FROM GERD: I am currently having the great pleasure to do a Son-Rise-Program-in-home-outreach-tour through Europe. 4 or the 7 children I have visited so far are close to the end of their programs and are in the home stretch of their recovery from Autism.
I’d like to share one experiences I’ve had with Oscar, Patricia & Simon Logan, a family from Bangor, Northern Ireland. Patricia & Simon have been doing a full time Son-Rise-Program with their 9 year old son Oscar for over 4 years now. Through the incredible commitment and dedication of Patricia & Simon, the support of their exciting team and Oscar moving his Autism mountain, he has changed from a very controlling autistic child to a high functioning boy who has acquired stage 4 and is reaching into stage 5 in some areas of the Son-Rise-Developmental Model and Curriculum.
In the last two years that I have visited the Logan’s, one of the first questions Oscar has always asked me: “Gerd, when will I be done with my Autism?” or “How long do I still need the playroom?”
In the past, we’ve always told him that we will let him know and of course always gave him some ideas of what we want him to accomplish, like making friends, being able to go to school, communicating so that everyone will understand him, taking turns playing, being open to other people’s ideas, etc.
This time around, sure enough, as soon as I walked through the door, Oscar asked me the same questions. I told him that I want to watch him play with his friends (his volunteers and some same-age play dates alike) and then I would talk to his parents and let him know a bit later.
After observing him in the playroom , around the house, interacting with him personally and seeing the incredible progress he has made over the last year, including him still needing to ism here and there, I decided to talk to Patricia & Simon about taking a different approach. How about if we make a “contract” with Oscar, in which we list a number of clear program goals and we let him know that if he can consistently demonstrate the skills we are looking for, he will be done with his program. We will type it up and literally will have him and his parents sign the “contract”. Then we would post it on the wall in the playroom, in the kitchen and perhaps around the house and would come up with a recording system in which we could check off his efforts, accomplishments and his consistency and we will do that for however long it will take for him to finish his “contract”.
On the second day of the outreach I sat down with Oscar in front of the entire team and presented the “contract” to him. I explained that I was very aware that he has been asking me and his parents in the past when he would be done with his Autism and that now is the time for HIM to decide when he will be done with it. I explaind all the goals we wanted him to accomplish and why, made it clear to him that HE is now in charge off when he wants his program to end and that we will be giving him check marks as his is fulfilling his “contract”. I also told him that his parents informed me that he is using his Autism as an excuse for not doing certain things he is asked to, by saying: “I don’t have to do that because I am autistic” etc. I told him that this excuse will no longer fly. The expression on his face was priceless. We laughed out loud, seeing that he looked so busted and found out that he tried to bury his face in a pillow.
Then I asked him if he was willing to go along with the “contract” and reiterated that HE is now in charge in how long he want to remain autistic or be done with it. His answer brought tears to my eyes. In a very Innocent sincere way he looked at me wide-eyed and said: “OK, I will do my very best”.
In the meantime Simon wrote me an email that Oscar loves his “contract”, is doing well collecting check marks and that he is very motivated working on his “contract”.
For all the parents out there with higher functioning children, when your child is at a level of when you can talk with them about their Autism, don’t hesitate, but use it. Ask them about their isms, how does it feel to do them, why are you doing it (of course with a sincere, innocent attitude, not that they shouldn’t be doing their isms anymore) and be prepared to hear the most amazing answers, that once again will help you to understand you child more, connect with them more deeply and love them even more for all the incredible effort that all the children are making every single day.