I love working with autism. This isn’t because I’m particularly talented or because I’ve had amazing training (though certainly this last ais true. My teachers have been amazing!). I love working with autism because I have decided and continually make the decision day-to-day to see autism as an opportunity. I wouldn’t be up to do the work that I do if I didn’t! Autism is fun because it is a way for us to learn about ourselves and our children. I can make autism out to be as unfortunate as anyone:
“My child is smearing poop on the wall.” Of course, I can see that this is something that I don’t want and even as something that is fundamentally bad and wrong!
I was brought up to believe that smearing poop is bad! So let’s take a moment to look at where that belief leads. If my child is smearing poop on the wall, and that’s bad, I’m going to live my life judging my child as bad. Looking at the last post about “the attitude that works,” constantly judging a child with autism as bad is going to result in that child moving away from us, not towards us! No one wants to be in a relationship and judged all the time and a child on the spectrum simply won’t stand for it! So what are we trying to do in judging the child is bad for smearing poop on the wall? Trying to change the behavior. It is more effective to change the behavior of smearing poop loving the child and inviting them towards what we want than by making them bad for currently doing what we don’t want. Enter: looking for opportunity.
Where most see misfortune, I practicing seeing opportunity. You can too – this exercise is quite simple. Look at something you are currently judging – it could be your child smearing poop on the wall, her favorite “ism” or any behavior that you currently judge as bad. Ask the question “How is this perfect?” My first response is to this question is often a dramatic “It’s not!” but then I still continue looking for the opportunity in the current behavior. I often find it useful to list three or five ways in which this behavior may be perfect:
- Maybe this child is taking care of themselves.
- Maybe this child is fascinated with the texture of the poop and how great for them to learn about texture in this way.
- Maybe they are smearing because another option is running out of the house into the street because they are so uncomfortable – thank God they’re not running away!
As soon as I see multiple different options I’m usually able to get to greater personal comfort quickly. In this way my first goal is always personal comfort – my shortcuts to happiness. From a place of comfort and ease I can then began to look at the child’s behavior and assess what ways will be the most inviting towards change. By looking for opportunity where most see misfortune I create a substantial increase in my level of flexibility of thinking, and able to organize myself to be much more inviting to the child and make a substantial improvement in the life of that child. Looking for opportunity makes all the difference. Try it yourself and let us know what differences you observe!