#076: Autism and Bilingualism
with Magui Moreno
After getting connected with a BCBA, Magüi and her husband had to ask themselves some hard questions. What was their main objective as a family? While she wanted Adrian to become bilingual, she also wanted him to be conversational in the language of his environment. I often recommend that an autistic child learn only one language for the initial phase of language before adding in the second language.
As a mindfulness coach, Magüi has chosen to focus on positive autism parenting and keeping a healthy mindset. Her own family’s journey has inspired her to reach out and help other parents navigating this world. Rather than soldiering on through the stress of the pandemic, she suggests that you prevent becoming overloaded and keep a healthy mindset by asking three simple questions.
Today Adrian still receives support for his language learning, but Magüi has started to teach him Spanish so that he can talk to his grandmother. Now that Adrian is conversant in English, becoming bilingual in autism is totally possible.
Magüi [pronounced Mag-wee or like the Hawaiian island with a “g” in the middle] Moreno is a mindfulness coach and autism mom. She started her coaching practice in 2016, two years after her son Adrian (who’s now 9) was diagnosed with ASD. In 2018, around the time she moved to Washington DC from the UK, she decided to focus her coaching practice exclusively to support special needs parents. Through 1-on-1 coaching, three online courses and a Spanish podcast on parenting special needs kids, she’s supported hundreds of parents to reduce and manage their stress, increase their and their families’ well-being and connect better with their loved ones. She’s a certified Mindfulness Life Coach by the Institute of Transpersonal Development and by the Spanish Academy of Strategic Coaching (Tony Robbins method). She works in English and Spanish.
- How to decide whether dual language is right for your family, and some of the considerations you’ll need to make.
- Three questions to help you sort through all of the information out there.
- What the three pillars of mindfulness are, and how you can apply them to your life.
Attend a FREE Workshop!
— marybarbera.com/workshops (Sign up for a free online workshop for parents and professionals)
— Picking a Language to Teach to Children with Autism | Language and Bilingual Families
— Man’s Search for Meaning Paperback – June 1, 2006
— The Stress Levels Autism Moms Face
— Managing the Coronavirus Crisis As a Special Needs Parent
Transcript for Podcast Episode: 076
Autism and Bilingualism with Magui Moreno
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Mary: You’re listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast episode number 76 today, I have a special guest who her name is Magui Moreno, and she took my first online course when I created it back in 2015 to help her newly diagnosed four-year-old at the time. And instead of giving a listener shout out, I’m going to read a short testimonial after Magui took my course. She said the course was detailed but not overwhelming, comprehensive, but tailored to early learners. Informative but to the point and always focused on how to practically help children with autism. An amazing feat. And her son is now nine years old. And Magui is going to talk about how to pick a language if you are a bilingual family like her family was. She’s also a mindfulness coach. And so we’re gonna learn some strategies how to deal with stress and lead happier lives. So let’s get to this special interview with Magui Moreno.
Mary: Thanks so much for joining us today, Magui. I’m excited to hear your thoughts on your son and how you progressed to mindfulness coach, and also talk about bilingual language. So welcome to the show.
Magui: Thank you so much. I am so delighted to be here. I’ve been a massive fan of this podcast for the longest time. So it’s great to be here.
Mary: That’s great. That’s great. So since you’re a fan, you know that we always start out with the first question, which is describe your fall into the autism world.
Magui: So my son was born in 2010, so he’s turning 10 in October this year. And he was actually born in Africa. He was in South Africa. We were living in Africa at that time. And then we returned to the UK. I’m originally Spanish. My husband is British. And, you know, he was a very, very happy placid, easy to take care of baby. Met all his development sort of milestones. No cause for concern until about two, two and a half when he wasn’t really developing, you know, in terms of talking that much. We were raising him bilingually. So here’s what the bilingual piece comes in. I was speaking to him exclusively in Spanish and my husband was speaking to him in English. And then, of course, we were living in the UK, so everything was English around. And most people around us, you know, well-meaning family and friends, whenever I would say, oh, but, you know, he’s not really talking that much. They would be like, oh, us. Just because you’re raising him bilingual, he’ll catch up. And to be fair, he was saying two, three words in both languages. So he could say things like mama, water and, you know, things like that. But he just wasn’t. He didn’t progress to making full sentences. He just didn’t.
Magui: So after a while, I started getting more concerned. And it was actually my father who first used the A word because he was visiting from Spain and we were in a park and we were walking with Adrian, my son. And I was trying to point at some birds for him and saying, Adrian, Adrian, look. And he just kept walking on. And we knew for a fact he had no hearing problems. You know, that that was that was already that was not a concern. And I was getting so frustrated. And I remember turning to my dad and saying it’s just like he doesn’t pay attention. And that’s when my dad dropped the ball, you know, and said, well, maybe he’s got autism. And.
