If I think back to six years ago I was very much the carer of my child. I fed him, bathed him, wiped his bum and tried to keep him happy. I drove him to school and placed him in the very capable hands of his teacher. I was the regular taxi mum and without fail took him to Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy. I was a star. I did a *good job*.
Why did I try to keep him happy?
My boy hated any form of change. He was extremely anxious. He couldn't cope with noise and/or unexpected noises. He needed his rigid little patterns. EVERYTHING had to be the same. He would get very stressed it we added a teeny tiny variation. We couldn't take him anywhere. Life for him was stressful. Life for me as his mother was exhausting. I seemed to be on a permanent merry-go-round and unable to get off. Life was fast, extremely busy and without reprieve.
I found it far easier to let my boy be in control and to do as he pleased ~ rather than rock the boat and suffer the consequences! I was a star. I did a *good job*..... or did I?
Roll in RDI (you knew I was going to say that, right?).
I did a lot of reading and learned a few titbits that I started to apply with Nick. (This was before we got involved with a consultant).
I stopped talking *at* him. I stopped telling him what to do. I stopped prompting him. In fact I shut up and became more non-verbal. I learned that eye contact was not something to be trained. It was more important (and meaningful) that Nick learned to reference my face and body language for information. I love that we have this in place. We can be at the supermarket and Nick will wander off, however, he is constantly checking to see where I am and also monitoring my reaction ~ am I okay that he is exploring, do I need him to come back, do I need help unloading the groceries...
I became mindful about the use of pausing and then waiting for Nick to react. His processing time was slow, therefore I waited.... and waited some more. Not 5 seconds, not 10 seconds BUT at least 45 seconds. I still use this concept and it works a treat. Nick is now much more capable of thinking for himself and his processing time has also increased dramatically. I could be waiting at the car, holding one half of a heavy bag of groceries and Nick will look to me, I shrug my shoulders and look at the bag. He will generally process this information and then come and hold the other half of the bag and we then carry it together...
I learned the value of cutting back on imperative language and placing more emphasis on being more declarative. Phew, this took ages to get used to. Let's face it, we are naturally imperative..... "What did you do at school today". "Pass the salt". "What colour is that?". However... and this is a big HOWEVER! Due to the fact that I have been using more experience sharing language and *inviting* a response, Nick has really come to the party. Again, he is thinking for himself, making his own decisions and responding if he wants to, not because he has to. This is a boy who was unable to do anything without a direct prompt.
I found that chanting helped Nick transition and distract him from a stressful situation. This is another beauty. As mentioned previously, Nick couldn't cope with change of any sort. Heaven forbid that I wanted him to get out of the car when we got to the supermarket! The screaming, the crying and the pinching.... extreme distress. What I used to do was hold his hand and gently start swinging our hands in a nice calm regular pattern.... and I would chant at the same time, "walking, walking, walking". I still use chanting at times as it helps Nick to focus on what we are doing. I love how this helps him. (*Please note that getting Nick back out into the community was a very slow and gentle process!)
Self talk: I like this concept because I am highlighting my thoughts about what I am doing and what is happening. Nick is learning about *my* thinking process. I am now so good at this that I find myself talking aloud in the middle of the supermarket ~ not so cool when I am by myself!
The above are just a few concepts that come to mind. It is all common sense really.... it is the putting into practice that makes a difference. We have the following picture at school... it is a great reminder for us all to be mindful about how we interact and engage with the children.
Oops, have just seen the time.... gotta go collect Nick from school. Have a great weekend. x