What are your expectations for the future?
I think sometimes, the narrowing of vision isn’t something that is we understand is happening but it is a view that is formed through the early words that we hear from professionals.
“This is not going to happen. That is not going to happen. This thing is never going to happen.” Those words take on a life of their own.
So when parents and professionals look out after hearing these words, they see the world through eyes that are slit and there is not much effort given to teaching the foundations for a quality of life.
In RDI® we don’t talk about recovery but we talk about remediation related to potential. Whatever your potential is, we actually know we can get you there. And we are now starting to see a whole group of people who have jobs, have relationships, are getting married and have a quality of life that is important.
In this week’s podcast, Dr. Sheely talks about your child and relationships and marriage.
Kat Lee: Welcome back to ASD, a new perspective. The podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child, and we do encourage you that growth for your child is possible. In this week’s podcast, Dr. Sheely talks about your child and relationships and marriage. Let’s listen in.
Kat Lee: Today we are talking about, I think, an exciting topic, but I want to say one that… And I know you’ll be able to shed some light on this, the professionals or parents don’t sometimes dare to hope about this topic, which is when their children are diagnosed using that word with autism and putting that in that frame, whether they’re 2, 6, 10. I have literally heard people say, “And now I know my child will never marry and I need to accept that.” And my response to never in general, is never is a long time. And so I would just love for you to speak to us about this topic today and what your thoughts are.
Dr. Sheely: I love the topic actually, and I think I love the topic because I kind of came into it through the back door as we were thinking about a treatment model using RDI in a different way. And as we were thinking about RDI, I know I’ve mentioned to you, we went to the Canadian Board of Employment and looked at the kinds of things they were expecting people to be able to do in the workplace this century that we’re in right now. And so we used those ideas as guidelines for independence, thinking about employment more than anything else. But because we were working on these particular things, we actually saw that our children were beginning to kind of follow the same trajectory, a little bit later, but follow the same trajectory as their typically developing peers in making friends on a school playground, that sort of thing. And so I still wasn’t thinking about marriage because it was down the road a little bit. But then in about the last five or six years, a number of those people that were the first group of people we saw on the spectrum, are independent and they are getting married.
Dr. Sheely: So I went back and I looked at this Canadian Board of Employment. And let me just tell you the kinds of things that they’re looking for in the workplace, and you tell me if there’s one thing here that does not apply to marriage. Are you ready? Okay. Problem-solving, flexibility, teamwork, relationship-building, perspective taking, self-awareness, uncertainty management.
Kat Lee: I feel like I should be writing all those down for my own relationship. [laughter] Absolutely.
Dr. Sheely: Yeah, and so… Well, I was thinking more about employment early on. I see that because we were addressing these things, we were also addressing the formation of relationships.
Kat Lee: And all the things that it takes to have a relationship are built so nicely into that list. How key is every single point you made?
Dr. Sheely: Think about some of the approaches that have been taken, for example, a social skills group, which is, when you’re having a conversation with someone, look at that person and stay on topic. Now, the only reason you and I ever stay on topic is because we have a topic and we’re recording it. Even with that, we can go down a bunny trail. But in a regular conversation, there are things that happen that trigger a memory, trigger an idea, trigger a question, and we go in a different direction. We always do that in conversations. Rarely do we have a conversation where the topic that we started with is the one that we end with.
Dr. Sheely: And so this ability to take on the perspective of another is key, not only to employment, but it’s really key to relationships we have, and I think it’s especially key because depending on the relationship, we divulge a certain kind of information or another kind of information. So the information can be kind of a cursory passing, “Oh yeah, that must have been hard.” Or it can be something that’s more in-depth. And I think it’s the same thing in the workforce, where there are things that we don’t have to talk about forever, but we have to maybe shift and do something. And certainly in marriage, these things are extremely important.
Kat Lee: Why do you think that, and this is a deep question, I know, but why do you think… I really don’t wanna speak to parents, because at some point, they’re in crisis and all kinds of thoughts are going through their head, but I do wonder why professionals sometimes and well-meaning folks absolutely just kind of have a cross off list. This won’t happen. This won’t happen. This won’t happen. Why do you think that is? One of my friends, who’s a dear friend, two boys who are really challenged, but she always said at the ripe old age of nine, they’re telling me that this will never happen, and it just doesn’t make sense to me.
Dr. Sheely: Or at the ripe old age of four. And it is a good question. I personally think that it’s a lack of experience, a lack of understanding how to get someone on a better developmental track and also statistics, because the research, the statistics actually paint a grim picture of what life is going to look like as an adult if you have autism, and that grim picture, because it’s in the research and because it’s in the journals, that research is assumed to be true. I’m not saying it’s never true, but it’s assumed to be true for everyone. And we go back to what you said earlier, never is a long time. So the use of those never and ever words is something that we should stay away from. And I think it’s probably the research and the statistics and the population and how the population… Who’s worked with them and what the parents are doing, the guiding relationship.
