Exploring the HEART of grandparenthood

Why would I talk about grandparenting on a medical blog? Health professionals consider the family a vital factor in health, both positive and negative. You probably know that family medical history contributes to physical health, but family interactions also play an important role in child development, learning, and emotional health.

I was grilled.

Grilled as in “intense questioning or interrogation.” And that’s not a bad thing , it was all in fun and I’m sharing it with you here.

Grandma’s Briefs

Lisa Carpenter writes a blog called Grandma’s Briefs where she

shares my snippets, er, briefs on the good, bad, humorous, and heartwarming of being a grandmother, baby boomer, parent to adult children, wife, and writer.

One of the features on her blog is Grilled Grandmas, where she interviews other women who are both bloggers and grandmothers. Her blog challenges the stereotype of rocking chair grandmothers way past their prime in life

a woman with her arms around 2 little girls on each side
Establishing a bond with grandparents is great for kids in many ways.
photo from Lightstock.com

Why talk about grandparenting?

Why would I talk about grandparenting on a medical blog? Health professionals consider the family a vital factor in health, both positive and negative. You probably know that family medical history contributes to physical health, but family interactions also play an important role in child development, learning, and emotional health.

Establishing a bond with grandparents is great for kids in many ways. Grandparents can be positive role models and influences, and they can provide a sense of cultural heritage and family history. Grandparents provide their grandkids with love, have their best interests at heart, and can make them feel safe.

Bonding With Grandparents

My grilling

A few weeks ago, Lisa sent me her interview questions,some of which challenged me to answer. Some answers I knew right away, others required some reflection . For example, this question

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma?

my answer-

Not having had a role model. Both of my grandmothers died before I was born, so I never experienced having a grandmother in my life.

This question was easy.

What is one thing (or more) you’re proud to say you do right as a grandma?

We offer advice and help when asked, but we don’t butt in, interfere, criticize, or make demands. We let the parents be the parents.

Lisa asked me to submit a few photos of me with my grandkids; perusing my photos to pick out a few sparked many happy memories.

Lisa’s final question was –

What one bit of advice would you give a new grandma?

Learn the answer at Lisa’s post which you will find at this link-

Grilled Grandma: Grandma Aletha

a man reading to two young girls, sitting in a woman's lap
Family interactions play an important role in child development, learning, and emotional health. photo from Lightstock.com

Taking Care of Your Grandchildren

This article gives grandparents a refresher course in caring for children. Whether they are with you for just a few hours, several days, or live with you, this gives practical tips on keeping them healthy and safe when they are in your care.

CPR

If you don’t already know CPR, consider taking a class or refresher course. CPR is done differently in children than adults. Infants and children are more likely to suffer respiratory arrest -quit breathing- than cardiac arrest-heart stopping. Common causes include choking, drowning, and trauma. Sources for training include

  • American Red Cross
  • American Heart Association
  • your local schools’ adult education programs
  • local hospitals and medical training programs

sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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Free Babsy Board Books! 234x180 Zoobooks Home Page Sale at Totally Kids fun furniture & toys
cheesy-free faith-focused stock photos

The photos in this post are from Lightstock-quality photos and graphics site- get a free photo here. 

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How the Oklahoma City bombing changed 4 women’s lives

Twenty three year old Madison Naylor was among the infants being cared for at the YMCA daycare located next door to the federal building at the time the bomb exploded. The building was heavily damaged but she and the other children survived.

April 19, 2019 marked the 24th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Oklahoma City is the capital of my home state and was my home for 7 years while I attended medical school and completed my residency in Family Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

From the bombing, 168 people died, hundreds were injured, and our state and our nation were changed forever. Never had there been such an act of horror and carnage on U.S. soil.

I’ve written here about the bombing and showed you pictures from the site which is now a memorial and museum. I’m doing that again but this time with news about 4 women who have turned the event into something positive.

OKLAHOMA CITY NATIONAL MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

a past survivor, now a future doctor

Twenty three year old Madison Naylor was among the infants being cared for at the YMCA daycare located next door to the federal building at the time the bomb exploded. The building was heavily damaged but she and the other children survived.

“I remember when I was very young, I had a feeling that I had been really close to death, …I hope I can be something good that came from something so horrific.”

Madison Naylor, bombing survivor
some of the memorials hung on the the fence that surrounded the bombing site have been left intact.

