What follows is the continuation of a story of my work with a little boy with autism and his family. To learn more read the first post and please leave comments below!
As Mary began to clean up the room, she did so continuing at a somewhat frantic pace. Seeing this, attempting to be as gentle as possible, I had her pause. Amidst Jay running around, gesticulating, and organizing his papers on the floor, I had Mary stand quietly, close her eyes, and pay attention to herself. I had her slow down her breathing, notice the contact of her feet on the floor, and be still for a moment. She immediately took a deep breathe and relaxed. When she resumed moving she did do at about one half her earlier speed. It is important to recognize when we are moving very quickly without need. Of course, if a child is running out onto the street we respond as quickly as necessary. But often we all, and especially a child’s parents, will execute mundane tasks at manic speeds. This is understandable – I don’t mean my commentary as any kind of criticism – but also avoidable. We can train ourselves to learn to slow down, as I guided Mary to do. I write more about building this and other useful habits here. By slowing down parents model the kind of behavior they frequently request of their children, but aren’t always applying themselves. Modeling what we want is a much more effective way, I dare say even the most effective way, of getting the kinds of responses we want.
Very quickly after we neatened Jay’s playroom he settled down. At first he lay on the floor on his belly with his hands underneath him. As I did on previous days I began working along his spine, comparing levels of muscular tone on one part of his spine compared to another. He stood up and moved over to sort papers a time or two, but even then was much more calm. Once I approached him from behind and put my hands on his hips. He leaned back into me and we began rocking his pelvis very gentle forward and backward. What had been a self-regulating solo activity became an exploration of his weight over the front versus back of his feet.