Disclaimers

Just a reminder about our parent support meeting:

  • Everything said is confidential and we ask that there are no recordings;
  • This group is to share with and support fellow caregivers;
  • The sessions are for caregivers only, but we will have a guest DIR Expert Training Leader with us the first Monday of each month to support us if anyone has questions or would like this additional support;
  • This is not a clinical treatment program. This is a parent-led support service. ICDL strongly encourages parents to also obtain professional clinical support from a DIRFloortime provider. You can search for providers HERE or access the DIR Home Program for virtual coaching.
  • Feel free to send feedback, suggestions, etc. to me anytime

Here are the usual resources to check out:

If you have any questions about the notes or suggestions for next time, feel free to email me!

December 19, 2022

We started by welcoming our new guests. One has a young non-speaking child and for 7 weeks now they started teaching the child how to use a Proloquo2go AAC device and “it’s been great magic“, the parent said. It has changed their whole life around feeding as they have created shared experiences and the child is already expanding so much. The parent created the Proloquo2go boards from scratch and was happy to connect with others. I referenced my podcasts about AAC devices and Purposeful Communication with Joleen Fernald.

Another parent visited their child’s developmental preschool this week and was affected by seeing their child and another autistic boy sitting apart from the group of kids (about half of whom had IEPs) who were all enjoying group time singing, etc. The parent would have imagined there would have been more effort to have these kids participate so encouraged their child to participate but the child wasn’t so interested. Then all the kids were happily making a gingerbread house at craft time, but again their child didn’t want to participate and just ate the candies. Next, the speech therapist came in the room and the child wouldn’t participate with the therapist even though the other kids would. Then the child had a tantrum and this parent was feeling emotional and panicky and spent the rest of the class trying to comfort their child.

Another parent asked if the child was happy at first being away from the group because this parent had a similar experience, seeing their own child having a dog bed under the table but then realized the child loves being in there and feels safer. This parent pointed out that it’s hard to know what’s happening when we’re not there, too. Another parent offered that the parents often have high expectations, expressed compassion, and said that it will get better.

A parent said that ‘future tripping’ can be our worst enemy, worrying about what will happen to our children. I shared a story I wrote from this link about a similar experience I had and read most of it aloud, which brought me to tears. It’s still very emotional and we all can relate to feeling this way. I talked about how in the years since then–almost a decade ago–I’ve come to realize that sometimes we are the ones that need therapy, not our children. I referenced the podcast with The Autistic Advocate, Kieran Rose, that I’ve done that I recommended everyone to listen to:

Then, we had a fantastic quote from one of our moms, Kim, who said, “You’ll be surprised how much a perspective shift can change everything” which I agree with 100%. We have to listen to Kieran and accept our children for whom they are: neurodivergent and different! It’s easier said than done, for sure.

A parent wondered what would happen if the school had offered two types of activities instead of just the gingerbread house. It made them realize they really have to have a close relationship with the teacher of their child’s school to remind them about their child’s neurodivergence. We then spent some time discussing how to form relationships with staff and a few parents gave their examples of doing so. Find that personal connection with a staff member with who you can connect because they share something in common with you. A parent gave a staff member a copy of Ross Greene’s book! We talked about how we can’t feel wrong about advocating for our children, even though it sometimes feels futile when the teacher acts like they don’t want your child there.

A parent shared a success story of their child participating with them and siblings in marching and imitating the steps.

A parent’s child’s teacher mentioned that at preschool the child had trouble with impulse control and mentioned that the child went to wash their hands without asking. Really?! We all expressed frustration with this kind of focus on compliance for preschoolers. A few parents gave tongue-in-cheek examples of their struggles with impulse control such as eating chocolate during this meeting, or for breakfast. I suggested Maude Le Roux’s take on Impulsivity which explains this a lot better than I could.

Another parent described how the school is always blaming their child and talking about what they CAN’T do, but this parent fought back saying if the child had better service, they might be able to do it. If you put the child in a classroom, it’s the teacher’s responsibility to help the child! Most teachers are not ready to see the Floortime way, they shared, but if the child won’t have it at school, at least they’ll have it at home with us, the parents!

