Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Many parents are not comfortable with some of the things their kids do--like 'stimming'*.  Learning to join in and NOT make it "a big deal", goes a long way with the child.  They feel the respect of their choice.

For example, one of my boys was "stimming" on a piece that spun around.  So I helped him spin it.  Then I sang a song, "round and round and round it goes until it STOPS!"  Then I would stop it.  He would look at me and we would start again.  When I stopped it, again, I would say (when he looked at me) , " want to see it SPIN!"  Because he has SOME language, I would ask him to say "spin".  If he didn't, but was still looking at me and gesturing for me to spin, I would spin it.  (Different from ABA--they would not spin it until he attempted the verbalization).  I would spin it fast, saying "It is going FAST!" and the slow it down, "It is going slow".  Eventually I would ask, "Do you want it to spin FAST or SLOW?"--again trying for language, but not demanding it.  (With older kids who are non-verbal, I will sometimes use my hands for them to 'choose"--i.e. put out right hand and say "FAST" and the left hand and say "SLOW".  Whichever they choose, I  honor the choice.)  Again, by joining in on a stim, it will eventually fade, NOT get worse (which is what parents fear).  By forbidding the stim, anxiety is fostered and the stim becomes more important to the child and will last longer.  Stimming is a way for the child to "veg out" and many parents are too afraid that if they allow it, they will 'veg out' forever. Not true.  I can always tell when a certain behavior is not permitted by parents because the child will be so surprised and relieved when I join in.  Almost always a guarantee for some level of eye contact. It is usually a sideways glances like, "REALLY?  You're letting me do this and YOU'RE doing it TOO??"  They are always "ready" for me to take it away--like I'm pulling a cruel joke on them.  Once they realize I am there for THEM, it is the first step to building a solid relationship.  After that, it is easy.  I do not do a lot of correcting or anything else that "puts upon" the child until I feel I do have that solid relationship.  Once that relationship is built, I can push for language, socialization skills, and behavior changes (although many of these come naturally, once the relationship is built and the parents are "on board".)

So, join in on that stim that you hate so much.  Change it up a little.  Show your child what ELSE can be done with that same thing.  The trust you will build is worth it.

*Stimming:  using an object to retreat from "our world"--usually involves repetitive behavior.  Some examples: spinning something (or anything) over and over, just going through books without even looking at the pictures, repeating the same words over and over, playing a part of a video over and over, lining things up, over and over again.  The commonality? "over and over again".

Parenthood--the TV show

I have started watching the new TV show, "Parenthood".  (Go to to watch any episodes you may have missed).  In it, a family gets a diagnosis of Asperger's for their 3rd grader.  When they meet with the psychologist, they are told to "meet him where he is".  At the end of the show, the dad is shown "joining in" with the child, in pirate play.  I LOVED it!!   No ABA drilling.  Just relationship building.

The next episode has a therapist come to the house.  She is able to get the child to join in with other kids.  The mom is sad and a bit jealous that this newcomer could do this, so quickly, after she had been trying for years. (Granted, this IS TV--but it did a good job of showing a family with a child on the Spectrum)  The older sister explains to her dad that it has been "about" her younger brother since as far back as she can remember.  It totally caught the dad off guard, hearing this.

Before I meet with parents, I have learned to explain that I may be able to engage their child better than they can, because this is what I signed up for.  THEY did not.  My job is to teach them how to do what I do.  I do this 5-6 days a week for at least 4 hours a day and LOVE it. If there are typical siblings, I will eventually try to engage them in activities, but usually wait until the child is at least a solid "level 4". (See below for Greenspan's levels.)

DIR Model means = Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based approach. There are six developmental levels. These stages are:

1. Self-regulation and interest in the world (3+ months)
2. Forming relationships, attachment and engagement (intimacy) (5+ months)
3. Two-Way Communication (9+ months)
4. Complex Communication (12-18+ months)
5. Emotional Ideas (24-30+ months)
6. Emotional Thinking (34+ months)

Some kids can be "swiss-cheesy" and have parts of every level, but missing aspects of every level.  Some kids (usually the verbal ones) have more solid level 4-6, but lots of "holes" in the lower levels.  The goal is to close the holes in the lower levels, which makes it easier to transition to higher levels.  My specialty is the lower levels.

Recently, I started working with my first client who is pretty well rounded in all levels.  That has been interesting for me, as I am not used to kids who can do the things she can do.  She was able to initiate "duck duck goose" with the whole family.  She actually came to look for me in "hide and seek" and hid FROM me, too (although she hid where I hid previously).   She still has holes, but they are small--trouble with pronouns, trouble with empathy, some socialization issues, but those are getting less.  I can't wait until she goes to "regular" Kindergarten!

PLAYing with Passion

Autism, Floortime, PLAY Project