Monday, January 29, 2007

Autism on The View

Today's episode of The View was dedicated to Autism Spectrum Disorders. For those of you who know someone with an ASD, you know how debilitating it can be. I have worked with teens who are on the Autism Spectrum, and I cannot stress enough the importance of early intervention. Parents are the experts on their own children. If there's something in your gut telling you that something is not right with your child, be persistent. Unfortunately, doctors sometimes dismiss parents' concerns as undue worrying. But if your child is missing early developmental landmarks for speech and behavioral skills, it could indicate the presence of an ASD. Early behavioral and speech therapy for kids affected by an ASD are the best treatment options available. If diagnosed and treated early enough, children have a chance of better understanding the social world around them and engaging with it. Having parents with a boundless source of hope, patience, and energy, I think, is key to these kids' successes.

For those of you who are wondering what it's like to have an ASD, I highly recommend 2 books. The first, "Thinking in Pictures" is written by Temple Grandin, a remarkable woman who has gained great insight into her own struggle with autism by studying animal behavior. The second is a novel: Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time". While it is a work of fiction, the story is told from the point of view of a young boy with an ASD and gives a unique look at how someone with an ASD engages with the world around him. Funny and moving--it's a terrific read.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Postpartum Depression Happens to Dads, Too

Recent studies indicate that postpartum depression isn't just a phenomenon that affects women; men can struggle with it, too. This Seattle Times article sums up some recent findings on the topic. And while women's ppd may be brought on by hormonal changes, the same is not true for men; thus, the research suggests that dramatic lifestyle shifts--not hormonal ones--may contribute more to ppd than previously thought. When you think about it, it makes absolute sense. A postpartum *family* often experiences sleep disruption, changes in identity, different parenting challenges, changes in intimacy, and greater contact with extended family and/or kin networks. All of these lifestyle changes bring about a certain amount of stress. Taken individually, a family may weather the challenge without much trouble. But when these challenges happen concurrently, it's easy to see how depression might creep into a mother's or father's life. And while American culture does much to celebrate a new baby's arrival (as well we should), what is less discussed is the loss parents incur by becoming parents. With growing awareness about how postpartum depression may affect women, postpartum women and the people who care for them are much more attuned to noticing the signs and symptoms of depression. Now we know that we need to be just as vigilant with fathers, as well.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Exercise and the Winter Blahs

We are in the dead of winter here in Seattle, which means it is also the dead of cold and flu season. With my blessings, my darling husband went away for a three-day ski trip with friends while I stayed behind with our sniffly 10 month old daughter. Well, as you might imagine, her little sniffles soon turned to a very nasty--and contagious--cold that put me under as well. Add to this "lovely" mix an ill-timed snow storm, and I found myself sick, alone, and stuck indoors with a sick baby. After three days of hibernating indoors, we were feeling a little better, though we were by no means fully recovered. I reminded myself that my daughter would not die if we walked to the playground and back. Though we were gone less than an hour, we returned home in improved spirits. When my husband returned that night, I could honestly say that I didn't begrudge him for going skiing and having fun without us. While I would have certainly appreciated his company and help over the weekend, he couldn't have magically made our noses drain any faster, suppressed our coughs, or eased our fatigue.

I share this story because I believe if we hadn't gone on that short walk, my mood would have probably been a lot worse when he came home. I might have tried to hold him responsible for my having a trying weekend at home, when really no one is to blame: It's just winter, and so sometimes we get sick and feel terrible. Despite "knowing" the truth in my head, a part of me may have wanted to make him feel guilty for leaving--a part of me that might have tried to pick a fight. Instead, I believe that, with exercise, another part--a better part--of me prevailed that night, and I'm happy to report we had a very enjoyable conversation about our weekends over a long, relaxed dinner. I hope that in the future that our evening together will serve as an important reminder that a little exercise for me can lead to a more harmonious and enjoyable family life.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Postpartum Support

When working with post-partum women who are experiencing depression, I've encountered this pervasive idea that mothers must be "strong" and take care of their children and families first--and themselves last. Popular culture does much to reinforce this idea. How many commercials have you seen where mothers are driving around in minivans, doing the shopping, picking up children from school, dropping them off at soccer practice, and still manage to have dinner on the table while somehow managing to keep the kitchen immaculately clean? Unfortunately, popular images of mothers do little to reinforce the idea that a mother who takes care of herself IS taking care of her family. The post-partum period (which I think is much longer than many doctors would have us think) requires special attention. Indeed, healthy children need healthy parents. By asking for help and support, parents are doing it not just for themselves, but for their children as well. Here is a good clearinghouse for post-partum parent support in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder on the Tyra show

Tomorrow's episode of the Tyra show (10:00 a.m. on NBC for those in the Seattle area) will focus on people affected by Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I have no idea how informative her interviews will be, but as someone who has worked for over a year with someone affected by OCD, I must say I have a lot of respect for OCD and those affected by it. By "respect" I mean that OCD uses some rather ingenius tactics to get people to do what it wants them to do; to do anything counter to OCD is an act of great bravery. The "voice" of OCD is very compelling and hard to resist. It may warn someone that something terrible will happen, someone they love may get sick or even die if one doesn't do what OCD demands. The "voice" of OCD often appears in childhood and can remain with someone long into their adult years. For those looking for resources on the subject, I recommend the book "The Sky is Falling" by Raeann Dumont. It is an insightful and practical narrative on one woman's work with people (primarily adults and some children) whose lives are greatly affected by OCD and the steps they took in order to take a courageous stand against OCD and its demands. It's a must-read for anyone seeking to understand OCD and other forms of anxiety and phobias better.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Seattle parenting resources

For those of you in the Seattle area, Villa Academy offers some free parenting resources that you may like to check out. I'm especially interested in the one on brain science and how it relates to children's social/emotional-preparedness for school.