- He always wants to wear the same t-shirt
- She always has to have the same book read to her at bedtime
- He always has to be the first person out the front door
- She always eats the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- The interactive game we play always has to be done a specific way
- He has to be the first person to press the button at all the pedestrian crossing points on the road when we go for a walk – if someone else has done it before him you have to wait, not crossing the road, until it is ready to be pushed again, by your son!
FLEXIBILITY is such vital part of interacting with others and a quality that is essential to handling daily life. It is one of those qualities that your child on the autism spectrum could have much more of. It’s also a quality we could also have more of ?, but that’s a discussion for another time. For your child the ability to vary their routine, to handle unpredictable changes in their schedule, to participate in something new and different, and to move with ease as all the small and big changes occur in their day to day life, is a challenge to the very nature of how they cope and make it through their day. No matter where your child is on the autism spectrum, from severe to high functioning autism / Aspergers, they have a challenge processing and handling the stimulus that the world constantly presents them. Bottom-line our children can be controlling and rigid (the opposite of flexible) because this creates a predictable and safe way for them to move through there day. They are doing the best they can to take care of themselves.
For those of you who have been to The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up or our advanced training programs, The Son-Rise Program® Maximum Impact or The Son-Rise Program® New Frontiers, you will have learned all the techniques to help your child grow to be more socially successful, which includes developing greater flexibility. Below are a number of items to review to ensure you are still on track with your Son-Rise Program®, which in turn will help with your child be less controlling and rigid and ultimately more flexible.
Make sure your child is being worked with in their play/focus room on a daily basis. This is the one place on the planet where they will have 99% control of what is happening. Your child has control over you, over the sounds, movement etc. In school, at home, in the playground there are always unpredictable and uncontrollable events happening; noises, physical movements of others and objects etc. that your child is working hard to process. For them it is like shopping at the mall all day during the Christmas holidays!! The playroom gives your child a time in their day when they can experience having control, where they can continue to learn to process what the world is presenting to them. A child who can process more of what the world is presenting to them and has a great feeling of being in control will be more flexible.
Be an example of the very quality you want to help your child develop – FLEXIBILITY. Think about a recurring situation with your child where you get stuck on the outcome going your way. How can you be more relaxed and easy? As you pursue what you want with your child, imagine enjoying yourself, this is an important part of being flexible. Even if you do not get the outcome you want, be relaxed (you can always try again later or tomorrow). This is FLEXIBILITY IN ACTION and will be an inspirational model of FLEXIBILITY for your child.
- JOIN: When your child “isms” (stims) they do so to create an internal sense of control and predictability in the world around them that they do not fully understand. Their “ism” also helps them block out the other stimulus that is bombarding their senses. When we join our child it gives them the message that we accept who they are and understand they are doing the best they can. We give them the space to recharge and regenerate, we give them the message that they are in control and that we will wait for them to show us when they are ready to come be with us. The more a child feels they have control – the less controlling they will be (this is no different than how we are!). Join your child with full delight and acceptance. Do not interrupt; wait for those clear “green lights” before building and inviting your child to interact with you.
- CELEBRATE: Celebration of your child is essentially a blast of love and delight for who they are in that moment. Your celebration is a communication of acceptance and appreciation that will help your child feel more embraced, which in turn will help them be less controlling and more flexible. Don’t be stingy with your celebrations and remember to be sincere as you express your gratitude and appreciation for what your child is doing.
- USER-FRIENDLY: If your child feels that people are inflexible and difficult to be with, then you become part of that world that overwhelms them that they don’t fully understand. Whenever we have an opportunity to help our children get what they want, especially when they are in a controlling and rigid mode, then we want to do so with speed and delight, letting our child know that we love helping them.
NOTE: Remember we said we will give them 99% control and you will maintain 1% control. For example, you may stop your child from throwing objects down the toilet, or running out the front door in winter without shoes. The 1% control you maintain is to take care of your child’s well-being, and the well-being of your home. When you are working in the playroom, and giving so much control, it’s then much easier for your child to handle the other, more rare, cases in which you have to set a boundary.
For the next month add these elements to how you interact with your child. Do it in your playroom and around the house. If you are already doing these elements then see where you can do it even more. Additionally look for situations where you consistently get into control battles with your child. Instead of expecting your child to change, think about what you can do to reduce or prevent these situations from happening.
Have the best time helping your child be more FLEXIBLE!
With much love and smiles,
Executive Director of Programs & Son-Rise Program Teacher and Group Facilitator