Madison grew up learning about the bombing and about medicine. Her father and aunt are both physicians, and now she is a first-year medical student at my alma mater, the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

“I know the bombing is still a part of people’s lives here. It’s humbling to be associated with such a tragic event. I hope that I can be a positive face going forward.”

Madison Naylor, medical student

I learned Madison’s story from OU Medicine magazine . You can read her story at this link.

Oklahoma City Bombing Survivor Begins Journey to Become Physician

The SURVIVOR TREE remained standing when everything around it was destroyed by the bomb. It survives to this day.

“I just want to be the kind of person who leaves the world a better place than I found it.”

Madison Naylor, MS1
TILES PAINTED BY CHILDREN FROM AROUND THE WORLD AND DONATED TO THE MUSEUM ARE DISPLAYED AT THE ENTRANCE

Another story in the Fall/Winter issue of OU Magazine discusses

OKC Bombing Research Advances Disaster Mental Health Worldwide

The bombing changed not only Oklahoma City, but also our state, and our entire country. It was the worst terrorist event on U.S. soil until 9/11. All of us were touched in some way, but especially 3 women who worked in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

“None of us was thinking about studying disasters…But we kept studying …the Oklahoma City survivors over the years..Then started helping with disasters elsewhere.”

Betty Pfefferbaum, M.D., J.D. department chairman
This window in the museum overlooks the memorial.

Dr. Pfefferbaum, along with colleagues Phebe Tucker, M.D., and Sandra Allen, Ph.D. treated and studied trauma victims from the bombing and shared their findings with other doctors who use it to treat survivors around the world.

Lessons learned from the OKC disaster trauma

  • Disasters affect many different groups of people beyond those at the site-family, first responders, the community
  • Terrorism victims have higher than average rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression than people who never experienced it.
  • Some people develop a biological response to disaster causing a higher resting heart rate than those not affected.

Dr. Allen developed an intervention to help children of trauma process their thoughts and feelings. Sometimes children think they have to hide their feelings or act out when they hare hurting. This program helps them process those feelings and learn how to cope. You can read the details of this program at this link-

Listen to the Children

At a church across the street from the memorial

The work has rippled out into the world in ways that none of them could have imagined…

OU Medicine magazine
Words written on the wall of the former Journal Record Building which sat across from the federal building. These words, painted by a rescue team who searched for survivors that day,remain as a silent witness of the horrible event.

photos in this post taken by Dr. Aletha in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

sharing the HEART of health

Thanks to OU Magazine and KFOR for sharing these stories. Please follow the links above and read the entire articles. And share this post wherever you spend time online.

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

lemons into lemonade

I am delighted that Janice Wald, author and blogger at Mostly Bloggging, called this her “favorite post ” when I submitted it at her Inspire Me Monday Linky Party. Please visit Janice’s blog where you can learn about writing, blogging, productivity, marketing, and more.


It isn’t often that I see news-related posts left here and even rarer that, when I do, they are so inspirational. The post really exemplifies the expression, “Turn lemons into lemonade.”

Janice Wald, Mostly Blogging

Aching Joy- a book review

Jason Hague’s biography says he “writes and speaks about the intersection of faith, fatherhood, and autism”

Jason Hague’s biography says he “writes and speaks about the intersection of faith, fatherhood, and autism”  which is the main reason I requested this book to review.

(In exchange for reviewing books for Tyndale House Publishers  I received a free copy. This post also contains affiliate links.) 

Aching Joy Book Promo 

I have read and reviewed other books about autism for both professional and personal reasons as I explained in my review of Uniquely Human

But in Aching Joy I did not find much discussion of autism as a disorder. Although Jason tells us about his autistic son Jack’s diagnosis, therapy, and progress, that is not the focus of this book.
(As Jason does in the book I will use the term “autistic” rather than “with autism”.)

Parents of autistic children often become focused on learning about autism, seeking treatments and services for the child, and celebrating any progress, victory, or achievement no matter how small.

Jason didn’t do that when first confronted with Jack’s diagnosis of autism. In denial of what the doctors said and other family members recognized, he grieved over what he saw as the death of the father- son relationship he had dreamed of. Perhaps worst of all, his faith in an all- powerful loving God was shaken as it had never been before. Considering that Jason is a pastor, that was a crisis. 

Aching Joy is the story of Jason, and how he found his way back through the Land of Unanswered Prayer as he calls it.


