and Not “Lighting Up Like a Christmas Tree”


William Hogan,
Executive Director of Programs of the
Autism Treatment Center of America®


For those of you who have attended The Son-Rise Program® Start-Up you will remember the phrase “lighting up like a Christmas Tree”. This image was used to explain what we tend to do when our children do things we do not want them to do (i.e. knocking things onto the floor, turning the lights on and off, pushing over the trash bin, etc.). We talked about how this makes these behaviors and actions more interesting for our children to do and that when we ‘light up’ we are actually encouraging the very behaviors we say we don’t want. During the recent holiday season your child was probably home from school and/or your child had less playroom time if your volunteers went home for the holidays. During this time you may have been more challenged with maintaining your attitude when your child was doing things you did not want them to do.

Here are a couple of pointers to help you maintain your attitude, during those challenging moments as you begin 2015 (and also ensuring that the only Christmas Tree lighting up will be next December!!)


1.   Remember You are doing the best you can!
No matter how you respond to what your child does always remember you are doing the best you can. Be easy on yourself … it will be more helpful to you and your child if you are non-judgmental and accepting of yourself. Be nice to you.
2.   What might be fun for you may be overwhelming and distressing for your child.
Make smart choices. If a party at friend’s or relative’s house or going on trips to the store etc. will overwhelm your child, consider having someone look after your child or don’t go and have a fun time at home. Taking your child to over stimulating places could result in them being more stressed when home, and hence more button pushing.


3. Hours in the Playroom.
Do your best to spend some time each day in the playroom. Playroom Son-Rise Program time will truly make the difference in helping your child develop the social skills and understanding to not button push.

4. Use the services of babysitter or someone who can be responsible to look after your child
You don’t always need a skilled / trained facilitator with your child. A person who can make sure your child is safely looked after can be very helpful and useful during busy times.

5. Make the house user-friendly.
Look around your house and see what adjustments and changes you can make so that your child has less opportunity to button push or do something you do not want them to do. (i.e. limit access to parts of the house you do not want your child to be in, locks the doors to keep your child from entering certain rooms, put away objects you do not want your child to touch, etc.)

6. When your child does something you do not want them to do or they start ‘button pushing’ for attention use the below basic guideline to help you: If it’s a dangerous / harmful situation … do what you need to do to take care of the situation, even if it means ‘Lighting Up Like a Xmas Tree”. Then take the necessary actions to ensure that this situation does not occur again.

If it is a non-dangerous / harmful situation then do the following …

· Attitude: Remember getting frustrated, annoy, etc will result in you lighting up like a Xmas Tree, and ultimately encourage your child to do that unwanted behavior again!!! Do your best to stay relaxed and calm as you take action.
· Wait 30 Seconds before acting: Since it is not a dangerous / harmful situation, pause for 30 seconds, before taking action. This pause avoids giving your child an immediate response to what they have just done. Then move slowly to take care of what has happened. Don’t make eye contact with your child or talk with them … making eye contact and talking to them could be the very thing your child is seeking!
· Offer an Alternative: i.e. If your child likes to knock over the trash bin – make the trash bin inaccessible and offer them something they can knock over like a cushion or empty cardboard box , etc.
· Change the environment: So the situation is no longer available / accessible.
· Be consistent: Let everyone who comes into contact with your child on a daily basis know what they can do to ensure not responding in a way that could encourage your child to do that unwanted behavior again.
· Celebrate your child: Each time they behave the way you want them to.

Do take time to pause and celebrate the changes in your child, no matter how big or small. Remember you have made these changes possible.

We hope you have a wonderful 2015 and that you continue to grow yourselves to be more relaxed, fun and a more passionate. Be an active advocate for yourself and your child. 

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