Mary: And so then how old was he at that point?
Magui: So he was three. He was just, yeah. I think he had just turned three. So but because he didn’t have any major behavior issues. He totally missed the terrible twos. You know, he was just, he didn’t have any food issues. He didn’t have at that point. He didn’t really have any sensory issues. So it was really the language piece. And the other thing, of course, once you embark on this journey, you find out more about it. And then, of course, you could look back and say, oh, well, I. I didn’t I didn’t see that he didn’t always respond to his name, which is obviously a big tell-tale. And he didn’t always track, you know, when you were. Pointing out things he didn’t always try to finger, and he did stop developing a tendency to play with toys that were very like sensory so, you know, blinking lights and things like that and lining things up. But at the time, I didn’t think much of it. You know, he’s an only child. And at that point, he was the only grandchild on both sides of the family. So, you know, we didn’t know better. So the whole process of getting him diagnosed took about a year. It was long. I had to really fight to get him referred to speech and language therapy, which was kind of like the first sort of step. And it took a long, long time. And when the diagnosis came, you know, he was diagnosed as having childhood autism, as having moderate childhood autism. And that was it. You know, they give you the diagnosis and then I say you’re out on your own.
Mary: So was he four at the time of his diagnosis?
Magui: He had just turned four. He turned four in October. And he was diagnosed in December of 2014. So you can imagine we spent a horrible Christmas. That was that was a really, really dark time. Luckily, my husband started looking. You know, what can we do? We need to find someone to help us with him. And so we were super fortunate to have a BCBA who had just recently moved from the US, who had been working in North Carolina. She had just moved with family to Edinburgh, to Scotland. And we found her online. We got in touch with her. She came and she did the VV map on Adrian. And she told me about your book. I went and bought it. And I like to read it. Like four days. I still have it. And, you know, it’s still highlighted in it. It just really resonated with me because of that whole focus on getting language going. Which was obviously our initial, you know, challenge with Adrian. So. So she was amazing. We’re still in touch with her. She’s still in Scotland. And she basically created a home a day program on the basis of that first Vehbi map. And she saw Adrian through for the for the next three years, three and a half years until we moved to the US where we live now.
Mary: Oh, you live in the U.S. Where are you located now?
Magui: Yeah, so we’re in Washington, D.C. So we moved in 2018. We moved two years ago. But by that stage, Adrian was in a public school, you know, in an elementary school. And he was attending classes with his neurotypical peers every morning and then three afternoons a week. He was being pulled out into what they called a communication unit, which was essentially like an autism unit where they had, you know, it was only like four kids and two teachers. And they were working specifically on language and social skills and things like that. Sohis progress in three and a half years was pretty huge.
Mary: And part of the progress to in addition to my book is you found my online course in 2015. Right. As I was developing it or one of the first cohorts and we talked about this before hitting record and you were really, you know, gung-ho and join the what was then now is called the early learner course as part of the verbal behavior bundle. And then you also were one of the people that were really encouraging me to create the intermediate learner course, because the early learner course, and my book is predominantly to help kids learn to talk. And your son was already talking in two- or three-word phrases. And you and many other parents and professionals really needed to learn how to teach prepositions and pronouns and how to incorporate academics and how to teach conversational skills. So was that effective in terms of your learning to learn online? Through my courses?
Magui: Yeah. I mean, it was massive because, you know, when you’re neurotypical, you don’t know how you’ve learned language. You just have. So when you’re a parent and you’re not obviously you’re not an ABA therapist or, you know, for me, it was like an eye opener to think about language. I mean, I’ve always been very good at languages. I’m bilingual. I speak more languages, actually. But I never knew how to learn languages. I just did, you know. And so to have that so that all that information about the function of language. That to me was like a massive eye opener. Because, again, we don’t talk, you know, to think. Well, we talk because we need to communicate. But you don’t you know, people don’t drill down into the actual function of the words we’re using. And so that that was that really blew my mind. It was very, very important for me to know that to be able to I mean, we had you know, we were lucky that we had a team behind us, you know, that he agent had an MBA program at home. But for me to also be able to carry that through when the therapist wasn’t at home, it was huge. And so to understand the theory, in my case, it really helped me to kind of make sense of why certain interventions were really important and what we needed to focus on and how to apply it with everyday activities, you know, with my son.
