An Open Letter to Parents Who Want to Move to the Next Level
I received an enquiry recently.
“I’ve been following your blog and I’m trying to slow down with my child. I give him time to respond. He is calmer now. Please tell me what to do next.”
It’s a good question and I’d like to answer it via an open letter.
I’m glad you’ve taken the first step towards slowing down. You have moved towards removing the ‘extra noise’ and over stimulation from your child’s life.
I bet you’re in a better and calmer place too.
Once your child is regulated and calmer, he’s in a good space to connect with you emotionally and to develop foundations for learning.
Here are some additional activities for you to try out.
Activities to understand roles
When the extraneous noise is taken away, the child is in a better position to understand what his role is.
This child was used to constant instructions to complete puzzles and shape sorters. In this video, I used a regulatory chant to help him understand his role. I demonstrated initially (even though he was averting gaze) and eventually became the ‘giver’ of the shapes and he started to sort the shapes by himself. The pattern remained the same, but I added slight variations in the way I handed the pieces.
For the last piece, he struggled, but he completed it himself.
Simple enough right? You might ask ‘what’s the big deal?’ Well he’s taken responsibility for understanding and completing his role – without being instructed to do so. He ‘sees’ the bigger picture.
Watch the children in your building compound, playing cricket.
Once they decide the bowler and batsmen- they take their positions and responsibilities without being instructed. They understand their roles and the game.
This activity could be the first step towards that.
Start with simple activities and add complexity slowly. You will see your child becoming more attentive. He will also be able to take changes in his stride. Activities like this also build competence and intrinsic motivation.
1. For self regulation
We tend to focus on task completion. That’s not difficult to build. Keep adding different tasks and work on them till mastery.
This video will change your perspective. It is recorded in real time.
This young boy had no problem with any of the tasks presented to him. In fact, he breezed through each of them –worksheets or puzzles.
The problem was gathering himself to complete an activity, going from one to the other, by himself, without instructions.
Note how his mother guided him beautifully by stepping back. She helped only after giving him time to see if he could get back to the activities on his own.
When she noticed it was difficult for him, she stepped to help him refocus.
It’s important for the children to regulate themselves.
When you work on an activity, you may have five tasks lined up at your table. You need to figure out which one is most important to start with. You may be in the middle of something when an urgent call interrupts you. Once you’re done with the call, you get back to the unfinished task. You do this effortlessly, without even thinking about it.
Yet, when it comes to our children, we instruct them for every task – barely letting them learn to gather themselves.
By giving time to regulate, you’re doing your child a huge favor and preparing him to take responsibility for his actions.
2. To connect emotionally
The label of autism is a heavy one, often coming in the way of living life joyfully. Simple games like jumping on beanbags together create emotional bonding.
Watch how the father and son interacted with each other. The father deliberately set up an activity which included anticipation. He paused periodically for his son to check with him before moving to the next chair or beanbag.
Note the pace and limited use of words.
When we’re unsure of situations, we automatically look around and check what others are doing- to take a cue. This is the role of social referencing.
In typical development, this foundation is in place in the first year of life itself. In the case of children on the spectrum, it may not take off naturally, so we set up simple activities to jumpstart it.
You could try all of these activities and other similar activities too.
Do remember, it’s not about the activity itself, but about the function which lies behind the activity. The activity is an excuse to work on developmental foundations.
The videos I’ve shared with you are not picture perfect. But they’re real and depict situations parents go through.
Autism need not take away from the joy of life. You can have a happy, fulfilling family life. And you are the best guide your child can ever have.
Every child on the spectrum is unique. So is every parent. For this reason, customization is the key. If you need help to customize a program for your family needs, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.