This parent continued that focusing on strengths is really important so they tried many activities with their now adolescent child. The child liked swimming best so the parent thought this might be a good way to encourage socialization. The child then was swimming at school with the team and had to take a bus to the swim meet, without the parent for the first time! The parent was very nervous but later the coach told the parent that the child came in first place in one of the races! They cheered! Look at what the child CAN do! This parent shared this story to say to keep trying different things because you never know what they might like! Incredible!

A reminder that this was the last session of 2022. See you again in 2023! Please consider registering for my new course coming up in January!

December 12, 2022

A parent says their 4-year-old is in a phase to try to make people laugh but some of it isn’t super appropriate such as sniffing your bum and then laughing and will repeat it nonstop. Most of the group agreed that this is typical little boy behaviour–being silly about gross things. I suggested making a game of it and being playful such as sniffing their foot and saying, “Peee-U! That is STINKY!” and things like that. You could also talk about what we do at home only versus at school. A parent offered that their child started telling jokes to connect with others around age 5/6.

A parent said there’s other children at preschool who are noticing their child is different. Their child asked the group a question and then said a name that the kids didn’t like and got some pushback from the kids who then made faces at the child and told the teacher the child was doing things they didn’t like. The parent was bullied as a child so is defensive about it. Another parent got bullied, too. A parent responded that as a child themself, they didn’t notice how others felt about them, so to note that the child’s experience might be different.

I talked about how self-advocates like Kieran Rose talk about discussing with your child at a young age that they are autistic and their brains work differently so they don’t mask. The parent wondered if the child can have that discussion yet. While it’s never too early to start discussing it, I suggested that if they are uncomfortable discussing it that directly, they could just say mommy’s good at this, daddy’s good at this, sister’s good at this, you’re good at this; we’re all different.

Another parent suggested that we’re coming from it as an afterthought but our children are in the moment. This parent was a teacher and was horrified by some of the things that little kids did but was instructed to focus on Community. At the ICDL conference this year at the DIR and schools presentation, they understood the presenter as saying to focus on the ‘R’. This parent suggested to look for Relationship-focused teachers and use your early intuitions about the teacher and whether or not they are R-based. The Relationshop-focused can go a LONG way towards protecting your child from wounding. It’s about building that sense of what we are as a class and a community.

I echoed how Dr. Neufeld talks about children only requiring ONE person in their life to believe in them and with whom they feel safe. I re-told his story about when his son was surrounded by a group of boys teasing his son at a soccer game. Dr. Neufeld raced across the field to defend his son when he heard his son saying, “MY Dad says I’m the BEST soccer player!” and so he stopped. He realized he had done his job as a father by providing that shield of Relationship against the wounding from peers.

Neufeld’s premise, which is the same as Dr. Greenspan’s ‘R’ in ‘DIR’ is about having that alpha presence in a primary caregiver who sets boundaries but is also loving and safe and with whom you interact with first before you are able to then interact comfortably with peers. And that primary relationship shields you from wounding from peers. Dr. Neufeld’s book HOLD ON TO YOUR KIDS is about protecting this relationship so your children don’t try to orient themselves to peers who can never provide that unconditional loving relationship like you can.

Another parent brought up that their child is also trying to make friends and struggling, not understanding why kids won’t invite them to play, but the child never says hi or bye. We talked about how we can discuss with our children that not everybody will be our friend and that’s ok. We can ‘normalize’ the experience by sharing a story about when we were little and wanted to be friends with somebody who didn’t want to be with us, but that we made other friends. We can talk about how everybody has different strengths and preferences.

We next discussed letting our kids make mistakes and fail as well rather than protecting them from everything, as much as we want to. It’s how they learn. And having the strong ‘R’ will help them make the best decisions and feel safe to bounce back.

Another parent said that when their child switched schools they used existing relationships in the family to support the new ones, even if they weren’t the best. They were able to find new aspects of old relationships to support them through it and flow with the waves of the revolving door of relationships that our kids face in their childhood (and as we do as adults, too).

Sharing warm-hearted stories from the week:

  • We talked about how some of our kids were at a trampoline park playing and taking turns on swing and communicating just lovely with each other, helping each other on and off.
  • Another parent shared teaching their child to point and that the child is now repeating what the parent says–beginning speech! Woo hoo!
  • A child has a new therapist this year and they discovered the mostly non-speaking child is reading, so the therapist put up cue cards for the student at the school concert and the child read off the cue cards then danced and introduced a friend. It was a great surprise for the parents and audience who know the child!