Mary: Yeah, so we have both parents and professionals here, and I just wanted to piggyback on what you said about the function of language and what Magui is referring to is that it’s not just expressive language. It’s just not some innate thing that comes out. We use, if somebody says, my child says 10 words? My question is, what do they say? How do they use those words? Do they request things which are a mand? Do they label things which are attacked? Which is more common in kids with autism than mands. Do they answer questions introverbals and can they echo you? Echoic language? Those are the basic verbal operates that make up expressive language. Then we also have the following direction piece and the attention piece and the social piece. Back in 1957, B.F. Skinner wrote a book called Verbal Behavior. And in that book, he doesn’t talk about autism, but he does talk a lot about learning a second or third language. Language acquisition and how it’s not just this innate thing. It’s actually can be taught like any other skill. And so you being a multilingual person, you then we’re given this information like this is how I can teach my son language. So you said in the beginning before that autism diagnosis, you were speaking to your son in Spanish and your husband was speaking in English. And people were almost blaming the delays on the bilingual language being used.
Mary: So do you still see that as being common? And what did you do? Did you did you focus on one language? I know I did a video blog, which we can link in the show notes saying that while I’m not a bilingual expert and I only speak one language fluently, I have seen in my practice where I recommend, which is against what a lot of people say. I recommend teaching one language for the initial phase of language until you get through the BBM map and have a conversational child. I’d like to focus on one language and that language being the language that the therapist would speak, the language that the child would go to school. And that’s the language that would be spoken. So did you take that advice? Did you get that advice from others or how did that work to get over that hump?
Magui: I remember asking you about that, actually. I think it wasn’t one of the Facebook groups that you had, you know, as part of the I think the intermediate course and also leaving a comment after you did your blog on this. And it’s something that I researched myself. I went and looked at articles and things like that. And quite frankly, you know, the articles didn’t really help. I didn’t really come out none the wiser. We had a private like a speech and language therapist that we paid for in Scotland, and she was amazing. She did a lot of joint attention work at the beginning with Adrian and teaching us how to do that whole joint attention piece. And her view was, you should continue talking to him in Spanish and his dad should continue talking to him in English, you know. Which I think is a there’s a bit of a P.C. element to that bit of the politically correct that, you know, that maybe professionals don’t want to be seen eyes and, you know, setting aside your language. Right.
Magui: You know, but in my experience. So what I did and I was quite clear to my husband about this is I kind of thought to myself, what’s the big picture here? What’s the main objective is to get Adrian to talk in a language, you know, the whole bilingual piece. That’s my agenda as a mom. My son had been neurotypical or didn’t have autism and also didn’t have a language processing disorder because Adrian has a language processing disorder as well, then, yeah, that would be a great agenda to have. That would be a great object is to have. But that’s me pushing something is not necessarily going to be in the best interest of my son at this point in time. We. So and also, to be fair, all of my family, except for my mom who speaks a very broken English, everybody else speaks English and understands English. So, you know, we lived in the U.K. we were like, what are we doing here? My husband and I communicate in English. So, you know, whilst I, I absolutely value that being multilingual or bilingual can be hugely useful for our kids. The most useful thing is to be conversational. If that’s if that’s possible to really master one language. And so I scrapped it. I stopped talking to him in Spanish. And we focused on because also from a practical point of view, you know, his school was in English. Oh, his ABA therapy and all the stuff that we were doing at home was in English. And even when I was trying to sing songs to him in Spanish half the time, I’m like, I don’t even know that these songs are right. Like, I’m making them up.
Magui: And, you know, there was no consistency. It was very, very difficult. And it was adding stress to me as well, which is a very important piece that I’m sure we’re gonna get to the whole, you know, parent stress. So we just stopped. And so he has vocabulary because he obviously had it, you know, from the first four years of his life where he knew he was being talked to in Spanish. He has books. And, you know, he does kind of communicate in English with my mom and my mom kind of does a bit of Spanglish with him. He has the desire at the moment. He’s now nine years old and now he’s interested. So I think that’s and that’s another issue. So I think I’m totally with you. I agree that the most important language is the language of the of the environment of the of the country or the school setting where you’re living. And then I think another issue is whether once they’ve reached a certain level, whether kids on the spectrum can then be taught and, you know, a second language later in life because nobody’s saying that he can’t learn Spanish. It’s just that it wasn’t the right thing to do when he was four years old, basically.
Mary: Right. So he is nine now and he is conversational in English. Is that correct? Yes, he is. And so now he is able to and the same thing happened with Chino, who is in a lot of my early videos. I worked with Chino and they were the same boat. They were Spanish, English, bilingual, planning to raise their three children in a bilingual household. And when I showed up and I don’t recommend talking fluently in any language to a child, like instead of saying, Johnny, let’s go up the steps, this time for a bath. What I want to tell parents is just to say, up, up, up, especially in your son, it was a little bit different because he already had some phrases and some words under his belt. But like little Chino had no words. So, you know, if every other time he’s hearing up and every other time he’s hearing the Spanish word for up, it’s gonna get confusing where I like to get some language going in one language. And so and Chino ended up becoming conversational and now he’s bilingual and he�s been bilingual since like first or second grade. So at what point did you get would you would have considered Adrian to be conversational?
