Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mixed Messages

As an autism interventionist mom, I am still a work in progress.  The last couple of days, I have been reflecting.

I remember when we made the switch away from behavioral to developmental intervention.

Our consultant told me that I talk too much.  I needed to stop using so much "talk" and to begin to communicate in other ways.

I needed to use my body to interact with my daughter.  She wasn't using her body; she was relying on my words.  Words are only 20%-30% of communication, which means she was missing a lot around her.

The developmental intervention began to focus on me, on my behavior. Slowing down. Being quiet while communicating in "non-talk" ways.

I began to practice "non-verbaling" with my daughter who is on the autism spectrum.  Reluctantly.  I didn't think it would work. (I was wrong. It changed our lives in a big way when she began getting experience and practice in all things non-verbal.)

Turns out, I learned something about me.

I was not consistent between my "talk" and my body language.  I was sending mixed messages to my children.

And it took my trying out the turning-off-"talk"-while-communicating-richly-in-other-ways with the neurotypically developing sibs for me to learn my lesson.

This was probably seven or eight years ago.  I hated to take the kids shopping with me.  They were experts at nagging, whining, begging for toys or candy while we were in a department store, and they exhausted me. I'm not sure why I took so long to use "non-verbaling" with the sibs, but one night at Wallyworld, I gave it a try. The first time one of them held up a little toy and began to beg for it, I paused, went into slow-motion, shook my head, "no" and waited for the begging to begin.  I was surprised when that child put the toy down and began to walk along with me on my shopping trip.  My verbal response, "No, you do not need that!" was, to them, an invitation to negotiate with them, because I had engaged their negotiation attempts so many times. Sometimes, I gave in and bought them the toy.  My actions, my behavior did not match my verbal "no". When I began giving them a sad expression and a head shake, "no", I realized that I could stop their negotiation. When I made my words and actions match, they got the message. Their whining and begging was something I had behaviorally reinforced with my mixed messages. What a discovery.


Anonymous said...


I am going to pay more attention to mixed messages I might be sending through body and verbal language.

Thanks for posting.

Bright Side of Life said...

Nice post, Penny. You are lucky it works with the sibs. My Thomas looks at me and says "I know that you are trying to RDI me!!!" :-)

walking said...

I did "stop the action" at the store before I had ever heard of it. When the kids were little, David tried the whining act at the store, "It's taking too long." I'd stop the cart and stare until he stopped whining. He quickly realized that it was going to take even longer if he didn't stop whining! LOL

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