This is a book about the treasures I found in my darkness and the greatest of all was this: aching joy.  The Lord taught me how to sigh in pain,  how to weep in gladness,  and how to trust during days of hope deferred. It was not an easy road to walk.  It still isn’t easy and it isn’t safe. Rather it is a confounding country full of myths and mirages. us here faith resembles denial settled this looks like a surrender and hope is the scariest creature of all.

As Jason narrates his son’s cycles of regression, progress, then regression again,  we also see the same happen to him;  his faith in God and answered prayer likewise waxes and wanes based on these and other life circumstances. He totters through expectation to disappointment,  from hopefulness to resignation, from faith to fear. 

But finally he comes to terms with the roller coaster that autism can be, and decided to put his trust not in a program, professional, or process,  but in a Person


If there is an answer to the mysteries and tensions  in this unfinished life,  we will not find it in philosophy or poetry or self-help religion. Rather  we only find it in a Person. Aching Joy  would be impossible if we were self- sustaining adults but fortunately we are much smaller than that. We are children of an eternal King. Courage and healing are in his hands and he waits for you to call. He waits for you to tell him where it is you ache and to rest under the shelter of his touch. 

Jason Hague, author of Aching Joy 

Jason Hague is an associate pastor at Christ’s Center Church in western Oregon. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Ecclesia College in Arkansas. 

He served with YWAM (Youth with a Mission) for eight years, most of that time training international missionaries. He still occasionally travels to teach YWAM recruits. He blogs for the One Hope Network and for the foster care organization “Every Child of Lane County.” He is a featured speaker for Restoration Ministries’ flagship DVD and online course, “Rebuilding the Foundations of Life.” 

Jason has been married to Sara for seventeen years. They have five children.

Jason chronicles his family’s journey at his blog, where you can read the first two chapters of his book. 


Faith-Fatherhood-Autism

Jason’s wife Sarah writes about the “fog of autism” that their son Jackson went into, and how they they are “finding him”. She hasn’t posted recently but you can read about their journey in her blog archives at 

FINDING JACKSON 

Aching Joy is published by NavPress and distributed /marketed by Tyndale. 

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I would love to read your response to Aching Joy. If you have or do read it, let me know what your think. Contact me here

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

exploring the HEART of health through reading

                              Dr. Aletha 


Surprising myths and truths about dental care

Why people neglect dental care and why they should not

I notice more  television commercials for dental care products and services, and most of them follow a theme. In the past most advertisements were for toothpaste for preventing cavities. Now they focus on whitening, stain removal, straightening, dentures and dental implants.

There is a series of ads for dental clinics that promise “not to rob you” featuring skits portraying people afraid that dentists will demand huge amounts of money for dental care.

woman dentist with a patient

Myths about dental care

I think these ads reflect  myths about dental care that many of us believe and unfortunately base our behavior  on. We need to dispel these myths with some truths about oral health, which includes our teeth and mouth.

These myths include

  • Care of our teeth is mainly a cosmetic concern, affecting our appearance only.
  • Dental care is a luxury, nice but optional, not a necessity, it can be ignored.
  • Dental care is expensive and out of reach without insurance or a high income.
  • Tooth disease and loss is inevitable, so we might as well just accept it.
  • Dental care is low priority, behind food, housing, and medical care in importance.
Surprising myths and truths abut

Truths about dental care  

But the truth, based on recommendations from experts in oral and dental health, tells us differently.

  • Care of our teeth is functional- we need a healthy mouth for eating, drinking, breathing, and talking. Our mouths also help us interact with other people emotionally- frowning, smiling, kissing, singing.
  • Oral care is a basic component of health care, vitally important to overall health. I’ll say more about this later.
  • Dental care can be affordable; it’s probably more costly if neglected.
  • Loss or disease of teeth and other mouth disorders are preventable and treatable.
  • Dental and oral care is vital to overall good health, and ultimately can be cost effective.
Family of 4 sitting at a dining table.
Our mouth- eating, talking, smiling-connects us with our family and friends.

Our teeth and oral cavity, the “window to general health”

The oral cavity, or simply called the mouth ,includes the teeth and gums, as well as the lips, the tongue, the palate (roof of the mouth), and the mucosa (sides of the mouth).

diagram of the mouth from the National Cancer Institute
The underside of the tongue and nearby structures (lip, tongue, salivary glands, and floor of the mouth) are identified. Alan Hoofring (Illustrator) public domain

 


Why  dental care improves our overall health.