Kat Lee: Well, I’m very into the thought that words have power. And so when one uses words like never, always, those type of words, it gets seeds planted into the brain. Everyone of whatever. It’s actually talk I really stay away from as much as I can because as you have said so many times, we don’t have a crystal ball into this little human or bigger human’s life in the future. We have no crystal ball. What we can do is move them forward to their best life, and that needs to be our focus.
Dr. Sheely: It does. And we actually, in RDI, we don’t talk about recovery, but we talk about remediation related to potential, and that whatever your potential is, we actually know we can get you there, we just don’t know what it is. But because we start working so early on on things like flexibility and resilience, when we get to the point where kids are ready for some of these other things like teamwork, and when they’re ready to be able to take the perspective of another person and act on that, then is when we give them the experience of doing that. So we don’t push that, no matter the age, we don’t push that too early, we wait until the readiness is in place, and I believe that’s why we are beginning to see a whole group of people now who have jobs, have relationships, are getting married, and have a quality of life that is important.
Dr. Sheely: And the reason I like thinking about this, Katherine, is because there’s… In the general population, there’s a spectrum of people. Not everybody is going to be a college professor, and some people are going to have jobs as an assistant at Starbucks, and other people are going to have jobs as engineers. And so when I see someone who has a job as a greeter at Starbucks and has autism and has a girlfriend, I see that as an incredible success.
Kat Lee: I do as well, and I just think a general way, it’s so important to define success in a really meaningful way and not through a very narrow lens, which I do think can happen just in daily life of all people. One person’s success is not another person’s success, not their path, but it’s that individual success which is what is important. I have to say, I have always said that RDI is fabulous for marriage, and my parents I’ve worked with feel the same way. They will come to RDI for their children and go, “This is just amazing for my relationship.” So I really wanna… I wanna spotlight that today because it does prepare for deep relationships, and I think that’s something that we really want to have an understanding of. We’re preparing for that, and we see that in our parents we work with, and therefore, we would see that with the children we work with.
Dr. Sheely: I think sometimes, the narrowing of vision isn’t something that is chosen, but those early words… As you say, words matter. Those early words that we hear from professionals, “This is not going to happen, this is not going to happen. This is not going to happen,” those words take on a life of their own. And so when we look out, when parents look out, professions too, when they look out, they see the world through eyes that are slit. And it’s like, “Oh, this is so great. Look what he did. He sang the ABC song.” I’m overstating it now, the ABC song. But if you can say to that person, open your eyes, open your eyes to the world that is available, not the ABC song, but using words in conversation. Oh, “He said, thank you,” open your eyes. Not the social skill he’s learned, but about the relationships he can have.
Dr. Sheely: And so that opening of the eyes is hard to do, because if you’ve been told it can’t happen, you kind of believe that. And it also takes a lot of time to get where we wanna get, but I think if we can keep our eyes open and we can stay focused on these things, like problem-solving, and to do that really early on when we’re working in a regulatory pattern, and we provide uncertainty and that a challenge that has to be solved, flexibility, where we’re working on that as well, but it’s not predictable. So we work on that unpredictability. And then when we begin to work on team work, and sometimes it starts with, your job is to get the book at the library. Your job is to draw the picture. Your job is to write the essay, and then you’ll make the presentation. I mean, that’s sort of teamwork, but it’s scripted.
Dr. Sheely: Sometimes you need that in the beginning before you get to the real issues around teamwork, and then the relationship building. Some of these things are so closely aligned, it’s really hard to remember, how did we work on that? Where did that start? Well, it started with the guiding relationship and that flexibility that we got in place for that, and then of course, once we become aware of ourselves and our own opinions and our own ideas, then we can have the ability to take the perspective of another person.
Dr. Sheely: And so we never say we’re going to work on perspective taking, look at that person and ask them how they feel about it, but people have different perspectives in the ways that we work on this. And then finally, uncertainty management. In RDI, we start working on uncertainty in tiny little doses. And when we work on those tiny little doses, we see that it sets the foundation for somebody to feel, I did not expect this. But it’s okay, and I know what to do. And I think all of that leads, not only to the jobs, which is what we were thinking about, but I think it also puts in focus relationships and how you develop a relationship and how you sustain a relationship, and I’m just blown away every time I see it.
Kat Lee: Thanks for joining us for this special edition of ASD, a new perspective, the podcast show where we help you understand what is going on in the mind of your child. And we do encourage you that growth for your child is possible. I’m Kat Lee. See you next time.