PARENTING THE AUTISTIC CHILD
It has been my privilege to learn some information about parenting and working with autistic children from the Son Rise program at the Autism Treatment Center of America. I include snippets of that below, in case it is of value to you or someone you know.
Autistic children present a unique challenge and a unique opportunity. You can eliminate the struggle and resolve negative feelings you have about yourselves or your child and move forward in a more positive way. When you learn to be comfortable with your child and his/her behavior, you will often see changes in his/her behavior.
As you know, having an autistic child can be very stressful. Below you will find beliefs and tools, some other parents have used, that have been helpful to them and their autistic children.
Thoughts for Parents of Autistic Children
Give yourself a break!
Here's one of my favorite stories illustrating a client using a Life Options Dialogue:
Mary, her two sons, and her girlfriend went shopping at the supermarket. Six year old Dennis put a box of Toucan Sam’s Fruit Loops in the shopping cart. Nancy said gently, “We don’t eat that” and put it back on the shelf. Dennis persisted, put them back into the cart. Nancy gingerly put them back on the shelf, took Dennis’s hand and continued shopping.
What did Dennis do?! He wanted that box with Toucan Sam on it!! He started to struggle with her hand and cry. Nancy firmly and comfortably kept on shopping. Dennis cried harder and struggled more. By the time they got to the check-out, Dennis was having his worst tantrum ever, right there in the supermarket. Nancy, unlike previous times when this happened, stayed comfortable.
She handed her girlfriend her credit card, then gently and lovingly picked the struggling, screaming Dennis up and carried him to the car. Nancy didn’t worry about the judgments of other shoppers or the check out person. She knew Dennis was doing the best he could (that this was typical behavior for an autistic child) and that she was a good, loving caring mother.
Dennis calmed himself down in the car and...he never did it again!
The Son Rise Program
The Option Institute and Autism Treatment Center of America and the Son Rise Program were founded in the 1980s by Barry Neil and Samaria Kaufman. The Kaufmans were a young married couple in New York City with two small daughters. They were dissatisfied with their lives and their marriage, until they learned about and practiced, what is called the Option Process.
Then came the big test: their son Raun was diagnosed as severely autistic and retarded with an under 30 IQ at the age of 18 months. He was mute, spent his days spinning plates, flapping his hands, rocking back and forth, moving his fingers in front of his eyes.
His parents were told his condition was irreversible and hopeless, that he would never recover or learn to communicate in any meaningful way. The professionals recommended that he be institutionalized.
The Kaufmans decided to look at Raun’s condition as an opportunity instead of an awful, hopeless situation. They thought that if Raun couldn’t join them in their world, they would make an attempt to join him in his, so he wouldn’t be lonely in a world by himself. They developed a home based, child centered, program and worked with Raun for over three years.
During the time they worked with Raun, they did Option Process dialogues with each other to sort out their feelings and beliefs about their little boy, as well as about the other parts of their lives. These dialogues helped keep them clear and comfortable while working with him.
Raun recovered completely without any trace of his condition. In 2014 he published Autism Breakthrough, to assist and encourage families of autistic children.