Many modalities go against giving a child with autism control. In fact, in ABA the child is rewarded once they succumb to our control techniques (such as asking for quiet hands, basket holds-which is holding a child so they are unable to move until they do not resist, requesting eye contact, etc.). The result is a seemingly compliant child that you are then able to teach cognitive and self-help skills, but as I found over time, what I was ending up with was a compliant child who would only do what I asked if he received a tangible reward. As a result, Lucas was beginning to have little or no interest in being part of “our” world and the amount of affection/human connection he had began to dwindle.
Son-Rise gave me such a refreshingly different point of view in teaching and relating to my child.
As Raun Kaufman puts it,
“You are, for better or for worse, your world’s ambassador, everything you do tells your child what it’s like to be part of your world.”
When we physically manipulate our children, it can work powerfully against the very rapport that is most crucial for their development and socialization. We want our children to have a sense of autonomy and build up a rapport that will enable them to trust us, connect with us and give them a reason to want to be part of our world! Stopping a child from doing something that helps them regulate themselves and rewarding them for it only establishes a state of dictatorship/compliance. I wouldn’t want to socially relate to that person either. I liken it to working a job with a boss you can’t stand. Yes, you work for the paycheck, but you have a grudge toward the person making your life miserable. It isn’t an enjoyable experience and the paycheck doesn’t make you want to be there, it only gives you incentive to stick around. You most definitely aren’t going to be calling them your friend. Autism is a social disorder and making ourselves out to be controlling and manipulative isn’t going to open our children to being more social.
When Lucas needs control in the playroom, we give it to him. We never prioritize any particular goal over interactions with him. The time period of when we hit any said goal doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things…….today, tomorrow, next week, what does it really matter?! What matters is our ability to give our child the perception that our interactive world is one in which they can feel secure, where they are loved and one which is always approving. Our priority is in our relationship with our child!
The past few weeks, Lucas has been using the word “no” quite a lot. This is usually an indicator that he needs to feel more control in his playroom. We as a team take a step back, put goals aside for a little while, and just join, celebrate, and love Lucas in his world. We give him our full attention, love and acceptance. We have done this once before while running the program, and I can tell you that when we did this, we saw the biggest breakthroughs and had more bonding as a result.
Here is a video of one of my sessions this week where Lucas was given full control. As you can see the “no’s” have already become minimal and he is so affection-seeking and interactive as a result. In fact, the clarity of his speech (one of our current goals) has been incredible. Many of the common phrases we have been working on stretching and framing with clarity, Lucas has been independently doing since we have stepped back and made our relationship with him a priority. Goals aside, these are the moments that matter.
He also has been really playful with me and enjoying just laughing with me and being silly. In this video, we are just playing off of each other’s sillyness shaking our heads.