From Amanda: Often times, when a parent hears a child cry, there is an instant assuption of how the child may be feeling. Suddenly, you might believe the child is unhappy, sad, or angry because the child is whining or crying- You may be more inclined to make these assumptions especially with Autistic children, as communicaiton can be a real challenge for them to begin with. At the Autism Treatment Center of America, we believe that when a child cries, they are using this as a form of communication yet we want to give them new and more effective means of communication. We do not strive to “get the child to stop crying”, as we believe this is how they are taking care of themselves in this moment. We also do not assume we know why the child is crying. Instead we move quickly to a)offering the child alternate ways to communicate and b)lowering our energy and slowing down so the child will notice that crying isn’t really the most effective way to move people or the world around them. We want to inspire the child to want to find other ways to tell us what they want.
While in a session with a beautiful six year old boy during his Intensive program at the Autism Treatment Center of America, he suddenly began to cry during one of our games. As he cried, I remained non-reactive and really comfortable, as I slowly and easily moved to see that his body was okay. I then lowered my energy and offered to help him while giving an explanation-“Hmm, It’s hard to know what you want when you cry, maybe you want some squeezes. You can always say squeeze.” When I offered the squeezes, he pushed my hand away, and continued to cry. As he cried, I continued to be non-reactive and offered to help him communicate in a more effective way. I slowly walked to the shelf and offered this sweet child some food “Maybe you are hungry. You can also say eat and I will get it for you really fast.” He took the food and continued to cry while saying “Mummy.” I celebrated this child quietly for using his words to tell me what he wanted and proceeded to explain,in a calm and loving voice, that his mummy was in class and would return at 5:00pm. He cried louder and harder and said “I want mummy.” At this point, I wanted to help him know that even if he cried, it did not mean his mummy was going to come any sooner. Again, he continud to cry. I always made it my priority to love this boy while also loving his crying and wanting his words.
While he cried, I felt completely comfortable and kept my energy low. When I offered to help him, I moved slowly as I still wanted to show him that crying really wasn’t the most effective way to communicate. As he continued to cry, I took my energy off of him and decided, he wanted this time to cry and when he was ready he would let me know. This amazing child cried for nearly thrity minutes and then, he decided he was through. He looked at me and said (without crying) “I want a hug.” At this moment, I jumped up and clebrated him for telling me what he wanted so clearly and gave him a gigantic hug. The child then proceeded to list nearly six different things he wanted-WITHOUT CRYING!
I believe this boy learned that crying really slows down the process of getting what he wants from people and from the rest of the world-He was given a huge reaction and celebration when he spoke using his words, and when he cried, there was no reaction.
I believe he became inspired to use his words.
So sit back and experiment with feeling really essy with crying