Monday, November 14, 2011


So recently we had an RDI autism consultant fly up to see us from Houston. It was an eye-opening experience in a number of ways. But I think what struck me the most was what she had to say about Patrick and demands.

When she brought the issue up, I wasn't sure at first quite exactly what she meant. So when I asked her about it, she commented on how Patrick is saying "no" to what we say, even before he has really thought about what we're asking of him or inviting him to do. This seems to be something that's really common for kids with autism, it turns out.

So, essentially, my efforts to get him to engage have been misplaced -- or perhaps have even backfired -- by causing him to associate my words with a sense that he's about to be forced to do something whether he wants to or not.

The recommendation she offered was to invite him nonverbally when I can. To talk a lot less. And to give him space and time when he's overwhelmed rather than compounding the situation by chasing after him and adding further demands to what he's already experiencing.

It also caused me to reflect on the "demands" of being a parent to child with autism. At least for me, the demands come from the intense feeling of incompetence when your child screams "no" and runs out of the room. It comes from wanting so desperately for him to grow and succeed, and feeling like you're failing and letting him down.

And is those very feelings that often cause me to chase after him when he runs, those very feelings that cause me to feel like giving up rather than patiently giving him space and re-engaging around a familiar activity.

And so, with a nod to Pema Chodron, I think it's time that I learn to become more familiar and comfortable with these feelings. To sit with them patiently and compassionately. Because in a development that really shouldn't surprise me given the field that I'm in, I'm learning from this that learning to help Patrick is, first, about learning to grow myself.

Peace to all of you.