Our Son-Rise volunteer, Buddie, asked a great question, “Is it productive spending a lot of time just JOINING* Nathan’s autistic, repetitive behavior?”
*JOINING a child with autism by imitating his exclusive, repetitive behavior is a unique practice of the Son-Rise Program for autism. It is the best tool we can use to truly understand their world. As
We join, we find reasons why they have to do those behaviors.
In the first hour, Buddie was asked to JOIN by imitating and trying to learn Nathan’s autism language. Nathan chose to play with a banana peel by waving it around and watching how it moved with the flipping motion of his hand. Buddie too followed and waved his banana peel. Like physicists, both were understanding the movement patterns made by matter acted upon by gravity and the optical illusion such movements made.
That was as interaction. When we say we want an interaction with a child, initially what comes in mind is that child is talking to us and responding to out questions. knock, knock, autism here.
Imagine this, he has an autism language. It is us who wants to communicate with him. He would much rather stay in his own happy place. By JOINING, we are speaking the autism language and we are communicating and getting an interaction with him. When Buddie waved the banana peel in sync with Nathan, Nathan stopped, looked at Buddie straight into his eyes, exchanged laughs and giggles and exchanged banana peels several times. That’s interaction 101!
If Buddie was a conventional therapist, “forcing” Nathan to follow his instructions and speak his language, Nathan would certainly decide to remain in his own world. And when Nathan stops paying attention, the conventional therapist will use more “force” like call his name in a stern voice, hold his chin up to force eye-contact, remove the banana peel or distracting toy, etc. Such “force” will just turn-off Nathan, which will make him withdraw deeper into autism.
Conventional therapy gives Nathan no control of his situation. No control leads to no comfort/security. In such situations, the best way for an autistic child to protect himself is to retreat into his world and block everything out with exclusive, repetitive, autistic behavior.
Buddie gave Nathan full control and when Nathan was ready, Nathan engaged.
Son-rise JOIN the autistic child’s repetitive behavior while the other therapies on the opposite end (eg. ABA) try to extinguish the “strange” behavoir by stopping it. The difference between Son-Rise kids and ABA kids: Son-Rise kids are more spontaneous. They speak when they are ready. ABA kids are “forced” to learn their therapist’s agenda. Thus, they will respond they way they were “trained” to respond. Thus, they are usually “robotic”. Because their training leads to becoming “robotic”, many still believe that kids with autism cannot recover or be spontaneous.
What about other therapies that do not try to extinguish repetitive behavior but simply set it aside to be able to teach the child? An example would be floor time. This type of therapy would be somewhere in the middle of Son-Rise and ABA. Yes, the child learns from the agenda that the teacher prepares. No amount of time is used for JOINING. That means not so much investment is made to really get to know your child. Joining helps you understand your child and find out what his motivations are. Knowing his motivations (i.e. every small detail that motivates your child, including for example, the fact that your child might like playing with a banana peel more than the yo-yo you got him) and using them will help you PROPEL learnings. And that’s how they learn. Learning can be PERMANENT and EXPONENTIAL even for children with autism. Motivation is the key. Contrary to what conventional therapy says that they will only learn through repetition…no body learns through repetition!
Son-rise simply is the fastest and funnest way to learn and grow.
So after I answered Buddies question about JOINING. He returned to the second half of his son-rise session with Nathan. Guess what? Nathan asked him to get the magnetic pen, draw Thomas Train starting with his head , his eyes, his nose, his smile. Buddie asked if he wanted Thomas ears. Nathan agreed. Buddie challenged again: hands on Thomas, and another yes from Nathan.
Hmmm, did that sound like I was writing about a child with autism? Buddie had invested enough time speaking Nathan’s autism language with the banana peels that Nathan was ready to speak to Buddie in our social language.
The truth is, our targets for the past few months was to make Nathan’s 2-loop conversations more consistent. That is, he should be able to sustain enough attention to have a second round of question and answer (or interaction/comply with task given). Guess what, very spontaneously, Nathan and Buddie did 7-loops!
So JOIN, JOIN, JOIN!
When a child with autism does repetitive actions -> JOIN! Speak his language. Then he’ll speak yours.
When a high-function child says, “I like Thomas the tank, I like Thomas the tanks” again and again -> JOIN! tell him how exciting Thomas is. Then he’ll talk about what you want to talk about.
When a neuro-typical child says, “Play with me please.” -> JOIN! Then he’ll finish his broccoli when you ask him the favor.
When a teenager is having heartaches -> JOIN! Don’t go attacking and demanding answers for yourself. Get into your child’s world first and find out how they feel. Then, they will tell you what you want to know.