“One of the biggest things we want to help our children on the Autism Spectrum with is the ability to relate to people, and socially engage with people. In The Son-Rise Program®, this is our biggest area of focus. Why? If our children can interact with other people in a stronger and deeper way, there will be more opportunities for us to help them accomplish much needed life skills. Having strong social skills, means being able to thrive in relationships; the ability to communicate more easily, to get their needs met; being able to navigate through school, on to succeed in a work setting; and create fulfilling and independent lives for themselves.
“The exciting piece to all of this is that we absolutely have the power to be able to help our children with this. It actually begins with us. When we work with our children in The Son-Rise Program, we begin by showing them just how useful, fun, and utterly supportive people can be. Some say that as a parent, we should not be our children’s ‘friend’. We believe that we can absolutely be both a friend and a parent! We want to show our children that people are awesome! That people are helpful! That people are on their side! Why does this matter? So that our children can relate to us more easily and therefore learn useful skills from us. Basically, the stronger the rapport you have with your child, the more you are able to teach them.
“Here are two tangible ways you can show your child they have a friend in you:
• Strengthen the bond you have with your child by joining your child in their repetitious behaviors (stims), instead of trying to stop them or distract them. Our children have many repetitious activities (stims); perhaps for your child, it’s jumping up and down, lining up objects, shaking a string back and forth, repeating lines from a movie, or talking about their favorite topic over and over. Joining is doing the same as your child with a fully embracing and curious attitude. If they jump, you can move opposite your child and jump with them in the same way for example. We have found our children are doing these behaviors to create a sense of calm and predictability inside of themselves.
• Celebrate your child for any attempt they make at connecting with you. Celebrations are a really powerful, useful, and loving way to show your child they you truly cherish them and they are capable. Get excited and celebrate your child for any engagement they give you. For example: tell them they are wonderful for saying a word, or playing a game with you. If your child uses verbal communication with you already, cheer them on for sharing their words with you.”
Written by Becky Damgaard, Senior Son-Rise Program Teacher