This guest blog post was written by RDI consultant, Cindy Bevier
I’ve been thinking about trust a lot lately, especially as I leave my cozy government job and step out into a new life as a business owner. This is a really big step – I have to trust in myself, in the good intentions of others, in the watchful care of a Higher Power. But when I think about trust, especially self-trust, I know it isn’t something I was born feeling. It has its foundations in years of experiences, most often born out of connection with others who were further along than I was or whose miraculous trust in ME gave me courage to stretch even further.
The willingness to try something new that’s a bit scary, with the support of a person who has your trust – this is the form of trust that we love, that fires us up, and hopefully all have some experience with. Trusting others, however, can be elusive for people on the autism spectrum. The world is so dynamic, confusing, full of demands not understood, full of things that overwhelm the senses and overload the thinking capacity. Often a person on the spectrum has not received guidance so much as directions, or a set of rules on which to base their thoughts and actions, that aren’t always reliable in the fluid, messy, ever-shifting landscape of real life. If you are used to being told what to do most of the time, how will you ever learn to trust your own abilities in a new situation? And yet, somehow we do learn to trust ourselves, by first trusting in the safety of the watchful eyes and arms of our parents as we make our moves out into the world.
A calm and alert state is essential for learning. In any new situation, our readiness for learning depends on our memories of our own competence, often built by experiences shared with a trusted companion, parent or guide. When I trust you, I can relax and learn something new under your guidance because I know that you won’t get me in over my head. That experience of trust is so important – that’s why so often when we do RDI©, we start with just “hanging out” with our children. We set limits, requiring them to stay with us, but we don’t ask questions, we don’t make demands, we don’t ask them for specific responses. That lays the groundwork of trust that we use later to introduce new challenges. That kind of trust – the sense that it is safe to experience something new with a certain person – can open up the world for a child on the autism spectrum. Building that basic trust is the secret, must-have ingredient to creating a guiding relationship. Trust is a felt experience, birthed and grown through connection with others, allowing us to grow into a lifetime of learning.
Cindy Bevier is the owner of Vistas Autism Consulting LLC, and an intern at the Integrative Autism Institute where she also serves as a Family Support Coordinator. She lives in Florida with her husband, teenage son, and yellow Lab Brandon. It is her joy to help parents develop into confident guides for their children on the autism spectrum by using the tools and principles of Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®) and mindfulness.