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US Autism & Asperger Association
March 18, 2011

Welcome to USAAA WeeklyNews, an email newsletter that addresses a range of topics
on Autism Spectrum Disorders including Asperger's Syndrome.

Headlines:

Special Consideration

"I Think the Cure Is Worse than the Disease": The Importance of Realistic Expectations and Self-Compassion

Does your life ever feel like "Groundhog Day?"

In Va. assault case, anxious parents recognize 'dark side of autism'

Special Consideration

Advisors help parents of special needs children tackle unique planning challenges.
By Jerilyn Klein Bier

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There’s an elephant in the room with many special needs families and it’s putting millions of young and adult children in a precarious state.

Rajput strongly advocates making a special needs trust stand-alone rather than burying it inside the parents’ estate trust. Let’s say a child’s mother dies and then her grandmother dies, leaving money to help pay for her care. But since her special needs trust is inside her parents’ estate and her father is still alive, it isn’t activated yet. “You have the pot and coffee but nowhere to put it, no cup,” she says.

MetLife’s 2005 survey, “The Torn Security Blanket: Children with Special Needs and the Planning Gap,” found that 88% of parents who have children with special needs haven’t set up a trust to preserve eligibility of government benefits, 84% haven’t written a letter of intent outlining an agreement for the child’s future care, 72% haven’t named a trustee to handle the child’s finances and 53% haven’t identified a guardian for their child.

“Most parents are focusing on day-to-day needs, and often, long-term planning goes by the wayside,” says Michael Beloff, CFP, a financial advisor with MetLife’s Barnum Financial Group in Shelton, Conn. About 32% of parents spend more than 40 hours a week caring for their special needs child—the equivalent to a second full-time job, according to the survey. Many parents also continue to have difficulty finding comprehensive guidance related to special needs planning.

Click here for entire story on Special Consideration.


"I Think the Cure Is Worse than the Disease": The Importance of Realistic Expectations and Self-Compassion

brooksIn our book The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life, Sam Goldstein and I described Larry Whitaker, a man in his early 40s whom I saw in therapy. Larry was overweight and had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. His physician warned him that unless he began an exercise and diet program, he was placing himself at risk for a stroke or heart attack. Larry knew he had to make changes in his lifestyle but had been unsuccessful in the past, which intensified his sense of failure and distress.

"Unrealistic goals and expectations that he established for himself served as daunting obstacles for improving his lifestyle."

Larry questioned whether therapy could be beneficial. At our first session he said that he felt "very discouraged and sad." He explained, "I don't think I have the energy to try anything new." He commented that he was hesitant to call me for an appointment and did so only on the strong recommendation of his physician who was very concerned about Larry's deteriorating health and his level of unhappiness.

"As a clinician I believe that one can focus on reinforcing either optimism or self-compassion and in the process both of these factors will be strengthened."

Larry offered a poignant comment as we discussed his pessimism and sadness. "I think the cure is worse than the disease. I actually feel worse when I try to change because I always seem to have difficulty following through, and then I feel like a real failure." When I asked Larry to describe his previous attempts to alter his lifestyle, it became apparent immediately that these efforts were characterized by a desperate quality that resulted in unrealistic goals and expectations. If there were specific words to describe the script he was living they would read, "Major change must take place quickly or I will think they are not effective." When his expectations were not realized he became increasingly discouraged, prompting him to abandon his goals rather than modify them.

"The person who has never tried and failed will never succeed. Each time I walked away from the plate after a strikeout, I learned something, whether it was about my swing, not seeing the ball, the pitcher, or the weather conditions, I learned something. My success is the product of the knowledge extracted from my failures." —Willie Stargell - a Hall of Fame baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Click here for entire story on "I Think the Cure Is Worse than the Disease": The Importance of Realistic Expectations and Self-Compassion

Dr. Brooks is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has served as Director of the Department of Psychology at McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric hospital. He is the author of a book titled The Self-Esteem Teacher and has co-authored over twelve books.


Does your life ever feel like "Groundhog Day?"

by Robert Naseef, PhD

groundhog day imageHave you ever thought what it would be like if you were Phil?Stuck and re-living the same day for who knows how many days or months? Do you wonder what you would do if you were stuck and suffering through the same day over and over again?

I have a friend who has a son with classic autism and other medical complications. Some days his son will have horrible tantrums and bang his head on the wall. The walls in his house have been patched, but the memories and the worries live on. He says that his life feels like "Groundhog Day."

"The pain of my son’s autism over 30 years ago kicked open that door for me. My awareness has grown ever since....Even in our pain and suffering, we can find a way to go on and keep trying to look for the possible."

In the movie Bill Murray plays Phil, who is an arrogant and sarcastic weather forecaster. Phil spends the night in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in order to broadcast the annual ritual of the coming out of the groundhog. When he wakes up the next morning at 6 AM again, he is annoyed to discover that he is trapped for a second night because of a snowstorm. It turns out to be the morning of the day before, and everything that happened the day before happens all over again.

Click here for entire story on Does your life ever feel like "Groundhog Day?"


In Va. assault case, anxious parents recognize 'dark side of autism'

By Theresa Vargas, Washington Post Staff Writer

momWhen a Stafford County jury this month found an autistic teenager guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer and recommended that he spend 101/2 years in prison, a woman in the second row sobbed.

It wasn't the defendant's mother. She wouldn't cry until she reached her car. It was Teresa Champion.

The issue resonates not only with parents but with police. Every year, the International Association of Chiefs of Police picks one major issue to address at a national summit. In 2010, it was improving police response to people with mental illness and such conditions as autism.

Champion had sat through the trial for days and couldn't help drawing parallels between the defendant, Reginald "Neli" Latson, 19, and her son James, a 17-year-old with autism.

James might have said this, she thought. James might have done that. She had fresh bruises on her body that showed that James, too, had lost his temper to the point of violence.

"This is what we live with," said Champion, of Springfield. "When they go over the edge, there is no pulling back. "

Click here for entire story on In Va. assault case, anxious parents recognize 'dark side of autism'


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