Magui: So I think from about, I would say from about seven, six and a half, seven. So kind of we in Scotland, they start first grade the year they turn five. And we just felt that was too early for him. So we pushed that back. So he started the first grade, as he would have in the US when the year that he turned six, which is also the year that he would be starting first grade in Spain. So we kind of went with the sort of Spanish and American model. And when he started school, he was I would say he was almost there. And then that first year in school, he really you know, the language really blossomed. He became much more sophisticated, you know. So the thing that Adrian has always had going for him and I think that made a massive difference in terms of the ABA at home, was that he’s very socially motivated. So in some ways, he’s quite atypical in terms of his autism because he really he really cares about what other people think about him and he really values feedback and he really wants to do well. So, you know, I think that was one of the greatest factors for him, being able to progress quite a bit in, you know, two and a half years.
Mary: And how about reading, writing, academics, is that on track or is that behind?
Magui: Yeah. So part of the reason we moved to the US. I mean, my husband was offered a job here and we actually my husband and I met in Washington, D.C. fifteen years ago. So this is a bit like coming back home for us. But part of the reason we wanted to do it as well was to give Adrian other opportunities that he wouldn’t have had in Scotland. So he attends a private school and it’s not an autism school in that the profile of the kids is diverse. They all have learning differences.
Magui: So there’s kids with autism, kids with ADHD, kids with severe dyslexia and other kind of developmental issues. But they are all very sociable and don’t have problem behaviors and don’t have that kind of independence issues, you know. So, you know, he’s lucky in that a lot of what they’re doing academically is being very tailored to him. So he’s very advanced in math and he’s a bit less advanced in language arts because of his language processing things. But the school refocuses on social skills, building social skills, emotional management and self-awareness. So, you know, they follow those zones, regulation, regulation, curriculum, and they do a lot of the Mitchell Garcia winner stuff on social thinking. So it’s a very good match for him. And it’s something that when we first moved to the US, you know, we talked about could he just go to our local public school? But it’s the schools here which are a huge I think the elementary school in our area is like a six hundred and thirty-five kids. And so we just felt that that would be that would be a you know, it would be a huge step up from the school he was in in Scotland, which was only like two hundred kids for someone great.
Mary: Does Adrian know he has autism?
Magui: So this is very interesting. Actually, my latest blog post is on this and is on, you know, how, when do you talk to your kid? Why would you talk to your kid about the difference, whatever that may be about their diagnosis? And Adrian only recently started getting annoyed and asking about why he had to have OT and speech and language therapy after school and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so I took that as a cue. His dad and I took that as a cue that he was ready to at least start a conversation about some people need more help because some people’s brains are wired differently and, you know, some things don’t come so easily to you. And so we have used the word autism.
Magui: And I have actually created a little story about him, about his diagnosis. I really struggled to find a book that I liked about autism for kids with autism because, you know, I went to the local library and I did a research online. And most of the books were about either like, you know, typical geniuses or kids that were more severely affected by autism than agents. So that’s why I decided to kind of create my own little story, which is available on my blog post. And as a model, you know, so that kids who can write or even if they can’t write, but who can read or who can just listen along, can fill in the gaps as well and say these are the things that I find easy to do and these are the things that I struggle with. And part of the reason I struggle with them is because I have something called autism and you know, and, you know, to write it very much or to tell it very much in terms that they can understand. And that is very focused on their specific struggles on a day to day basis. Because if you talk about autism as a you know, as a as a disease, as a neurological disorder, it just gets it’s difficult for kids to understand that.
Mary: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. So let’s this is a good time to transition into. You said you have a blog and you know these this is available. So can you tell us what your Web site is? And also, you know, how you transition from a mom trying to help your son, to an online course creator or you have a bilingual Spanish and English Web site. You will have a Spanish podcast for moms of special needs kids. Can you tell us a little bit about that transition for you?
Magui: Yeah. So basically, I come from. I mean, I used to work in the World Bank before I did stuff on international development. Know, which explains the whole kind of multilingualism. But I wasn’t really in the field of coaching or personal development or kind of company or anything like that. But what happened was after Adrian was born, I was looking to have a career that was more than I could put in a suitcase, you know, as I say, and I could just move around the world and take it with me. And the idea of mindfulness and the practice of mindfulness had really helped me for a few years before having Adrian. And then especially during that time when he was being diagnosed, that was actually the time when I was retraining as a mindfulness coach. So when I first started on my mindfulness routine practice, it was general, it was for anyone. I worked mostly with women and moms, but it wasn’t specifically for special needs parents.
