Friday, April 27, 2012

Staying Together; Spotlighting Connection

Following up on the previous post about mixed messages, I am still in reflection mode...

One of the challenges I had back then was that my child would not stay with me.  I had to keep up with her.  At the park.  At the doctor's office.  At occupational therapy.  You name it.  If she was ready to go, off she went and I went with her.  She didn't have to stay with me because I stayed with her.

Along with making sure my "talk" matched my non-verbal language, I had to re-visit setting limits and boundaries, while at the same time, spotlighting connections between the two of us.

What do you mean, Penny?

Stop talking to them and use your body to show them limits and boundaries instead, they will begin to see the limits and boundaries and respect the limits and boundaries. Your life will become so much easier when the kids move along with YOU instead of you keeping up with THEM. I cannot tell you how much stress was relieved when I made this change.

The trick is to begin really small. At home. On a day when you are feeling very rested, very calm, very emotionally strong. This is a kind of limit and boundary setting, and they will challenge you, because of your past patterns together.

Examples: Require that they stay with you while you load the dishwasher. Or throw in a load of laundry. Or fold a load of towels. Something short. If they walk away, stop what you are doing, go over to them, offer a hand, bring them back, announce, "We're not finished yet." with a big smile. This is where you can offer opportunities for them to do more than simply stand there, they can help toss in laundry, too, or whatever. If you can block them from leaving with your body, then do that. Use your body, your body language, your actions, your behaviors. I have cornered my child into a corner in the kitchen with me on the outside of the corner, which allowed me to take one step (body language, not "talk") to block her from leaving as I was unloading the dishwasher.

After you have practiced new body language- (and if you are like me, you need the practice - because I was not doing any of this AT ALL) - you can begin to pair words that match your body language and explain, for example, why you don't want them leaving the OT's office without you. 

The other "one other thing" that you can begin to do as you implement different body language and cut down on "talk" is to intentionally look for and create short/brief opportunities that spotlight "staying together", that give her a concrete role with you, that spotlight his role in a connection with you. Use an object. Remember to stay as quiet as possible.  Keep verbal directions to a minimum.  Avoid prompting - prompting robs her of managing her own attention.  Give him plenty of processing time (as much as a minute!). 

Ideas:  Move an end table or lightweight piece of furniture together so that you can vacuum under it. Move the end table back when you are finished. The table becomes the tangible, visible, concrete "connection" that spotlights his role with your role, his "staying with you" role. Ask her to hold one side of the big trash bag with you as the two of you move through the house and gather the trash. Have him help you carry grocery bags into the house from the car with both of you having a hand on the same bag of food. Ask her  to hold one side of the laundry basket as you gather dirty laundry or as you deliver clean laundry to different rooms. Carry a bucket of water together to water flowers in the yard - if you have a stick of wood or a piece of strong rope, hang the bucket across the wood or rope and balance it between you as you water things.

Little things, little moments add up to big experiences that carry over to other people and places.


Bright Side of Life said...

I so hope that this post is read by many! I know exactly what you are saying and *it works*. I take Nick to the supermarket at least twice a week. If he wanders off, it doesn't matter in the least because I know that he won't go far.. he will wait for me or come back to me. The supermarket provides so many opportunities for interaction/engagement. This has been possible because of what you have mentioned in your post! :-)

Sara @ Embracing Destiny said...

Thanks for sharing your wisdom! I am new to the world of autism strategies with my 4 year old so I'm trying to learn all that I can to best help her. Your blog is a great resource!

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