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This blog piece is a report on our ASPIA partner support group meeting in April when one of our members, who's recently completed a Psychology Degree with Honours, gave a presentation.  As follows ...

I’m writing this month’s thought as I’ve come fresh from our April meeting where Natalie brought an amazingly meaningful presentation to us that helped us explore aspects of ourselves and how we relate to our partners.

Without hijacking Natalie’s work or words, I just felt it would be good to bring a few thoughts through so that those who can’t get to our meetings can benefit from the education we’re blessed to receive there.

There are some aspects of Natalie’s presentation that I cannot share outside of the meeting at this stage, but more will be revealed as Natalie develops her ideas.

A strong emphasis that came through is how extremely hard we all work in our relationships to get responses from our partners, often with little or no success.  Natalie showed a short video to demonstrate how distressing it is when an infant cannot get her Mum’s face to respond to her, even though the infant is trying everything she knows or that has worked before.

Natalie then shared a powerful analogy with poker machine players.  When an individual’s effort to get a response works sometimes, ie, the response is intermittent, it then sets up the kind of repeated behaviour that’s behind playing a poker machine - the person keeps playing because it might work, they might win, they might be rewarded, because they have before, whereas if they never won at all they would lose interest and stop playing.  Some years ago one of our members likened this concept to being thrown “crumbs”, sometimes.

Natalie shared many illustrations, and in all of them we could see ourselves.  It was alarming to see the way we try so hard and get very little benefit in return.  We looked at why we are ok with that, why we are prepared to work so hard for so little, and what this is doing to us emotionally.  We all know how deeply drained and exhausted we are.  We are certainly a special kind of people, we are compelled to be helpers and caretakers, and we expect little in return.  It will be interesting to study us some more.

Over the three years that Natalie has been attending ASPIA meetings she has noted how intelligent our group members are and reassured us that our intelligence is a strong protective factor for us coping with our situations. She also reassured us that we are “cycle breakers” and have been a massive protective factor in the lives and development of our children, in spite of the difficulties we’re so aware that our children have experienced with an ASD parent.

Natalie shared so much more, and we could have work-shopped it and asked questions and discussed it for a whole weekend.  We are thankful that Natalie has agreed to bring us the next instalment later in the year.

Natalie emphasized over and over again that the motivation behind her presentation was to help us develop more awareness of ourselves which will in turn help empower us to make choices about how much of ourselves we continue to give.  April 2014
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