The World Within: Reducing stress



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Posted on December 29, 2009 at 4:54 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 2 at 12:27 PM

Getting squished by a huge ball is one way Jon Runge reduces stress. In his highly-sensitive world of autism, where life can feel like it's in fast forward, this helps him stay calm and focused.

"So over time we are looking at some changes in the sensory system so situations that might have been over arousing don't feel as over arousing," said Pediatric Therapist Carey Goldenberg.

Jon and his twin brother Nathan, both teenagers with autism, are at Seattle Therapy Network in Georgetown for their weekly session of physical and occupational therapy.

On an obstacle course that changes every visit, therapists Sherryl Devries and Carey Goldenberg coach the boys through an "Indiana-Jones"-like adventure.

With the courage of a super hero, they narrowly escape a cave riddled with spiders, twirl through the eye of a tornado and finally swing to safety.

Sure, it's a lot of fun for the boys, but the therapy also helps Jon and Nathan stay in tune with their bodies.

They call it their engines. An engine of emotions running on high can overheat and spin out of control until it gets ugly.

"Public escalations are a very scary thing," said dad Richard. "When they escalate, when they get into a place where they are stuck mentally and don't know how to perceive all that's going on around them."

"Think of a car, we call it vapor lock. It's just stuck it's not going to go anywhere, just vapor locked," said mom, Kim.

"It's scary because it can get physically aggressive," said Rich.

"When these kids are escalated, you are basically dealing with, like a thousand men coming after you," said Kim. "But, we have a plan where you know where we are understanding when they are about to escalate and it's like you need to go to your safe spot."

Rich and Kim say there have been some tough times, and they were looking at divorce, but, said Rich, "It has galvanized our relationship."

Research shows parents of kids with "autism spectrum disorder" experience higher levels of stress compared with parents of children with other developmental disabilities.

Professional help can help couples cope or they can sit down and talk about it.