.
Aspergers Self Help
You can become a self taught student of cognitive therapy without meeting with anyone.
Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life. I recommend this workbook to every one of my clients. I use it myself!
Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Adults With Aspergers Syndrome is written for practitioners working with adults with Aspergers. If you study this book, you’ll learn a lot of about cognitive behavior therapy specifically adapted for individuals with Aspergers.
Cognitive Therapy Worksheets. These are free downloadable cognitive therapy worksheets from Psychology Tools.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a useful tool to address emotional challenges.
For example, it may help you:
- Manage symptoms of mental illness, either by itself or with other treatments such as medications
- Prevent a relapse of mental illness symptoms
- Treat a mental illness when medications aren’t a good option, such as during pregnancy
- Learn techniques for coping with stressful life situations, such as problems at work
- Identify ways to manage emotions, such as anger
- Resolve relationship conflicts and learn better ways to communicate
- Cope with grief, such as after the loss of a loved one
- Overcome emotional trauma related to abuse or violence
- Cope with a medical illness, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or cancer
- Manage chronic physical symptoms, such as pain, insomnia or fatigue
Aspergers Professional Help:
You may also want to find a therapist. You can go to OASIS MAAP. Look at the left hand side of the page and you’ll see links for Local Help, National Help, and International Help.
According to Science News daily, Changing Brains for the Better: Article Documents Benefits of Multiple Practices, Such as Physical Exercise and Meditation. You can read the article, but you can probably verify from life experience that physical exercise benefits you. It’s an easy way to release stress and optimize your brain functioning.
Coaching and New Experiences
Given that the brain can change for the better and adapt to new ways of learning, we can Act ourselves into new neural connections. Excellent coaching can help us learn social skills, relational skills, and career skills. Brian King is a licensed clinical social worker at Spectrum Mentor, his personal site, where you can connect with him to learn new skills.
I hope you’ll use the above evidence based practices to challenge the limitations you may place on your own personal growth and development.photo credit: Martin Pettitt What are your thoughts on the concept of neuroplasticity and what is possible for you as an individual with Aspergers?