Imagine you are Nathan. Your vision is not the same as other people, so when you take your fingers and wave it close to your eyes, it makes some magical patterns that you enjoy watching. Your sense of touch is different from others, perhaps somewhat weak, so you can’t exactly tell if what you’re holding is hard or soft or smooth or rough. So you take objects and put it in your mouth or lips to check. You don’t exactly know why people use certain words, but you want to get better at using then, so you echo a lot of words that you hear from others. These things are stimulating and you can probably do it all day if they let.
Now, here comes a really great son-rise volunteer that truly wants to help you get in touch with other people…but he/she is not sure how. He/she says, “Hi Nathan! How are you? Are you ok? Are you having fun? Hey, what do you want to do today? Hey, come on, let’s play! Do you want a toy? Hey, look this way. Hey Nathan? I’m here. Stop what you’re doing please look this way. Hey? Hey? Earth to Nathan? Are you there?”
But since you are so into your “ism,” you barely notice there is someone in the room trying to talk to you. Or maybe you’re using your “isms” intentionally to cover the fear you might have of being required to socialized with your visitors. Or maybe you heard it a bit and it sounded like, “blah, blah, blah, blah.” because for you, nothing beats the joy of watching your magical waving fingers or texture-full lips/mouth or the fun in repeating words.
Now, the son-rise volunteers decided to change tack tick. Instead of trying to get you to speak, he/she will first speak your autistic language. He/she sits about an arm-length in front of you, where you can see him/her if you decide to. As you flap your finger in front of your eyes, he/she will do the same….for as long as you are flapping your fingers.
As he/she joins you, you might stop for a split second and notice he/she is copying you….then you continue flapping.
After a minute, you might stop and look again and say to yourself, “hey, he/she is like me.”….then you continue flapping.
By this time your son-rise volunteer is noticing, “oh ya, fingers really do make an amazing pattern if you flap them this close to your eyes.”
After another minute you’ll want to check your volunteer again and give a smile saying, “See, I told you this was fun.”…..then you might want to continue flapping again.
Your son-rise facilitator then notices your smile and rewards you with, “Hey, Nathan, you’re looking at me! Thank you”
That encourages you to take a longer glance the next time. You might even think, “hey, this person is nice. I will look and smile at him/her more…or I will talk to him/her more.”
By copying Nathan, you will really be able to reach him and eventually pull him out of his autistic world and on to our social world.
In the first few sessions maybe the most you will get are a few smiles. For now that is fine…in fact fantastic! A few smiles will get us along way in the long run.