As today is World Autism Awareness Day, I thought I’d highlight A new book by Australian author and mum Sally Thibault, whose son David, now 24 and studying at University, has Asperger’s Syndrome. Below is an interview with Sally and the story of “David’s Gift”
Credit : davidsgift.com.au: A new book called David’s Gift by Australian author Sally Thibault is a real-life story about her long struggle to cope with son David’s Asperger’s Syndrome – an autistic spectrum disorder. The book was released in mid March 2010 to help other parents facing challenging behaviours with children.
The message of the book is for everyone – that it’s not what happens to you in life that’s important, but how you handle it that matters.
Sally was a pioneering parent dealing with autistic spectrum disorder when it was unknown and first being diagnosed in Australia about 12 years ago. Now this complex neurological disorder is the most common developmental disorder in Australia. One in every 166 children in Australia has autism and that number has increased to one in every 91 children in the USA. Three out of every four are boys.Interview with Sally Thibault ABC Queensland 1st April 2010 Download
Already being touted as a must read for all parents, teachers and health care professionals, David’s Gift helps others understand the pain and emotions parents deal with as they navigate the challenges of having a child with ASD.
Thibault’s story is inspirational and offers hope to people from all walks of life, especially those with disabilities. The book reveals useful information about Asperger’s Syndrome and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), and gives parents real, tangible tools to assist them to come to terms with the diagnosis and create strategies to ensure their child grows to be a strong, self-actualised and confident young adult.
“When Asperger’s Syndrome first came into our lives it presented us with a challenge that, at the time, seemed sad, unfair and overwhelming. It is only now I can see that it was in fact an incredible gift,” said Mrs Thibault.
“As parents, we had to become the people we wanted David to be. What we learned about ourselves and who we became as people was David’s gift to us.”
“The book transcends the issue of autism and can be transferred to anyone’s life situation. The story has the potential to transform how people view the challenges they face, by helping readers see how those challenges are a gift offering them opportunity to grow and have a better life.”
Sally Thibault is a ‘wise mother’ of three children aged 24, 22 and 16, who has lived with autistic spectrum disorder for 24 years. She hopes her honest account of parenting a child with Asperger’s Syndrome will help other parents learn through her experiences.
When her eldest son David was a toddler, Sally knew he was different from other children. After searching for answers for many years, it wasn’t until David was 12 years old that he was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an autistic spectrum disorder, in 1997.
“Back then, there wasn’t nearly as much information about Asperger’s as there is today, but judgements still haven’t changed in 12 years,” said Mrs Thibault. “One of the greatest challenges for children with ASD and their families is coping with a world that doesn’t accept difference very well.
As Barack Obama said: “My advice is to cultivate a sense of empathy – to put yourself in other people’s shoes – to see the world from their eyes. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.”
Asperger’s Syndrome is the mildest and highest function end of the autistic spectrum. People with Asperger’s find it difficult to understand social skills, often misunderstand the use of language and can be considered ‘obsessive’, focussing on one particular area of interest. People diagnosed with Asperger’s are generally intelligent, intense and self-focussed individuals who usually find success in a career that requires enormous amounts of attention to detail.
Steven Spielberg was diagnosed with Asperger’s as an adult. Today, David is following a similar career path and studying to be a digital video editor, which is perfect for his personality type.
Bill Gates is suspected to have Asperger’s Syndrome, along with Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin and Ludwig van Beethoven. David’s Gift has parallel themes to the award-winning book and film, The Horse Boy – a true story about a father’s quest to heal his autistic son by traveling with horses through Mongolia.
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This post is is sourced from a series of reports on research presented at the Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science in May this year. This one struck me as very interesting but not surprising.
Researchers have noted for decades that children view their home environment and relationship with their parents as “models”, and that this is usually reflected in how these children interact in new environments in the future. For example, children who are exposed to highly aggressive parenting are in turn more likely to use hostility and aggression as means to attain their own goals (see our review of Hoevet et al. 2009 meta-analysis on parenting and delinquency). Children also model positive behaviors. For example, children who see parents reach amicable resolutions to conflicts are also more likely to learn better conflict resolution skills.
Following this line of research, some investigators have examined whether child exposure to specific bonding or attachment styles are also likely to affect how these children act in their own close relationships later on. To answer this question, a research group from Rider University examined the role of the quality of father-daughter bond in the development of positive romantic relationships during young adulthood.
The authors studied 78 teens and young adults (average age 19), who reported on the quality of their relationship with their fathers and their current boyfriends. Three specific relationship domains were examined, namely: communication, trust, and time spent with their boyfriends/fathers
1. Girls with good communication with their fathers also had significantly better communication with their boyfriends when compared to girls with low communication with their fathers.
2. Girls with high levels of trust with their fathers also had significantly better communication and trust with their boyfriends.
3. Finally, time spent with their fathers was not associated with communication, trust or time spent with their boyfriends.
At first glance, the data seem to show that the quality of bond between daughters and fathers, specifically communication and trust (albeit not time), predicts better communication and trust with their boyfriends. One interpretation is that these girls learn to create secure attachments with their dads, which allow them to then have more positive relationships with their boyfriends (more trust and better communication). It is also possible that fathers contribute to the modeling/development of good communication skills and trust, which affect how these girls interact with their boyfriends. However, it is also possible that this reflects an individual characteristic of the girls themselves and is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the father-daughter bond. That is, it is possible that girls who have good communication with their fathers simply have a specific temperament or communication styles/skills that facilitate the development of good father-daughter communication, and it is this individual characteristic that also leads to better communication with their boyfriends. But more than likely a combination of individual characteristics and child-parent relationships is driving this effect, which would be in line with previous research on the effects of adolescent-parent relationships in later romantic relationships. For example, Donnellan et al. (2005) found that both personality traits and parenting experiences during adolescents predicted the quality of romantic relationships in young adulthood.