Magui: And then just before we moved to the US in 2019, after I’d done that for about two and a half years, I decided, you know what, there’s from my own experience personally and then also from having friends who are also autism mums. There is so much focus on helping the kids, which is totally necessary. And this is not one off. But ask parents who helps us, who supports us. You know, we are waging a double battle here. They often want us to get the services and support their kids need to really fulfill their potential. The other one is, you know, against our feelings, our own feelings of like helplessness and frustration, our own grief and often the isolation that comes from feeling misunderstood by family, by friends, by educators, society at large. So I thought, I need to shift this and I need to really hone in on supporting special needs parents.
Magui: Originally, I was talking about supporting autism parents, but I’ve had a lot of parents who have kids that are in some way neurologically diverse. And so, yeah, so I’m supporting special needs parents because I really think that a happy parent is at the heart of a happy family. Families are ecosystems and that, you know, often times, especially when our kids aren’t different in any way. And with something like autism, you know, we soldier on, we sold your own because we feel we have to. And that is right. We do it for our kids. But we have very little regard for our own well-being. And, you know, we oftentimes will continue on automatic for years. And then, of course, we end up exhausted with chronic stress and fatigue and, you know, just chronic anxiety. And so it’s you know, it’s no surprise that as a group, you know, we are that we’re facing some very, very high levels of stress. In fact, I remember it was you who mentioned probably in one of your blogs or posts that there was a US study carried, I think, in 2014, actually, where autism moms were seemed to have stress levels as high as those of soldiers in active combat. And that just blew my mind.
Mary: Yeah, but I think it was I think the study was done a little bit before that, maybe in 2009. It’s an older study, but they actually swab the saliva of moms and showed the chronic stress levels similar back to combat soldiers. So we can link that in the show notes as well. So you’re providing such a great service to and your website for them to look at your sources.
Magui: Yeah, it’s MaguiMoreno.com and it’s fully bilingual.
Mary: And we’re going to link that in the show notes as well. So my book, the verbal behavior approach is in 13 languages and it is not in Spanish, which is amazing.
Magui: That just blows my mind, especially considering easing. Not in a good way. Maybe so. As in like. Yeah, it’s surprising. It’s shocking. Yeah. Because especially, you know, you’re a U.S. author and I would have thought that Spanish would have been the second language it would have been translated into. So why is that?
Mary: Yeah. So my first book is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in the United Kingdom. It was bought out by Hatchet UK and it’s sold well. It’s still selling better than ever because I wrote it in a very evergreen format, just like Verbal Behavior by B.F. Skinner is written in evergreen format. I mean, there’s not a lot of dates and specifics in there. So I really have little control over what languages that gets translated. And I have, you know, provided translators are interested people to Jessica Kingsley many times in Spanish where I met behavior analysts who are like, I want to you know, translate it.
Mary: I think I have a publisher and for whatever reason, it just doesn’t materialize, which is a real shame because like you said, it’s the number one request we get for a translation is in Spanish. Now, I don’t know if you know or if you’re listening. If you know what, I am writing a second book and that book will be out in April of 2021. And that is going to be for kids ages one to five who like your son were showing signs of autism. Whether they’re not talking or talking in little phrases and so much confusion for parents and not knowing where to start or what to do. So that book is going to be published by Hay House and they have the world rights. So I envision getting that book in Spanish. And maybe we’ll bring my verbal behavior approach book into the Spanish world as well. It’s never too late.
Magui: I really hope so, because I actually was not aware that it wasn’t available in Spanish. And if you had asked me, I would have been like, yeah of course, it’s translated into Spanish. But because, of course, I only have it in English, but it just is quite shocking. Again, just thinking about, you know, in market terms, just in the U.S., but the whole of Latin America, I’m just very surprised it’s not available in Spanish.
Mary: Yeah. So hopefully, maybe if somebody is out there listening and they are bilingual in Spanish and English and if you know of, basically we need a Spanish publisher who’s interested in purchasing the rights from Jessica Kingsley. So if you know somebody out there, just email us at [email protected]bera.com, and we will link you up and try to get this to happen because it really would be great. Sobut you have done a lot of work on your blogs and your podcasts and you have a lot of material in both Spanish and English. And one of your recent blogs is on Corona Virus and how it’s affecting special needs parents. And we are recording this in April of 2020 and we are in the middle of the pandemic shut down in the United States and abroad. And so I was just I haven’t had the chance to read that blog yet. But could you give us some of the highlights of that blog and what you’re seeing with additional stress for special needs families?
Magui: Yeah, so it’s quite I mean, this is a very extraordinary set of circumstances, not just because we’re kind of stuck at home, but we are all stuck at home simultaneously worldwide. So I think in terms of the autism community, it has also in some ways brought us together because parents are, you know, with autism, parents in Spain and in the UK and the US and then Columbia are kind of facing the same sort of challenges, you know, being stuck at home with school closures and childcare challenges and social distancing and financial worries and stress and all the rest of it. And financial, you know, financial problems as well. So I wanted to write a blog that opposed that would just gave some very practical and general ideas about how to handle all the difficulties of particularly being at home with kids that have additional support needs and that are basically, in some cases, also missing out on therapies and on activities that they relied upon beforehand.