Over 100 diseases and at least 500 medications can affect our teeth and mouths. Regular dental care can monitor for these effects and prevent them from progressing into tooth disease.

Our mouths contain over 500 species of bacteria and other organisms, some of which are protective and some destructive to our teeth. Good oral care can keep these in proper balance to prevent tooth and gum disease.

People with poor dental health have a higher incidence of heart attacks and stroke. Experts have not determined if this is direct cause and effect or coincidence, but believe it may be due to increased atherosclerosis (hardened arteries from cholesterol) due to the chronic inflammation of gingivitis.

Bacteria from the mouth can lead to  pneumonia in susceptible persons, like those with emphysema or those hospitalized with critical illnesses or injuries.

Diabetes, when the blood sugar is not controlled, negatively impacts periodontal health, and periodontitis makes glucose control more difficult. Periodontitis is inflammation and infection of the ligaments and bones that support the teeth.

Poor oral health during pregnancy increases the risk for miscarriage, low birth weight, preeclampsia, and stillbirth.

 

Resources for understanding different types of dental and oral disease.

Gum Disease-Also called: Periodontal disease

Tooth disorders

Oral Cancer from the American Dental Association

Paying for dental care

Dental care should not be a luxury, and can be within financial reach with some research into available options. These sites can help you discover what you may quality for.

When You Don’t Have Dental Insurance

Free/Low-Cost/Sliding Scale Dental Clinics

 

 

The importance of dental care for children

Health teeth in adults ideally starts with dental care in childhood. Jenny Silverstone, blogger at Mom Loves Best, has created this  infographic about caring for children’s teeth. I suggest you also read her in depth article about helping children have healthy teeth. 

How to care for your child's teeth

 

 

Don’t neglect adult dental care

Continuing good mouth and tooth care as an adult can help you avoid tooth loss, painful gums, or other problems. If you have any problems with your teeth or concerns about your mouth, see your doctor or dentist right away.

a doctor looking into a patient's mouth
Michael Munger, M.D., examines a patient at his medical office in Overland Park, Kan. courtesy American Academy of Family Physicians

 

Here are some helpful things you can do:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
  • Ask your doctor if your medicines have side effects that might damage your teeth.
  • Look inside your mouth regularly for sores that don’t heal, irritated gums, or other changes.
  • See your dentist every 6 months for regular check-ups and cleanings. 

(source: familydoctor.org)

Using a power toothbrush may keep your teeth healthier, especially if you have any difficulty using a manual brush.I use an Oral-B Rechargeable Toothbrush by Braun.

(This is an affiliate link. )

Oral B Rechargeable Toothbrush

I appreciate your reading and sharing  this post on your social media pages.

And please follow Watercress Words for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH.

Thank you for  viewing  the advertisements and using the affiliate links  that fund this blog; with your  help, we can grow, reach more people, and support worthy causes that bring health and wholeness to people around the world.

Dr. Aletha  , sharing the HEART of health 

stethoscope with a heart

Blessed to be a kid

Blessed to be a kid #Jesus#Matthew19#NLT#TyndaleHouse

Jesus Blesses the Children

Holy Bible, New Living Translation copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois, 60188. All rights reserved.

 Bibles and storybooks especially for children

These are affiliate links.

 

Join myReader Rewards Club  READ.REVIEW.REDEEM myReader rewards club

As a member, you’ll have access to inspiring literature, Bibles, special promotional offers, and much more. Earning points is easy—you’ll receive 25 points just for signing up!

You can also earn points when you:

  • Shop at Tyndale.com or NavPress.com
  • Refer a friend
  • Write reviews
  • Take surveys
  • Sign up for e-newsletters and e-devotionals
  • And more!

My Reader Rewards Club is a great way to earn free books and Bibles for yourself, friends, and family! Your journey to earning free faith-based products starts HERE.

(By your signing up through these links, I can earn free books that I may review for this blog.)

This post featured photos from our volunteer trips  to VietNam, El Salvador, Zanzibar, and Mexico.

Another post for you to consider

Touching lives in Panama-Tuesday Travels

a man making faces at a little girl

Share the HEART of health

Please share this post and follow this blog  for more –

Weekend Words of  faith, hope, and love

(1 Corinthians 13:1)

1 Corinthians 13:13, photo from the Lightstock.com collection (affiliate link)

Have a blessed week. Dr. Aletha 

Top post of 2017- why the increase in autism?

