Recently in conversations with some parents I have been sensing an anxiety. The general sense is: my home therapy program is okay, but if I did this and this and this it would be better, but I don't know when I'll find the time to that, or I don't know how, or I can't do it on my own. If you are one of these people who worries about what your home program is not. Stop!
I'm guessing one of the things that drew you towards running a home program in the first place is the ability to focus on love and acceptance of your child in who and where they are. Please apply this to yourself and your program. Your program is an ongoing journey. You are doing the best you can in this moment. You can always change things, but acknowledge all the things that you are doing and that are already working for you. When you stop to think of all that you are grateful for, you give yourself a chance to switch your perspective.
One of the most helpful components of a successful home program is feeling comfortable and capable no matter what is happening. The more comfortable you are, the more comfortable your child is going to be with you and the more he/she will grow. You have everything it takes to run a great program right now. You just need to believe that you do. Go ahead right now and take a deep breath in, ....now let it out, breathe in again and remind yourself of your strength, look how far you have come already with your child.....now let it out. Good. Let the idea sink in that you are okay, or even good, great, actually, amazing.
You are the leader of your child's home therapy program. Therefore you are the one who gets to make a lot of the logistical decisions. Start by deciding how to feel (preferably light hearted and happy.) Your child is not benefiting any sooner when you worry about more volunteers, your other child, how he is progressing, how your house looks, if you are creative enough, having the "right" toys, the list goes on and on. All your child really needs is for you to be loving and present when you are with them. If you can do this, everything else will fall into place.
If you need any help with this, call a friend, post a message on Facebook, or please call and schedule a consultation because I have seen parents go through this time and time again and I know how powerful you all truly are. If you can believe in your ability to have a great program right now - you will show yourself that you already do!
Much love to all of you!
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to volunteer in an improv/social skills acting class with a group of extraordinary actors who also happen to have autism, I would seriously recommend it. It’s the fastest 45 minutes you will ever experience!
When Bonnie Neumann, founder of Drama Interaction wrote in my Minnesota autism and play group on facebook about her theater class for children with special needs, I had to find out more about it. I had read some research recently into how theater programs had helped children learn social skills. I have always loved theater (probably why I have no problem playing with a child while being videoed and watched by a team of staff.) I called her up and offered to volunteer in order to learn more and see how it works. I am so used to working with children one on one so the idea of a class of children with autism seemed a bit daunting to me and I wanted to see how it went.
Bonnie is the perfect blend of cheerleader, facilitator, show person, people allower, and theater coach. She grew up in theater, starting dancing when she was young and continuing to perform her whole life. She designed the adaptive theater class many years ago with the help of Special Education Teachers. Bonnie wanted everyone to have the chance to experience theater and it just so turns out that theater gives everyone a chance to act out and process some of the little nuances of human interaction. Thus it makes the perfect class to work on social skills too!
The class followed a schedule that Bonnie customized for each day and allowed the students the opportunity to have plenty of movement while they acted. It included activities like body warm ups, voice warm ups, tongue twisters, acting out emotions, acting out things that happen to you, theater games, improv games, practicing lines, acting out skits. Each week built off the last week’s skills helping students ease into learning a performance.
The staff was partly professional staff and educated volunteers. We participated as well in order to model the exercises and of course have fun. There was enough staff for lots of encouragement and occasional individual attention when needed that didn’t distract from others. Everyone was really accepting of everyone’s sensory needs and allowed for each person to stim/ism/take care of themselves and when appropriate encouraged them again to participate.
I was blown away on the very first day by the amount of enthusiasm, participation and creativity of all the students in the class. I helped out in 2 classes, one for children younger than 12 and one for teenagers between 12 and 18. The students were all over the spectrum although they were all verbal. The classes were 45 minutes each. While they followed a schedule, the classes varied a lot, the energy was often intense, and the concepts were all fairly new to all the kids. Even so all the students did fantastic! When it came time for add on storytelling at the end – I have never heard such creativity and big picture thinking. It was incredible!
I think a lot of the fun and ease of the class goes to the incredibly accepting atmosphere that Drama Interaction puts forth. We all were totally okay with whatever happened, if a student needed to run a bit, that was okay, we just gently brought them back. If a student had a sensory meltdown there was no pressure to change and participate. The students and staff did a great job supporting each other at exactly the stage they were at.
I think this sort of class would be rather easy to start for those who have some expertise. I know it could help children everywhere if there are those generous souls who would be accepting enough and confident enough to look into these programs. Bonnie certainly seems willing to help all she meets.
For those near the Twin Cities of Minnesota a new class is about to happen with Drama Interaction. You still have to time to register. Classes start next week, January 12th and there are various times throughout the metro area. Here is the link for more information http://www.cokartscenter.com/dramainteraction501c3.html I know I will be back sometime in the future, its also mega fun to volunteer!
In the meantime, I have always considered playroom time with your child as a sort of improv theater. We are always modeling social skills through fun and excitement in the playroom. Children learn and process best through play and experience. The more excited we are to play with them, the more they will learn. So the next time you go into the playroom, tap into your inner actor and amp up your animations. The more expressive you are with your body and face the more engaged your child will be and the easier they will be able to interpret your body language.
The founder of Inspired Spectrums shares her tips and experiences in working with children and adults with autism. Word of caution: she is occasionally sentimental and this is often reflected in her blogs :)