Magui: So, I mean, all of my work stems from kind of mindfulness as an informing principle. And, you know, mindfulness has become very, very trendy in the past few years and is applied on all kinds of areas of life, you know, eating and the work environment, education and all kinds of things. But it isn’t a magic bullet. And when I talk to parents about being more mindful of their of their life so that they can reduce the stress and increase their wellbeing and for that to trickle down to their special needs kids, mindfulness is not going to take away the, you know, the reality of your tousle autism or of the struggles that they face. And we as their parents face, you know, on a daily basis. But it can help change how we perceive that reality. And in doing that, you know, we can then change what we make of it and how we relate to it and how we take action on the basis of that. So different relationship with it, you know, with that reality.
Magui: So I always say that mindfulness is about doing a 180 on ourselves. It’s not about what happens to us is about what we do with what happens to us, you know, and how we connect to that to that internal experience of what happens to us. So on and actually on the on the blog post, I used a quote from Victor Frankl, who is a very well-known survivor from the Holocaust, who was the psychotherapist who said, when we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. Which I think is really, really nice quote, that applies not just during this whole kind of coronavirus situation, but just generally as kids of as parents to kids with autism.
Mary: So, yes, I want to jump in there quick, because Victor Frankl wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning, which is an older book. And I’ve actually quoted that book a couple of times since the Coronavirus struck because I did a paper when I was pursuing my PhD on spirituality and hope and even to deal with the autism diagnosis and everything. Reading the book, Man’s Search for Meaning and we can link that in the show notes might really help you because basically this man was in the Holocaust concentration camps and he predicted that he only had a five percent chance of surviving. And he just made up his mind that he was going to be optimistic and try to be happy until he either was released or he died.
Mary: And so that really that mindset is kind of the idea of making lemonade out of lemons. And, you know, we’re all, you know, facing different struggles with the coronavirus and we’re all facing, you know, the moms and dads out there that are listening. We�re, you know, with the autism diagnosis or whatever problems we’re habit, whether that’s related to our child with autism or related to external events like loss of a job, loss of income. You know, we still have to keep going and like you say, soldier on. But we also have to, you know, allow those feelings to, you know, not to just soldier on and not mentally, you know, cope with the grief of it all. And the change in and we have children that don’t do well with changes in general. So in your Corona blog, are there any, like, key takeaways of like just simple practices.
Magui: So, I mean, the first one, which is what we’ve referred to, is basically pay attention to your mind and your emotions that do that. So, you know, I always say it’s like a periscope. You know, you’re in a submarine and you’re looking out. We’ll turn that back hundred eighty degrees and look at yourself. You know, look at what’s what are the contents of your mind and what are you feeling. You know, just start with yourself. Start with your worry, which is a totally valid and functional response to a crisis, any crisis, you know. So we are managing big changes. And for most people, the most pressing emotional need is one of security. And, you know, and so we don’t control a lot of things. So it’s normal to feel kind of stress and to feel anxious.
Magui: But, you know, your job is to realize when you are over worrying. You know, there’s very little. So the stress function is totally functional and appropriate in certain circumstances to keep us alive. But it’s like an elastic band. You know, it it it’s it just doesn’t respond anymore because we use it too much. It crops up too much. You know, it’s triggers too much. And so it doesn’t give way and it doesn’t retract anymore. So we’re constantly sort of stressed. And here is it’s very useful to kind of distinguish between what we can control because that’s where we can take action and that’s where we can sort of examine how we’re approaching it, what mindset we’re bringing suit to the situation that we can’t control. But to separate that from what we can’t control and worrying over what we can’t control it, to put it very bluntly, is a waste of energy and attention. Know where we put our attention is where we put our energy. So one of the very practical tips is be absolutely clear, you know, about curating where you get your information from and how much time you spend looking at information.
Magui: You know, do you need to know the you know, the death toll like minute by minute.
Mary: Or how many testing kits are not available in your state? And the governor is fighting and it’s just exhausting. So, yeah. Limit, limit the media limit, you know, because I think it’s different, too, is that it’s a 24/7 news cycle. And it’s just, you know, they just regurgitating the same information. And like you said, we can’t control any of that. I remember I was doing a Facebook live recently, which I have been starting before Corona doing Facebook lives separately Monday at one p.m. Eastern Time on MaryBarbara.com/Facebook. So. You may want to join me there and turn your notifications on so you’ll know when I go alive. But I was on there live and some professional wrote in the comment said, you know, we were talking about Corona virus and the stresses and she said, my high functioning student, you know, is just so upset because we can’t give him a date when this is going to be all over. And I’m like, I want a date, too. I’m with him. It is one of the few things where we don’t have a timeline, but we can’t control that.