Another parent’s child’s stopped talking last year and their voice came back but not to full capacity. They have a great speech therapist and they’re going to get an AAC device to fill in the gaps of where the child’s not using words. One parent used an app called Speak for Yourself (SFY) which gave the child the confidence to then speak, and I suggested the app mentioned in this podcast.

I brought up the topic of situational mutism and how autistic self-advocate, Kieran Rose, said that his family of 3 children prefer to text versus talk even if they’re in the same room, so the child may prefer text sometimes.

A parent wished there were more role models if not friends for their child. I suggested reading the blogs of self-advocates or YouTube videos of Neurodivergent girls such as Jessica McCabe or using the hashtag #ActuallyAutistic on social media. A parent mentioned a Facebook group called the Ausome book club that lists books by autistic authors.

Announcements:

  • I reminded everyone that THIS SATURDAY is Dr. Robert Naseef’s father’s support group and to email the Autism Institute at Drexel University for the link.
  • I reminded everyone that they can see the schedule for parent support in the new year by clicking on the Events tab above and clicking on REGISTER HERE.
  • I announced my upcoming course of ‘We chose play‘ that describes my family’s journey and setting up success for your child and family which is also listed under the Events tab and to let me know if you’d like a 15% discount.

December 5, 2022

Being the first week of the month, we had a DIR Expert guest. This month is was Jackie Bartell.

A parent had a question about vision processing and whether a developmental optometrist is pseudoscience (not based in evidence or science). In a past parent meet-up we had discussed the difference between opthalmology, optometry, and a developmental optometrist as described in my podcast with Occupational Therapist, Maude Le Roux. Jackie mentioned that Harry Wachs talked about visual processing games in the book Thinking Goes to School. We talked about the difference between vision–the hardware that we can see or not and the visual processing which is our visual cortex in the brain processing the signals that come in from our eyes. Vision therapy and exercises are sometimes prescribed for children whose visual processing is having struggles.

A parent pointed out that there’s so much pressure on practitioners to be ‘evidence-based’ but it’s always good to look deeper because for instance, things like ABA are considered ‘evidence-based’, but sometimes aren’t helpful and can be quite harmful, especially according to most adult autistic self-advocates. It’s a lot of pressure on parents and it’s so much work. Another parent is thinking of doing vision therapy because their visual motor integration score is under the 1st percentile, as determined in an assessment for their own autism diagnosis. For instance, they cannot catch a ball and don’t drive due to the challenges it presents. But, the parent pointed out that there are a lot of money-grabbing practitioners and it’s hard to know where to find the more ‘legit’ ones.

I found a few scathing articles about vision therapy at Science-Based Medicine, in the New York Times Magazine, and on Quackwatch. I also found this statement by the American Association for Pediatric Opthalmology and Strabismus. These sites seem to be in agreement that overarching claims about improving damaged vision or curing learning disorders like Dylexia or Attention are not plausible. However, with my own son, we found that a developmental optometrist was helpful in ruling out that our son was not seeing in 3 dimensions, was not able to block out peripheral vision (thus was looking out of the corner of his eye at moving objects such as running model trains frequently, that he has astigmatism in one eye, and that he was suppressing vision in one eye. Wearing his prescribed glasses helped improve these problems and over the last 2 appointments, he was now using both eyes without suppressing the vision in one eye, which is very important for reading, for example.

Like anything, we have to be very careful about pseudoscience and in general, about panaceas. Take a bit of useful information where you find it and be critical to evaluate what information you are being told. I gave the comparison to hearing and auditory processing and that my son’s neurologist said that the sound/listening therapies had the most promising research behind them. We used Tomatis with our son for years. Another  parent is looking into the Safe and Sound Protocol for their child.

This led to a discussion around primitive reflexes and reflex integration. I had a few thoughts about it. I found that Sonia Story seemed in the Pacific Northwest United States to know the most about it and she has been trained from multiple sources including the Rhythmic Movement Training and the Anat Baniel Method, but I was turned off in her spewing pseudoscience as well. So, you take the good and filter out the bad. Occupational Therapist (O.T.) Maude Le Roux tends to incorporate reflex integration with occupational therapy versus thinking that all the reflexes have to be integrated before you can move forward. A parent pointed out that their O.T. worked on the ATNR and STNR reflexes by doing crossing the midline activities and made a lot of fun obstacle courses.

