This can be your game changer.
Anava at her gymnastics show (in middle)
Last night I went to my 10 year old daughter's, Anava, end of the year gymnastics show. Every year, as I watch her amongst all the other girls, my eyes well up with tears. Every year I feel a huge sense of gratitude that she is able to be a part of a group, integrate, participate and be a part of a team effort of putting on a show (not to mention the incredible skill involved in doing flips and cartwheels).
Every year, as I watch her show, I think of you and how much you want all this for your child; the ability to easily and successfully 'belong' to a group.
I think about how much I want this for your child too- and the names and faces of children I have worked with or are currently working with flash through my mind. I send a blessing to each child for strength on his/her journey to actualize his potential-and I am aware of my unwavering belief that each child can achieve that.
I think of all the children I have worked with whom I have observed having little interest in other people at the beginning of their journey and then joyfully participating in class birthday parties or activities at the end- wow, what a thing to witness!
The question is: what is the key skill your child needs to make this possible?
My answer: the PURE desire to be with people, to interact, to initiate and connect.
What is the most effective way to ignite this in your child?
When your child is being exclusive (not responding or connecting to you) and/or repetitious (engaging in repetitive play like lining toys up in a row, cutting paper into small piece or talking about the same topic over and over again), decide to join your child and do what your child is doing with the sincere desire to connect and inspire connection from him.
Here are the 4 key reasons why joining can be your game changer:
1. Joining makes your more attractive because it is a demonstration of respect/acceptance. By joining, you are communicating, through your actions, respect and acceptance for your child that he is doing the best he can to take care of himself. This makes you more attractive to your child and will ultimately draw your child to you.
2. Joining makes your more attractive because it makes you more predictable. Many children on the autism spectrum may experience sensory overload due to a sensory processing disorder, so control and predictability are very motivating. You give your child a sense of control and predictability by doing what he is doing with him. This makes you more attractive to your child and draws your child towards you.
3. Joining creates a common ground. Relationships and connection are often developed by having a common ground. By joining your child, you create this common ground and your child can see that someone likes to do what he likes to do! This will make you into a magnet :)
4. Joining helps your child build the social muscle of initiating interaction. Yes, if you keep pulling tricks out of your hat while your child is being exclusive or repetitive, you can get your child to interact in the short term. But, the long term goal is for your child to succeed socially on playground or in classroom with other kids. Other kids are not going to work as hard as you are to try to get your kid to interact. The skill of coming to an interaction, versus being pulled out, will be crucial in your child’s long term success. By joining, you give him the space to initiate. This crucial social skill is entirely missed when constantly trying to draw your child out.
When in doubt, join- this is the most powerful way you can ignite within your child the desire to be with others. This desire is crucial in helping him/her be successful in forming relationships and being a part of a group.