Mary: So all we can control is what’s happening right now and our attitude and just putting one foot in front of the other. If you’re, you know, suddenly lost your job. OK, what are the steps to file for unemployment? What are the steps to reach out? You know, if you have a special needs child in crisis, what are the. Who are the people? Do you have a caseworker or do you have therapists? Where can you get help? Or at least information and to take the next step. I think those are really good advice for, you know, a Corona’s situation where there is no time. We have little control over how it’s going to play out. And we just have to try to be a state safe as possible and remain as positive as we can, because keeping kids busy, especially kids who are not as high functioning as your son, is keeping them busy and safe, is exhausting.
Magui: It is. But I think, again, if we if we use our energy just for those things that we can actually have an impact on and then are going to have an impact on our quality of life for our kids� quality of life, we would be busy enough. So why take on extra stuff? You know, so. So in terms of the information of curating your information and sort of consciously limiting how you, you know, consume how basically you’re like, you know, gorging on information. I always say and this applies also at times, you know, even when we’re out of this situation, we do have a tendency to have too much information and to get overloaded with information, which, again, adds to the whole mental kind of rumination and the worry. You know, the mind worries. So I always say it’s not about finding information. It’s about finding the information that you need or that your child needs so that you need to be a better parent to your child. You know, so three simple questions. What do I actually need information on at this time?
Magui: The second question, Will knowing this kind of information prove useful to me right now? And the last one is, does this really apply to my situation? Because, again, you know, when talking about kids on the spectrum or kids with any other special needs, you know, your child would be so different from someone else, even if they have the same diagnosis. So really kind of getting very, very clear about what it is that you need or that your top needs is a very practical and immediate sort of change of focus that will help us to not get overwhelmed, because I think, if anything, a lot of what for most people over overload comes from too much, not from too little.
Mary: Now, that’s good advice. And also with autism information. You know, there’s so much there’s all my podcasts, all my video blogs, all the free content I produce. But like you said, some of it will be useful summit, but it’s fragmented. And so I’m not sure how your online courses are laid out, but my online courses are such that we go step by step to teach you what to focus on, because when you’re trying to learn something, it can be, like you said, too much information out there. So the really good point. OK. So we are getting towards the end of our time together. But I like to end with, and we talked a lot about mindfulness, like especially during Coronavirus.
Mary: But I’m sure as a mindfulness coach, you have lots of strategies in your toolbox. So part of my podcast goals are for parents and professionals to be less stressed overall and to lead happier lives. It’s not just about giving strategies to help our kids, but I really want to give really helpful strategies to help our listener. So any besides, you know, limiting information and things we talked about. Any, you know, two or three points that you want to make in terms of things that keep you less stressed and leading help your life.
Magui: I think the biggest one is really to be kind to oneself. I think that is massive and it sounds very simple, but it takes it takes a little bit of work, you know, because most of us tend to have pretty overactive internal critical voices, you know, that are telling us you’re not doing enough, you know. You know, you’re not doing enough for your kid. You’re all stressed by your screaming at your kid or you don’t, you know, and it’s this ongoing little voice in our heads that most of us have and our special needs parents. It can be really, really tough to live with that voice. So I think be kind to yourself and how does that work? I mean, all my work is based on three pillars, which I think gets you to being kind to yourself. The first one is to know yourself. So invest in knowing yourself. And for that you need to kind of reconnect to yourself, you know, understand your triggers, understand your emotions, connect to your body and connect to your breathing.
Magui: Just breathing, taking pauses during the day to breathe and to check in with your body and realize that, you know, you’ve got tension on your shoulder or whatever. Those are very simple things that we can all do and that foster that kind of listening in on one’s selves, you know, asking yourself, you know, what do I need now? That’s the second pillar. That’s the whole self-care pillar. So the first pillar is get to know yourself better. And I actually always like to joke that I like to do a bit of ABA on myself. I have always against, as I discovered, the whole kind of ABV C, you know, antecedent behavior, consequence. Do a little bit of that on yourself. You know, we’re tracking these on our kids. You know, I’ve done it. I haven’t done it in a number of years. But I’ve done it with my son so many times when he had problem behaviors. What about our problem behaviors? We have them, too. You know, we just keep them in check because we socially censor ourselves, you know. But what about a little bit of ABC on ourselves?