My most viewed post of 2017 was about autism-why the increase?

You’ve heard and read much about autism recently. The top new TV drama this season , The Good Doctor, has a major character with autism (although the actor himself is not).

This illustrates the interest in autism spectrum disorders, and the controversy. We are not certain of the cause, and wonder why the condition is diagnosed more frequently.

Perhaps that explains why this was the most viewed post on this blog in 2017.

Light it up blue-autism speaks

 

 

 

Like other physicians and families of people with autism, I puzzle over the increased number of children and adults diagnosed with autism. Most of us have theories about why we now believe 1 in 68 children have autism spectrum disorders.

People point out that “when they were children” they never knew of anyone with autism. There are those who are absolutely convinced that the increased numbers of autism followed the introduction of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, MMR. Others implicate genetics, environmental toxins, diet, and intrauterine brain trauma.

I found an article that offers a sound, well thought out and expressed explanation. It contains several points that I have identified and some I had not.

The article was published in Spectrum whose commitment is “to provide accurate and objective coverage of autism research.” Spectrum is funded by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. Senior News Writer Jessica Wright, Ph.D. in biological sciences from Stanford University, wrote the report. (Scientific American also published the article by permission.)

In the article, Dr.Wright concludes,

“The bulk of the increase (in autism rates) stems from a growing awareness of autism and changes to the condition’s diagnostic criteria.”

First , let’s consider some terminology. Prevalence is an estimate of how common a disease or condition is in a particular population of people at any given time.

So the prevalence of autism in children would be

the number of children identified as autistic at any given time

divided by  the total number of children alive at that time .

The currently accepted rate of autism is 1 in 68 children, or 1.4 %.

So  autism prevalence depends on children being correctly identified as autistic. At any given time, some autistic children may not be identified, and some may be  incorrectly identified.

We do not have any totally objective tests available for autism yet. There is no blood test, scan, culture, imaging study, DNA test, or  monitor to definitely conclude that autism is or is not present.

UNIQUELY HUMAN- A DIFFERENT WAY OF SEEING AUTISM, a book by Barry Prizant, Ph.D.
UNIQUELY HUMAN- A DIFFERENT WAY OF SEEING AUTISM

 

 

 

 

The definition of and criteria for autism have changed substantially since “infantile autism” was first identified by Leo Kanner over 70 years ago. Since 1980, the diagnosis is based on applying the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In the most recent version, DSM-5, released in 2013, autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, formerly separate, are now a single diagnosis.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is characterized by

  • Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities
  • Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (But may not yet be fully expressed or may be modified by learned behavior in later life)
  • Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.
  • These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay.

At this link you may read the full detailed criteria from DSM-5

Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00 Autism Spectrum Disorder

 

When the diagnostic criteria for other diseases change, the prevalence also changes. Examples include diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, migraine, obesity, depression , even some cancers. So autism is not unique in this regard.

The currently accepted rate of autism, 1 in 68, comes from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, established by the CDC in 2000. Children are identified by reviewing health and school records of 8 year olds in selected counties. So possibly some children get missed, and some assigned incorrectly.

THE SPARK, a book cover; a mother's story of nurturing, genius, and autism
THE SPARK

 

THINKING IN PICTURES MY LIFE WITH AUTISM book by Temple Grandin
THINKING IN PICTURES MY LIFE WITH AUTISM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another major milestone in autism awareness occurred in 1991 when the U.S. Department of Education ruled that autistic children qualify for special education services.

 

Parents of children with developmental and intellectual disabilities  have an incentive to secure accurate diagnosis, to qualify their child for services they otherwise might not  have access to.

 

 

Since 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine screening of all children for autism at 18 and 24 months old. Many physicians, psychologists, and therapists believe early intervention improves these children’s chances to do well intellectually and socially.

If we could go back and review records of children 10, 20, or 30 years ago, and apply current diagnostic criteria, would we find less autism than we do today? Perhaps. But such records would likely reflect the understanding of autism at the time, so might still fail to recognize autism, even when present by today’s standards.

The apparent increased number of children with autism seems alarming-some call it an epidemic. It may represent our increased awareness, recognition, and knowledge about this disorder. And while this increase should raise concern, it can lead to increased research, treatment options, and more effective care for autistic persons.

