Q&A session 5 with the Director of The
Son-Rise Program®, Bryn N. Hogan.
Topic: Sensory Game
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!
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:
- when he wants to kiss my back, I would ask him to
look at me, or say the word "back"
- when I do lay down, I then only lay down perhaps
for 30-45 seconds, then I get up, and offer him another
opportunity to interact, as above.
- I would ask him to look at me while I squeeze his
hand behind my knee, explaining his eyes help make
- I would also focus on perhaps creating other options
for him, that would enable me to get more eye contact
- using a brush on his hands,
- asking him to kiss my hand, instead of my back,
or other parts of my body.
- giving him different sensations on his mouth,
throughout the day, soft and hard, prickly and
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
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
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
I hope that as the weeks
progress, I will have ample opportunity to answer all
the questions from everyone who is wanting support.
For me, this is another rare and unique opportunity
to offer our support and guidance to those who want
help. Thank you all for making this exciting exchange
possible through your participation. Please know you
can contact us by telephone to speak to a staff member
if you have more questions. Call us at: (413) 229-2100
Intro to Q&A Session 5
Program® and Down Syndrome
Autism and Expectations