I created this video for you to learn more about the wonderful technique of joining. Please feel free to use it in your team meetings, to train your staff, spouses, volunteers, or just for a bit of inspiration. If you would ever like me to make a personalized video explaining techniques, concepts, or answering your specific questions on how to connect, play, and inspire your child please check out my services page.
I am honored to be able to work with a special boy every week. His Mom is running a stellar full time home therapy program complete with team meetings to keep all of us up to date and consistent in our techniques and strategies. (I frequently help other teams run these as well, they are so helpful and needed when you have more than one person working with your child) She opens the meetings with different centering exercises to focus and inspire us. The most recent activity that we did was to experiment with how we feel when others watch us with different expressions. We paired off. One person (the child) drew a picture of the other person with their non-dominant hand, while the other person (the facilitator) watched. We had 3 different run throughs, the first time the facilitator watched and celebrated with excitement, energy, and enthusiasm. The 2nd time they just sat there, and the 3rd time they practiced a technique from the "Anat Baniel Method" called Enthusiasm, in which you silently love and appreciate everything the child is doing. (We have been experimenting with all of these things with our special friend in the playroom too, so it was all pretty relevant).
We all agreed that the celebrations actually felt the best to us as the child, even though the enthusiasm felt nice too. Oddly in comparison to the other 2 techniques I actually felt when the facilitator just sat and watched with no expression, it was almost a negative experience. I have done variations of this exercise before, but I love it every time as it really shows you the power of celebrating your child.
Anyway, when I work with this boy in the playroom he does a lot of building exclusively with lincoln logs. However the way he likes me to join him best (I wait until a child is wanting to engage with me before I try to interact), is to watch him build his structures. Often we have a little bit of conversation about the building during this but not much. Again today while I was lovingly and excitedly watching him, he made comments on what he was doing and what step he was on. Occasionally I said mmm-hmmm, as a way to be with him in the moment. He told me "Don't say mmm-hmmm!" Then he clarified "YOU (with an emphasis on the you) are not allowed to say mmm-hmmm." This was curious to me, so I asked him if others were allowed to say it and he told me yes. Only I was not allowed to say" mmm-hmmm." I quickly agreed with him and asked if I was allowed to say other things. As it turns out I was allowed to say anything celebratory, like "cool", "awesome", or "I love that." This was not the first time I had been scolded for saying "mmm-hmm" as in previous sessions this happened as well, although it was the first time I questioned it further.
I smiled and took his demands willingly as I continued to watch and celebrate his incredible lincoln log building design choices and skills. Later, I reflected on the exercise done in the team meeting and I was wondering how it felt to have someone say "mmm-hmm" to everything. I wondered if I was saying "mmm-hmm" as I was getting distracted and letting my mind wander. Or maybe "mmm-hmm" is just not enthusiastic enough for him. By him calling me on it, was he bringing my attention back to the present moment? Is he telling me he likes to be celebrated more than just responded to? I cannot presume to know my friends thoughts, but it definitely gave me some food for thought. Our words and attitude are very important to our children. Even when we are watching and joining they can feel our love, acceptance, and excitement.
I hope this gives you something to think about to.
Much love to you all!
Even though this video is a few years old now, I always recommend parents and anyone who works with people with autism to watch it. This is one woman with autism's view of why she isms and it is so beautifully translated (she speaks through typing). I love how she alludes to the fact that typically speaking people are the ones with deficits because we only talk to other people, while she in contrast, communicates with her whole environment. Watch it, and share it with everyone who works with your child!
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 :)