Here is a link to the original article

Autism Rates in the United States Explained

 

 

 

How The Good Doctor became such a hit

“Highmore’s ( actor who plays an autistic surgical resident ) restrained yet not emotionless portrayal has also resonated within the autism community. Shore (the producer) has heard from multiple people who have found the series inspiring, including one mother who told him that her son, who is on the spectrum and has struggled with depression, agreed to resume therapy after watching the first episode.”

 

 

Will you share this post on your social media pages?

And please follow Watercress Words for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH.

Thank you for  viewing  the advertisements and using the affiliate links  that fund this blog; with your continued help, we can grow, reach more people, and support worthy causes that bring health and wholeness to people around the world.

Sincerely, Dr. Aletha 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most viewed post #2- Why I have “A Different Way of Seeing Autism”- a book review

Autism- a personal and professional perspective #adifferentwayofseeingautism#Bprizant1

I write little about my personal life on this blog, but this post is an exception. I  write book reviews frequently, and this post is one of those.

The book is important to me for both personal and professional reasons, so it seemed a good choice to write about.  I am pleased that it made the top 5 this year.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person’s life. It affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns. It includes what used to be known as Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorders.  Due to changes in diagnostic criteria, lack of definitive tests, overlapping symptoms, and missed diagnoses it’s hard to say what the most common developmental disorder is, but autism likely falls within the top 5.

In this post I explained why I have “a different way of seeing autism.”

 

As soon as I started reading Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, I knew I had found answers to many of my questions and ,more importantly ,fears about autism. The structure of the book parallels my journey with autism.

 

Part 1- understanding autism:

For the majority of my adult life I have understood autism as a physician, which means I understood little. My training and experience as a family physician taught me  the basics of autism, but  little of the treatment and of the condition. My few autistic patients went to    developmental pediatricians , neurologists, psychiatrists,or psychologists so my involvement was  limited to their physical needs.

From my limited exposure to autistic persons, I saw autism as a life altering, disabling , untreatable  condition that disrupted families as they struggled to cope and manage.

a banner reading "aok Walk for Autism

Part 2- living with autism:

My autism understanding and experience changed when I began living with autism- that is, when my 3-year-old grandson was diagnosed as autistic. At 2 years old he was not using words, even though he had been just a few months before. Other changes in his behavior concerned and alarmed me- lack of eye contact, withdrawing from me and his grandfather, ignoring what was happening around him.

Our once happy, friendly baby grandson seemed to disappear.

a cute baby boy
A happy, smiling, social baby boy, before things changed

 

 

I remember the day I sat at my computer searching the internet for “speech delay in toddlers”. The first, as well as the next several references, all returned the same words – “autism spectrum disorders.”

I cried the first of many tears imagining what the future held for our little family.

 

 

toddler
At age 2 years, we all sensed something had changed. Evaluations and therapy soon followed.

 

 

 

 

I started reading books, medical journal articles and autism focus web sites, trying to find something hopeful and helpful to bring to my family’s autism journey. In Uniquely Human I found that help and hope.

 

UNIQUELY HUMAN- A DIFFERENT WAY OF SEEING AUTISM
UNIQUELY HUMAN- A DIFFERENT WAY OF SEEING AUTISM

 

 

 

 

 

Uniquely Human was written by Barry Prizant, Ph.D.

Uniquely Human was published by Simon and Schuster.

According to his official Facebook page, Dr. Prizant is recognized internationally as a scholar in autism spectrum disorders and childhood disabilities.

He is an Adjunct Professor, Brown University, & Director, Childhood Communication Services.

His many honors include

2014 Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association,

2005 Princeton University-Eden Career Award in autism

2013 Divine Neurotypical Award of GRASP.

 

He is married to Dr. Elaine Meyer, an Associate Professor and Director, Center for Professionalism and Ethical Practice in the Harvard Medical School and father of teenage son Noah, a student at Washington University in St. Louis.

In his spare time, Barry plays drums in a rock/blues band, enjoys hiking, fishing and outdoor activities, and is an avid collector of Inuit, Native American and other indigenous art, and antiques.

In his book, Uniquely Human, Dr. Prizant approaches autism from a perspective gained from studying about and treating children with autism for 40 years.

He approaches autism more “how to” rather than “what or why”. He recommends working with the child’s strengths rather than trying to change or cure their weakness.