Another parent notices that their child looks out of the corner of their eye, but it just seems to be something they like to do and the parent doesn’t want to put them through the stress of appointments and tests so asked what the right balance is between accepting behaviours as they are and trying to find answers for behaviours. Jackie stresses that we want connection with our children. If they want to be involved in something and something’s preventing them from doing it, then we might want to help them. I pointed out that Kieran Rose, The Autistic Advocate, points out in my upcoming podcast that sometimes our kids don’t need therapy but just need to be loved, accepted, and supported and that they will often outgrow many of these behaviours that we worry and fret so much about.

A parent’s child loves to turn on and off the lights and gets upset if the parents prevent them from doing it and the child is also very particular about which lights can be on and off and it depends if it’s light or dark outside. The parent wondered if it’s light sensitivity but the child seems fine at the mall, for instance, where the lights are bright. The child refuses to wear sunglasses. It sounded to me more like a child being playful and experimenting with cause and effect as Dr. Feder referred to in this podcast. The parent could be playful and join the child in turning the lights off and on. The parent can practice Frustration Tolerance by turning the light off (or on) again and when the child protests, saying, “Oh! Sorry! You didn’t like that!” and backing off. Then next time simply say, “I’m going to turn the light off!” with a lot of affect and then slowly walk toward the light with your arm out about to turn it off. The child might then protest again, and again you back off. You make it a game. Jackie adds that you could start just in one room and you could even count down from 10 when you’re going to turn the light off again.

A parent new to Floortime started reading Engaging Autism and asked what to do next. They started with simple tickling and dancing with their young adolescent child. Jackie asked what the child likes to do. The parent said they watch YouTube videos and frequently go to the bathroom to isolate. Jackie says to start with what the child is interested in and join them. I suggested these beginner Floortime posts to help with ideas:

Find joy that you can share together, Jackie suggests. Even if you start with the YouTube video, it’s not so much commenting on what the child is watching (e.g., “Oh look! There’s Mario jumping on Princess Peach!“) as much as it is about experiencing it with your child in the way they’re experiencing it (e.g., “Ohhhh! Gooooo MARIO!“). Share joy together. And with tickling, I suggested, we want to for sure avoid ‘torturing’ the child with non-stop tickling, but if it’s just quick fun tickles, you can use anticipation and smile with your hands up approaching very slowly saying with affect that you’re about to tickle them. You want to keep that connection and get as many circles of communication as you can by slowing down and stretching out each interaction. Jackie says that you are stretching out that rubber band, so to speak.

As for the child going to the bathroom, Jackie says to look at what happened right before the child goes into the bathroom. Are they experiencing a challenge that is too difficult and they are escaping? Take all behaviour as communication. They are communicating something about their experience with what they do. The parent said that the child drinks one sip of water then wants to go into bathroom and has maybe one or two drops of pee. I suggested this sounds more like an awareness of what is happening in their body and another parent pointed out that the child’s body is changing at that age (puberty) so it could be related to that as well. I suggested also checking out the toileting podcast (2 parts) I did which goes over many Floortime activities around bathroom behaviours.

November 28, 2022

A parent listened to the latest podcast and much of the parent’s story resonated with them–specifically wishing they’d have had other parents who had gone through the experience before them to learn from, the medical community being behind.

Another parent’s child birthday is coming up and in the past decorations stresses the child out because they don’t like stuff that shouldn’t be there. The parent has had bad experiences in the past around birthdays and Christmas. I mentioned Meaning Making and the parent said that they did try Christmas board books and an advent calendar in the past. Another parent asked if the child like music and the parent said yes, so they suggested trying Christmas songs.

Another parent said that pointing things out to the child helped such as saying there’s Christmas lights, etc. and another said that nursery rhymes and songs helped their child become familiar with holidays. Another suggested driving through neighbourhoods and commenting on lights and decorations while playing Christmas music in the car. Another parent’s child had a birthday this past week and said they found things they knew the child would enjoy, and wrapped the child’s favourite snack in wrapping paper. The parent said their child gets distressed by things wrapped up and struggles with fine motor skills so I suggested covering the gifts with a towel which the parent liked.

