Q: We have mildly-autistic (or Developmentally Delayed--whatever you want to call it) 4 ½ year old daughter. She is an increasingly verbal, happy child (especially as we slowly implement a Son-Rise program). What I am confused about is the fact that she often says things like “I love Lena’s (her sister) new shape sorter” when she clearly has no interest in it. Or “I like....” something, someone or some event that we know she emphatically does not like or does not seem to care about. Occassionally she says that she doesn’t like something that we know she likes but, more often, it’s the reverse.
How should we respond to these statements that clearly don’t seem to be meaningful to her? (Fortunately, she additionally says, with apparent authenticity, that she likes and loves things, as well.) We don’t want to ignore her; we don’t feel it’s appropriate to “correct” her; and, yet, it’s also awkward to respond as if she’s being true to herself.
We would greatly appreciate any advice and look forward to finding a way to attend one of you upcoming Start-Up seminars.
David Greenberg and Marisol V.
A: David and Marisol,
It’s exciting that you are implementing a Son-Rise Program, and the fantastic changes you are already seeing in Anna! Congratulations on beginning a powerful and loving journey with your daughter.
It sounds like Anna loves to say that she loves things. What you are describing is what we call a verbal “ism”... a repetitious and/or self-stimulating behavior. We would encourage you to join in with Anna when she is saying “I love Lena's shape sorter” or “I love the Teletubbies” or whatever else she says she loves. So, you literally say, “I love Lena's shape sorter!” or some version of that (like, “Boy, what a great shape sorter!”). And, speak the way she is speaking: for example, if she is talking to you when she says she loves the shape sorter, then say it back to her. If she seems to be speaking to herself, then you speak to yourself.
The additional thing to do is to enjoy doing this with her. She speaks like this for a reason, and this is a wonderful chance for you to enjoy doing what Anna loves. This can help you to foster a deeper sense of relationship with her (from her point of view), and give her the experience of being loved and accepted in the moments she is doing her repetitious behavior. This is the heart of the Son-Rise ProgramÉ loving her deeply with whatever she is doing. When you share that love with her, you are being with her in the most beautiful and powerful way.