This week’s guest blog post is brought to you by RDI® consultant Jenny Palmiotto
“I’ve got so much going on right now…I can hardly manage thinking about, let alone doing something to plan for my child’s future. I just have to get through the day!” This is a common sentiment that I hear amongst autism parents. I get it…I truly do.
Recently as I attended a wedding, I notice myself easily drifting into fantasy, a future hopeful picture of my daughter at her wedding day. Prior to having children, most wedding daydreams were about my own union…what I would wear, what song we would dance to. Now, I’ve noticed that I can’t help but tear up during the father-daughter dance. I envision my lovely daughter Grace and my husband taking the dance floor and doing what they do best, enjoy each other’s silliness. When I think about this moment, my heart swells with immense amounts of love.
Immense love for a child is something all of us have in common, regardless of our child’s neurological differences. Yet, for many parents raising a child on the spectrum, the future feels less certain. This uncertainty is perpetuated by the disease model and “fix-it” therapies.
In my clinical practice, stories of immense love are plentiful. I also hear of immense worry about the future: Will my child have a friend? Will he be lonely? Will she be able to live a full life and be happy?
Within the RDI® Family Consultation Program, parents are given the hefty task of imagining their family life in 5 years, 10 years. Within the first few months of treatment, parents write their Mission Preview. This preview serves as a road map for the journey yet to come. Parents are asked to use plain language, not clinical jargon, to describe an anecdote or screenplay of a specific moment in the future. Tasked to envision you and your child’s future ends up being far more emotional and challenging than it first seems for most parents. While the explanation of this task is clear, the difficulty is in the emotional investment required to complete it.
Yet, this assignment is critical. In this envisioning process, a parent is transformed from thoughts of hopelessness to creating a positive inner shift.
In Daniel Goleman’s book about the Dalai Lama, “A Force For Good,” he explains power of our own minds to create a social revolution:
“The seeds we plant today, can change the course of our shared tomorrow.”
The Dalai Lama suggests using our inner resources to create the more hopeful and compassionate future. This revolutionary book is about creating a more compassionate world—one act at a time.
For me as an RDI® consultant, this transformation can also start at home; by creating healthy and happier children that can go out in to the world and create more social change. The RDI® mission preview serves as a starting point for parents, to get out of the knee-jerk emotions and reactions of every day crisis into a more hopeful future using positive and compassionate energy.
Part of the difficulty that parents experience raising children on the spectrum is not having daily examples of what the future might look like for their children. This may be even truer for so many autism providers!
So take a moment, consider what might occur if you really attend to your relationship with your child right now? What seeds have you planted for the future?
Envision it! A hopeful and bright future! Have the courage and inner compassion to make the changes in your everyday life.
Jenny Palmiotto, Psy D., is the Clinical Director and owner of The Family Guidance & Therapy Center of Southern California. She is also the creator and host of Love & Autism: A Conference at Heart. She is president and founder of the non-profit One Day Tomorrow. She’s completed a doctoral dissertation titled “A Qualitative Content Analysis of Parent-Child Interactions in Autism within RDI®”. She is a licensed marital and family therapist and a certified RDI® consultant. She has spoken at national and international conferences on Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®). She is impassioned about helping individuals on the spectrum and their family members create loving and connected relationships. She is involved in research efforts for relational practice in autism, specifically within RDI®. She is an advocate for change in regards to misconceptions about how individuals with autism are defined as socially inept, without emotions, and not needing/wanting relationships. She continuously refines her treatment methods by learning from adults on the spectrum, following the latest science within relatedness, and critiquing her own clinician work. She is a loving mother to two children.