Much of the “treatment” of autism centers on controlling so-called autistic behaviors. He believes that these behaviors are the way autistic children cope with the challenges of “sensory dysregulation.” We should address the triggers of this dysregulation rather than trying to manipulate the behavior, he says.

 

 

“The central challenge of autism is a disability of trust

Trusting their body

Trusting the world

Trusting other people.”

 

 “The best way to help them (autistic children) progress toward fulfilling meaningful lives is

Find ways to engage them

Build a sense of self

Foster joyful experiences”

 

In his book, Dr. Prizant outlines  ways to help autistic people . From my family’s experience, we have learned the importance of almost all of them.  I list them here, along with some of my personal observations.

little boy walking with mother, holding hands
participating in our community Walk for Autism event

 

 

 

“Welcome them  into your world”

Include them in family and social activities to whatever extent they can and will participate.

 

little boy with Easter basket full of eggs
Success at an Easter egg hunt.

 

 

 

 

 

“Don’t label them – high-functioning  vs low -functioning”

I was pleased to read that Dr. Prizant’s does not use those terms. As he says,

“People are infinitely complex and development is multidimensional and cannot be reduced to such a simple dichotomy. “

He goes on to call these labels “terribly inaccurate and misleading ” and that using them is “disrespectful.” The label low-functioning can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

He concludes,

“Instead of focusing on vague and imprecise labels, it’s better to focus on the child’s relative strengths and challenges, and to identify the most beneficial supports. “

 

He discusses this in more detail in this article from 2012.

A False (Harmful?) Dichotomy 

 

“Engage them; try to communicate”

Not all autistic people are verbal; but they all communicate in some way. We just need to understand how and work with that

2016-09-28-18-50-18
exercising with the video game

 

 

 

“Give choices”

“Treat respectfully, with empathy and  sensitivity”

“Meltdowns are a common occurrence with autism but are not “temper tantrums”. They usually reflect a need or want that isn’t being met, or a situation that is overwhelming or too stimulating.  We try to adjust the circumstances to his feelings, not force him into something that is uncomfortable for him.

 

little boy wearing sunglasses
Check out those shades; being silly helps sometimes.

 

 

 

 

“Humor”

Sometimes you just need to laugh.

 

children in Halloween masks
searching for the perfect Halloween mask with his older sister

 

 

 

“Offer to help but no unsolicited advice or criticism”

I ask a lot of  questions. Whenever I meet someone who has an autistic child or relative, a  special education teacher  or therapist of  developmentally challenged persons , I try to learn something from them. Friends occasionally offer  advice about a therapy or some facility that I often already know about. As long as it is offered non-judgmentally I appreciate their interest. So far I’ve never had anyone overtly criticise.

“Be positive; use tenderness with your honesty.”

 

little boy with a big camera
eager to try new things

 

 

 

 

 

“Celebrate with us”

Don’t be afraid to ask how things are going, as long as you don’t mind sometimes hearing the bad as well as the good.

 

girl and boy in a corn field
exploring the corn maze with sister

 

 

 

 

“Trust- be dependable, clear and concrete”

man and boy on the floor
Rough-housing with grandpa

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am happy to say my grandson is doing well. He benefits from speech and occupational therapy, special education in the public school, and the prayers and support from our friends and family, especially his parents and sister.

I  see him and every other person with autism as “Uniquely Human” ; knowing and loving him has changed my life in  ways I could not have imagined and would not want to miss.

Learn What motivated Dr. Prizant to write Uniquely Human

in this interview by autism specialist Becca Lory

THE SPARK- A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism

Another book that encouraged me is THE SPARK  by Kristine Barnett. When her son Jake was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old, doctors told her he would never attend school for “normal’ children. Undeterred, she taught him herself, building on his strengths. By 16, he was attending college- and helping to teach classes in quantum physics.

I don’t know if Mrs. Barnett knew of Dr. Prizant’s methods, but it certainly sounds as if she used them. Or maybe she just followed her motherly instincts. Here’s how she says it in the introduction.

“This book is the story of how we got from there to here, the story of a mother’s journey with her remarkable son…it is about the power of hope and the dazzling possibilities that can occur when we keep our minds open and learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child. “

I highly recommend this book to anyone who needs or wants to know more about autism.

 

 

 

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Thanks for being here with me. I appreciate your interest. 

Dr.Aletha