All in all, the results are nonetheless very interesting in showing how the quality of father-daughter relationships may affect how daughters experience their relationships with their boyfriends
Nemeth, Ansary, Seiden, & Keith (2009). Father-Daughter bonds and the quality of daughter’s romantic relationships: Are the two significantly linked? Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science. San Francisco, May, 2009. Dr. Nadia Ansary is at Rider University.
Donnellan, M., Larsen-Rife, D., & Conger, R. (2005). Personality, Family History, and Competence in Early Adult Romantic Relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88 (3), 562-576 DOI: 10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.522
Hoeve, M., Dubas, J., Eichelsheim, V., Laan, P., Smeenk, W., & Gerris, J. (2009). The Relationship Between Parenting and Delinquency: A Meta-analysis Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology DOI: 10.1007/s10802-009-9310-8
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- Mother’s love keeps sons on the straight and narrow, study finds (telegraph.co.uk)
- Who are the “Good Fathers”? (timesunion.com)
In July 2002 I had a ( and I know I am sounding melodramatic here) life-changing and career rattling experience when I attended a two day workshop with Colorado-area Marriage and Family Health Center director and psychotherapist Dr David Schnarch, in Sydney,Australia. (UPDATE: also see a related post HERE)
Schnarch is plugged as the “rightful heir” to sex science pioneers Masters and Johnson. But he’s not their disciple. In the 1950s they introduced the idea that sex was a natural function and should be regarded as such. At one level, that was tremendously liberating, he says. But at another level it was an inherently pathological model in which sexual difficulties (or dysfunction, as they became known post-Masters and Johnson) were treated as abnormal. In fact, says Schnarch, sexual difficulties are a normal part of the healthy development of an emotional relationship between adults.
We were a mixed group that arrived at the Mary McKillop Centre for the workshop. Dr. Schnarch went to some trouble to make us all feel at home (even forsaking his tie, as is the custom in this part of the world).
He warned us it would be “like drinking from a fire hose” and he was right. There was so much practical wisdom in what he was saying that it was hard to take it all in. But we did. People changed over those two days. I did.
At the same time I became more and more excited at the robust promise of Dr. Schnarch’s work. It is increasingly accepted that he is offering a new paradigm in sexual and marital therapy, however I see this paradigm as offering new approaches to all forms of psychotherapy. To be able to approach clients from a genuinely non-pathologizing stance, and to work in such a way that I am speaking to and drawing on the best of them is a goal often promised but rarely, if ever, delivered on till now.
Materials in Dr Schnarch’s Passionate Marriage series highlight how common issues about intimate sexual relationships and common problems with sex and intimacy are really part of a system: Marriage is a natural “people-growing process” and the inevitable sexual boredom, lack of passion, and communication difficulties are the drive wheels and grindstones of adult development. Relationships are shaped by more than unresolved childhood issues, past “wounds,” and family-of-origin problems. Even when these are non-existent, marriage becomes contentious because the growth processes in emotionally committed relationships surface in sexual interactions and other intimate exchanges. These are not situational problems to be solved and avoided. Rather, they are dilemmas to go through because they make us grow capable of the intimate sexual relationships and eroticism we seek. Common sexual and relationship difficulties are midpoints in the evolution of healthy relationships rather than signs of personal inadequacy, incompatibility, or falling out of love.
Passionate Marriage focuses on life-long sexual development rather than merely curing sexual dysfunctions or improving sexual relationships (it does this too). Most people never reach their sexual potential–and those who do are generally well into their 40s, 50s, and 60s. This is a pleasant surprise to many people because it’s common to confuse genital prime with sexual prime. In reality, we are more capable of intensely intimate sexual relationships and blatant eroticism as we mature. Most people are much better in bed as they get older. Sexual potential and cellulite are highly correlated!
Instead of emphasizing listening skills, communication, compromise, or negotiation, Passionate Marriage shows how “your relationship with yourself” controls both intimate connection and sexual desire for your partner. This revolutionary approach offers concrete ways to use your sexuality to build a stronger sense of yourself while getting closer to your partner. Most marital enrichment approaches emphasize other-validated intimacy: expecting empathy, reciprocity, and validation from your partner when you disclose. Passionate Marriage emphasizes self-validated intimacy: validating and accepting your own disclosures, and learning to soothe your own heart. This shift allows you to use emotional gridlock, difficulties being intimate, and problems in your sexual relationship like sexual boredom, and low desire to develop yourself while creating a more intimate, passionate, loving relationship with your partner.
This approach has lots of practical applications. Passionate Marriage decodes the “language” of sex, showing how your interactions in your sexual relationship reveal you, your partner, and your relationship. Discover new psychological “styles” of having sex and dimensions of sexual experience. Learn how eyes-open sex (and orgasms) can bring hot passion and new intimacy to your relationship–and make you grow. What partners learn about maintaining themselves in their intimate sexual relationships has immediate application outside the bedroom too. Although better sex doesn’t automatically make for a better relationship, the personal growth required to enhance the sexual and intimate aspects of relationship is the same growth that improves relationships in other ways, often at the same time.
Rather than focusing on “touch techniques,” the book Passionate Marriage and associated workshops emphasize intimate and emotional connection during sexual interaction. Expect explicit discussion of sexual behavior, practical tips, and details of couples’ going through the “people-growing” crucibles inherent in emotionally committed relationships.
These books are essential resources for all married or committed couples, not just those who think they are in trouble. More over the next few weeks.
Questions? Leave them in the comments. email me via the link on the right or tweet them.
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- Good Health Equal Good Sex, Researchers Say (medhealthwriter.blogspot.com)