Now recall that the first stage of development is the functional emotional developmental capacity to be regulated and attend to the world. Typical babies develop this within the first three months of life. The baby will turn his or her head when hearing the mother’s voice, etc. If the baby is not doing this, there might be a problem.
Hear Dr. Greenspan on sensory processing
Every child wants to interact. (S)he just might not be able to due to his/her unique biology. So we find a way to get into his/her world until we see that gleam in his/her eye and then we do it over and over again. The younger the better.
There are some wonderful videos of Dr. Greenspan coaching parents where the child is playing aimlessly and the parents are aimlessly trying to get the child’s attention and failing miserably. Dr. Greenspan just has them sit back and watch what the child is interested in. That is your window into the child’s world.
He then coaches the parents to join in what the child is doing and get that gleam in the eye—which will happen if you are joining the child instead of trying to make the child join you. This is so important. Stop trying to make him or her join you! You must join the child! This is the developmental approach to supporting a child’s growth and progress.
For older children this gets much harder, sure. And this is where having a sensory integration occupational therapy assessment and occupational therapy comes in. The therapist will be able to see what the child’s sensory profile is in order to see what senses might be more over- or under-aroused. They will provide activities to work on modulating these senses to help the child attend to the world.
A SENSORY DIET is simply self-regulation work at the first functional emotional developmental capacity that will help your child to feel more at ease.
All of these tools help us help our children feel at ease so they can attend to the world and only then can we begin to work on higher levels of engagement and interaction. You have to think about the need for regulation as the need for food or water or sleep. If you are hungry, thirsty, or tired, you will find it hard to be attentive to what you are doing.
For children on the spectrum, their sensory issues will overwhelm them most of each and every day and cause them to use habits that help them stay regulated.
Until next week, here’s to affecting autism!
Footnote: Last week we also talked about how many children on the spectrum have trouble connecting affect to motor planning. We’ll talk much more about motor planning and sequencing when we delve into individual differences with more specific examples in the coming weeks.