This blog post was originally published on the Equinox Family Consulting blog page. To read the original article, go here.
Many people believe that children with ASD and other developmental disabilities can only learn “static” skills (skills that are rote in nature). This is not the case! The brain of an ASD child may be wired differently, but these children are more than capable of learning dynamic thinking, relating and problem-solving skills if guided in the right manner.
So, what’s the process? Slow and steady. We follow a step-by-step process that’s manageable, based on your lifestyle and at a pace that works for you. Much of the work is related to interacting from a more mindful place, and learning to be fully engaged with your child. Then, in a systematic manner, parents learn to set up simple interactions with their child in which both parent and child experience success. Over time, parents are guided by me to build in simple, developmentally-appropriate challenges to stretch their child’s thinking – to set up moments of cognitive “discovery.” I have witnessed this magic over and over. Once a child feels competent, he becomes increasingly interested in engaging with parents. Competence and connection are the most potent motivators of all!
Here’s what can you do!
You can encourage dynamic thinking right now by slowing your rate of speech, and being aware of when you “pepper” your child with questions! Why is this important? Children with developmental disabilities require extra time to process information; their mental “stick handling” isn’t as well honed as others’. Check in with yourself every now and then, and imagine how you would feel listening to your own communication. Give your child a few seconds to respond after making a request rather than repeating yourself.
Another suggestion, is to think out loud. Use simple comments to invite your child into your thoughts. Here’s an example. “Jason, look at the sky… the clouds are getting very dark…” Our communication is often means to an end. In other words, we often forget that communication is largely meant to exchange thoughts, emotions and ideas. Slowing down, and taking a little time to share thoughts can offer big rewards. You may be surprised at the outcome!
What is coaching, and how can it help me?
A coaching relationship is unlike any other. I consider myself to be a “hybrid coach,” meaning I bring both formal coach training, and a wealth of knowledge related to ASD, to the table. Coaching efforts can be directly related to how your family is impacted by ASD — or, strictly about you and your personal goals.
The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.’ The coach’s responsibility is to:
- Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
- Encourage client self-discovery
- Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
- Hold the client responsible and accountable
- Acknowledge the client’s efforts and “hold the vision” for him or her
In my experience, having a coach is like having a personal “secret weapon”. As a coach, I help clients step back from their daily lives and examine things from different perspectives. We consider roadblocks, which can take many different forms such as limiting beliefs and attitudes. Together, develop a plan that moves a client in the direction of their goals.
The parent of a child diagnosed with Asperger’s at 5, Sue has experienced the heartache and frustration that you likely know yourself. She has worked with families affected with ASD since 2002, after founding the first ASD support group in the Kawarthas. Since that time she has spent countless hours helping families in crisis, and in need of educational support and advocacy. She has held volunteer positions at the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board’s ASD Team, and Special Education Advisory Committee. In 2006, Sue began training with Psychologists Dr.‘s Gutstein and Sheely at the Connection Center in Houston TX, to become a Certified Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®)Consultant. She has successfully re-certified every year since.