Q: Dear Bryn,
My son is 4 and autistic. We’ve been running our program for 15 months in the playroom. The changes are truly incredible! Thank you for your help! Recently, my son is into this sensory game involving lots of my volunteers’ “skin.” He likes to pull up one person’s shirt and sit on her back or flip over it or just touch it or kiss it. Very sweet, and my volunteer doesn’t mind, except when someone is observing. Other games he likes along these lines include putting his hand behind someone’s knee and having them squeeze his hand by bending their knee. Sounds strange, but wondered if you have run into this before? Is it just sensory? Should we set limits involving personal exposure? Should I let the volunteer decide just how far to go? I’d appreciate your advice!
A: Dear Mitch’s mom:
(That’s you Betsy, isn’t it? You can't hide from me! (ha!) )
In responding to your situation, I am keeping in mind that you have been doing your program for a meaningful length of time. I also know that you have taken the Maximim Impact Program here (Part II after The Son-Rise Program Start-Up) and that you have had consultations as well, so you have had opportunities to focus on your attitude, your perspective etc. So, with all that in mind, here are some thoughts.
One idea to pursue is this: Could this be an “ism”? I know we usually see an “ism” as not involving other people, but many times they can. A child can have an “ism” in which they have an adult flip pages in a book and read, over and over again, as they watch. A child can have an “ism” in which they have an adult swing them by their arms, or give them a horsey ride. So, I would observe closely and see if you could determine if he is “using” people as an “ism”. One area to focus on is eye contact. Once he turns you over and kisses your back, you can’t make eye contact can you? With his hand behind someone’s knee, bent over, is any eye contact possible? He might create these scenarios as a way to “be exclusive” while also getting a sensory benefit. I would really try to make it much more interactive:
If he is seeking to have more sensation, let’s give it to him - but with our focus on interaction! It’s wonderful to ask him to participate in getting what he wants.
Remember, we put the toys on the shelf, so we can have an opportunity to be helpful to have the child ask us for things. In the same way, if you or your volunteers immediately lie down for ten minutes while he kisses your back (the image, by the way, is too cute!) it’s like putting toys all over the floor. You want to create a scenario where you might play a little “dumb” and ask him to really look and speak when he wants these things.
It sounds like a wonderful area of motivation - so have fun with it! Let me know how it goes.
With warmest regards to all of you,
Bryn N. Hogan