Magui: You know, understand what happened before you were triggered. Understand the trigger itself. How does it manifest itself? You know, are you are you someone who is, you know, very reactive and very kind of fiery? Or are you someone who just keeps it inside and bottles it inside and then, you know, and then the consequence, you know, how does that make you feel? You know, at the end of the day, after weeks of maybe bottling something inside, you know, so self-knowledge is really, really important. Most people would think, oh, I know myself. Right. Well. Well, actually, the challenge of having a special needs kid is gonna give you so many opportunities to get to know yourself better. You know, so get to know yourself. The second step is take care of yourself. So establish that listening. You know, ask yourself, what do I need? You know, how am I feeling right now? And it’s a very, very important thing. And it’s not about the activities. It’s not about taking box with, you know, rose petals.
Magui: It’s about your mindset is about being kind to yourself, you know, and sort of having that one hundred eighty degree, you know, understanding and listening to your internal experience of whatever challenge you’re having to face. And then the third step, when the third pillar is connection, you know, connection with others. Once you’ve reconnected to yourself and you understand yourself better and you can be kinder to yourself, then you can connect to your child with autism, to your spouse and even to family members who don’t support you. The way you would wish them to, you can connect with them better. And you can sort of, you know, just feel more secure. And the fact that you were doing the best that you can. And what other people may or may not think or may or may not offer you. It might work for you or it might not. But it’s OK. You know, it’s OK. As long as you as you are happy in your own skin and connected to your own life and peer and your own values.
Magui: And I think for that third step, you know, thankfulness, gratitude is massive. It’s a massive feel good practice that is very simple that we can do on our own or we can share with our kids. So in our house, we always do it. We do it every day at dinner time. We set my husband, my son and I, and we say one or two things that we are thankful for that day out loud. And it can be something very simple, like I’m thankful that today, Sunny, or it can be something a bit more complicated. And I think also in doing it with your kid with autism, you are you know, if they’re able to do that, which I think is actually quite you know, I think from for the most part, you know, it’s quite easy to say what you’re thankful for. You know, to be able to say I even if you say I like blue, you know. Well, that that’s OK. That’s fine, too. So to be able to validate our kids and expressing their gratitude I think is great as well. So, yeah.
Mary: So those are like that. Those are. And even falling asleep, even if you practice your own gratitude, you can just take your fingers on your hand and do five things you’re grateful for that happen that day or that you’re how you’re feeling grateful for something even in the middle of new autism diagnosis, even in the middle of a corona virus. You can always think about what you’re grateful for and things could always be worse. So I think that is a huge part of self-care and mindfulness that I practiced for many years. So thanks. Thanks so much. How can people follow you and your work? And if they have Spanish speaking clients or children and how English or Spanish, how can they follow you?
Magui: So my Web site which I already said is fully bilingual is MaguiMoreno.com and my blog is in English and then my podcast is in Spanish. I’m trying to be kind of 50 50. So my podcast is exclusively in Spanish, which is a shame because I would love to interview you for it. But that comes out every 10 days or so and it’s on all these issues around mindfulness and kind of wellbeing for special needs parents. My blog is basically the same thing, but it’s in written format and that’s also exclusively in English. I do coaching sessions one on one in both languages. And then I’m also very active, especially on Instagram. And my username is at Mindful Autism Mama.
Magui: And I published both in English and in Spanish so people can also follow me that way. And then my two courses that are online and it’s self-paced studies and you can start it whenever. One is on self-care for special needs parents. And the other one, those are twenty-one audios, the ratio of the ten minutes. So you know the practical because you can listen to them doing other stuff. And the other course is 30 days of pressings. And it’s basically a mindfulness course. But that is very specifically focused for special needs parents and taking into account some of the challenges that we have. And that is 30 daily emails, but they’re short. And, you know, we look at mindfulness like mindful eating and mindful drinking and mindful breath. And, you know, we look at all these different ways of doing mindfulness with all the things that we already do in our day to day life. So it’s again, it’s not about doing more. It’s not about adding tasks to a never-ending list is about changing the attitude with which we face the things that we already do. And I know, you know, in our day to day life, that sounds awesome.
Mary: So visit the Web site. MaguiMoreno.com. M-A-G-U-I-M-O-R-E-N-O. We’ll have that in the show notes, and I’m sure it’s full of great resources. It’s been a pleasure reconnecting with you. It’s been a few years since you’ve been part of my online course community, but I am so thankful that you reached out to be interviewed. I think you have a lot to offer the world and I’m really happy to hear how well your son is doing and that I been a small part of that journey as well. So thank you so much for your time today and I’m sure the listeners will get a lot out of it.
Magui: Thank you so much, Mary. It’s been fantastic. To connect with you and thank you again for all the work you do, and especially as an autism mom for the fact that you are also with this podcast and with all of your other work, also trying to help parents to reduce their stress and live better, I think that that is a huge part of all of this. So thank you.
Mary: All right. Take care.
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