Q: Dear Bryn,
We hope you and your family are well. We are writing to ask if you could give us some advice in relation to our son Liam aged 4 asd. We have attended the Start Up Program and also the Maximum Impact and have been in our playroom for just over 2 months. Liam loves the playroom and we have a variety of 8 volunteers joining and bonding with him. Although our playroom is relatively new we have been using our knowledge and calm attitude within the house for the previous year.
We have seen some fantastic changes in Liam and are very excited to be at this stage. We are just starting to request Liam to interact with us and very slowly we can see him joining us. This is wonderful but we wondered if you had any ideas on Liam chewing his toys. We have joined in with the chewing and I do think he was amazed when he saw 8 volunteers doing the same as him. Although we are doing well we want to go for the gold and we thought now we are requesting him to interact should we still chew with him or should we begin to phase our chewing out. Liam is giving lots of eye contact but less when he is chewing.
We thank you in anticipation.
Jenny and Paul Burnett
Name: Jenny and Paul B. Country: UK Child: Liam, 4 years old Diagnosis: ASD
A: Dear Jenny and Paul,
Thank you for the salutations. My family is doing wonderfully, and our Son-Rise Program with Jade is going so very well. I am really excited that you are feeling so good about the progress that Liam is making. This is a tribute not just to him - but to both of you and your love and commitment to your son.
With regards to his chewing, if we imagine that this chewing is a repetitive, exclusive behavior or an “ism”, then we would want to “go with” and “join” his ism, as long as he feels a need to do it. This can be very, very varied in children. Some parents ism with their children (chewing, rocking, playing with a particular toy) all day for many days, and then these behaviors begin to diminish. Sometimes, they diminish rapidly and completely. Sometimes they disappear, and then only return occasionally. Sometimes, a child may do their ism ongoingly but for different periods of time. Every child and program is different. In our program with Jade, for example, she had an “ism” of lining up blocks. We joined her for months, and this began to decrease and finally disappeared. This did not happen overnight. Rather, she began to take longer and longer breaks between isming. She began to only do it for 15 minutes and then not at all for the rest of the day. So, I would strongly suggest that you do this “ism” with him whenever he does it. If he does it for an hour, you do it for an hour. If he does it only for 10 minutes, you only do it for 10 minutes. Especially now that you are finding he is interacting more, it is that much more important that he knows that you will still “be there” with him when he feels he must “ism”.
You can also begin now to prepare activities or games that you know you would want to play with him. When he stops “isming” and is looking for something else to do, or when he takes a break in his “ism”, you could introduce your game (with enthusiasm of course!). We have found that if you can optimize the “windows of opportunity” that he gives you (when he stops and talks to you, or looks at you, or stops his ism) by offering him an interactive activity to play with you, that this really helps a child to build their attention span and ability to interact. Have fun with it!
I hope this is helpful, please do contact us again when you are wanting more support.
With warmest regards,