“My child will hate being in the playroom all day!”

“He’s frustrated when he hits his chest!” 

“My child hates when people sing!”

“He will never eat broccoli!”
“My child won’t play that game!” 
These are just a few out of the hundreds of statements I have heard from parents who are learning The Son-Rise Program®.  These are not facts, they are assumptions.  Assumptions are make-believesthat tend to be based on our own judgmentsand are usually leaning more towards the glass being half empty instead of the glass being half full.  So in essence, what my child won’t and can’t do, as opposed to what my child will and can do.  Unless our children actually tell us what they are thinking or feeling, we can not actually know what they are thinking and feeling. 
Have you ever heard the following saying:
ASSUME: makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me“? Well it’s not necessarily that assuming makes an ass out of you and me,  but more that it limits you and me.  When I assume what my child is thinking or feeling, I limit my response to them and the wonderful ways in which I can help them. 
For example, my child asks for another cookie – he’s already had six.  I tell him he has already had six and I don’t want him to have any more.  He whines and throws himself on the floor.  I assume he is unhappy.  As a parent, of course I don’t want my child to be unhappy so I try to stop his unhappiness by giving him another cookie.  To summarize, my child has just learned a form of communication that works for him more effectively in his life but which limits his ability to use other forms of communication … language.  I have just limited my child’s ability to learn and grow and I have missed a teaching opportunity for my child.  What I have taught him is that crying and whining, or using the appearance of unhappiness, gets you what you want.  This is not going to be as helpful for him in his life as communicating in a way that people will understand more easily…language. 
Asour children may also have a challenge with processing and communicating what they want quickly and effectively, they will choose the easiest and quickest way to get what they want.  Summary – I assumed what my child was feeling, and my intention was to change their feelings versus helping them learn a more effective way of communicating.  Outcome: assuming we knew their feelings has just limited both of us.  
A parent once told me a story of how they would take their four year old son with Autism to a busy park — one minute their son seemed to be having a nice time swinging on the swings, the next moment he would go up to the cutest, little girl and hit her.  The first thought this Mom had was that her son hated cute, little girls… an assumption he never expressed.  After coming to The Son-Rise Program Start-Up the Mom learned to put her assumptions aside and clearly see that each time this happened, she would get embarrassed and quickly remove him from the park and take him home.  Perhaps her son was overly stimulated by the park and wanted to leave but was not able to communicate this to his Mom, thus hitting little girls became his very effective way of communicating that he wanted to leave the park.
A way to inspire yourself and your Son-Rise Program team to stop making assumptions,  is to practice the art of observing what your child is actually doing (not deciding you know what they are thinking and feeling) when you are discussing your child with your team. 
For example:

  • “Johnny was crying by the refrigerator” versus “Johnny was unhappy by the refrigerator 
  • Sarah was not responding when I sang The Wheels on the Bus  versus “Sarah hated it when I sang The Wheels on the Bus 
  • Ben I see you hitting your chest and I don’t understand what that means” versus“Ben, I know you are frustrated because you want to get out of the playroom” 

To help understand our children’s behaviors also look at what was happening just before they did a particular behavior and what happened just after it. 
For example:

·        Sarah was stimming with her toy tea set when I sang The Wheels on the Bus, helping me understand that her not responding to my song perhaps had nothing to do with her hating my song… rather that she was more exclusive and not open to interaction at that moment. 
Respecting our children’s intelligence and capability to intentionally move towards what they want and away from what they don’t want, is an attitude shift that eliminates “assumptions” and allows us to clearly see ways to help them.
Why do we assume? :
·        To take care of ourselves: to feel like we’re being good parents… by giving them what they want and keeping them happy…if my child is happy then I am a good parent.
·        To show we care: Helping my child means knowing and anticipating what they are thinking and feeling.
·        Because we know why we feel or do certain things in certain situations: “If I hit another person it would be because I was angry”.  Our children are different from us, they learn in a different ways.  What my reasons are have nothing to do with my child’s reasons. 
Looking back at the assumptions from the beginning of this article …. We’ll see how these assumptions were only make-believe:
  • My child will hate being in the playroom all day!”This child settled happily into the playroom with her new friends for 10 hours. She then excitedley lead her parents into the playroom the following morning.
  •  He’s frustrated when he hits his chest!” … This child continued to hit his chest periodically throughout the week and our staff experimented with different ways of responding to it.  By joining him when he hit his chest they realized it was a stim identified. He  started doing less and less. 
  •  My child hates it when people sing!” …  This child went on to enjoy and participate in many songs with our staff.
  • He will never eat broccoli!”This child went on to touch, smell, and taste broccoli for the first time, and was eating several pieces at a time by the end of the week.
  • My child won’t play that game!”The third time that game was brought into the playroom, he looked at it, explored it, then interacted with us with it for 20 minutes. 

Have fun looking at your children with these new eyes, you will be excited about what you find!

Becky Damgaard
Outreach Coordinator
Son-Rise Program Teacher

7 Responses

  1. Thank you I am struggling with this I realize as I am training a new Team and I am telling them this as they observe me giving in to him constantly. I have got to find a way to allow my son to cry without feeling like it is my fault and giving in to him.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I love it! Specially because help us to be more accurate. Specially when those facts are the ones that speak to us from them.

  3. imtori says:

    Those are great examples. I don't see examples of children like my 15 year old son with Asperger's using the son-rise program for the first time. I don't have help for my other child so that I can spend large blocks of time in the son-rise room. I have very few materials to put into the room. For a while we all went in there and did some crafts. Then we started watching a movie while we were doing the crafts because when we left it open for conversation the two kids just start arguing. I am outnumbered. I don't like or agree with anything that ABA teaches, but I don't have funding for son-rise and ABA is now covered by medicaid so therefore, if I deny him the ABA I can be said to be "negligent". He is 15, he will be 16 soon and I don't know whats next. I fear it will always be me and him here in the house, him on his computer and we will never move past that. If it's not possible I would be okay with it, but the fact that I believe it doesn't have to be the case but it will be anyway because of money… it just kills me.

  4. KPA says:

    Thank you Thank you Thank you Becky! You created this in such as succinct and clear fashion with examples that are easily understood – pallettable (hee hee). Something I sometimes have a hard time describing and creating with new team members – an amazing resource you are!

  5. KPA says:

    Creating a team is the biggest joy of the Son-Rise Program and can not cost you anything… people volunteer, you train them, and away you go. Be in contact with the Family Counsellor's at ATCA and see what kind of financial assistance and support they can provide you. You CAN get beyond you money limitations – look at what you are already doing that you never thought you would ;). Best of luck.

  6. I read this blog while cleaning my dentures from Hamilton I think if I had applied these things a lot earlier in life I would have learned a lot more.

  7. James says:

    Hi – Will you please post a link to your important Blog at The Autism Community at Our members will really appreciate it.
    Members include: Those living with Autism, parents of children with autism, their families, friends, support groups, etc.
    It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Articles, News, Photos, and Videos if you like.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you. I hope you consider sharing with us.
    Please feel free to share as often and as much as you like.
    The Autism Community:
    James Kaufman, Editor

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