A parent new to our group today asked about using DIR to overcome fears. I suggested these 2 podcasts:

Another parent reminded us that at ICDL’s conference last month, Dr. Karen Levine talked about new experiences and humor and using humor to overcome fears and phobias (she has a book entitled ‘Replays’), and Jackie Bartell presented on ‘nonsense’.

We talked about how the DIR/Floortime approach is more about the way in which we interact with our child and how we work on their Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities (FEDCs), so make sure they’re regulated, which can be a big struggle in the first place which requires us to co-regulate all the time, and get that engagement and back-and-forth communication. When they feel safe with us and understand we’re supporting them, they can begin to communicate, verbally or non-verbally through gestures, affect, etc., their fears and we can make it easier for them by helping them predict what is going to happen, etc.

A parent said that the DIR Home Program  was the best thing they ever did and have seen such an improvement in regulation and calm in their child, and that although it is expensive, they prioritized it and found they are continuing with it because it’s been so helpful. 

A parent wondered if Meaning Making overlaps with fears. Their child is fearful about thunder and lightening and loves rain during the day because of their love for water and drains but not rain at night because it means there may be thunder and lightening. The child plays with their sibling in a tent and asks the sibling to pretend there’s thunder. The parent says, “But, you love water! There will be so much water in the drains!

I commented that it’s fantastic the child is bringing in the emotional theme into play by asking the sibling to pretend there’s thunder. This is the 5th FEDC. I encouraged the parents to go full on in with the theme of thunder and lightening in play! Talk about thunder, make loud, scary noises of thunder, and join the child in that fear of the thunder commenting that it’s so loud and scary versus the parent trying to get the child on their side or convincing the child that it’s ok because it means there will be more water. They could dive full in and get books about thunder and lightening and watch YouTube videos about how thunder and lightening happen and the science behind it.

Another parent said you really have to dig in because it’s hard to know what the child is actually scared of. They remembered being younger and being scared of thunder because to them it meant more firetrucks and sirens which means someone could be trapped in a fire, but the parents thought it was the noise that bothered this parent. Our children will often not be able or want to share the rationale behind the fear so we have to join them in that fear and wonder together.

November 14, 2022

First I announced that this coming Saturday, November 19th it is Dr. Robert Naseef’s parent support group over Zoom for fathers and gave the link. If you want a father you know to attend, you can email me and I’ll forward the link to you and tell you how to get on their mailing list.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE NEXT PARENT SUPPORT MEETING WILL BE IN TWO WEEKS ON NOVEMBER 28TH. NO MEETING NEXT WEEK.

The parent of a young non speaking autistic child said that the hardest thing is social situations – the park, a party, etc. where they have so much anxiety because of not knowing when the next meltdown will be. They were at a birthday party and the child was having a great time on the jumping castle because they had the hose running in there. But then, someone turned off the hose and child freaked out. The parent wanted to know what to do in situations like this? They bought a button to wear that says “My child is autistic“.

Another parent says that for their child it was also the jumping castle too at a party, but in their case, all the kids went into the castle and their child went for the trucks and took all the kids’ trucks so it was anxiety-provoking as the other kids became upset that their trucks were taken, etc. Another parent has a younger neurotypical child and said that the older autistic child does things that the neurotypical kids who are a couple years younger do. Sometimes it’s just kid behaviour. They also added that when we’re anxious, the child senses your anxiety and can be more anxious and to not feel the need to explain to other parents that your child is autistic or apologize for it. As time goes on, this parent said, they care less and less what others think, and that their mindset has changed.

This resonated with me as well. When my child was younger I was always similarly anxious about social situations where all the kids were able to participate but my child could not. I felt judged and scrutinized, but as time goes on, like the other parent said, I have come to realize it’s how I would feel if I were put in a white water rafting boat or on a roller coaster. I would be horrified and melt down in sheer terror. I shared how my child is mostly regulated these days but when we had a birthday party a year ago, I was reminded of what my child cannot do seeing him struggle with the event and it felt devastating. But then I understood that because I accommodate his challenges and focus on his strengths, he does great! It’s when we’re in those uncomfortable and unpredictable settings that he really struggles, and that’s ok.

I also shared how we’d go to model train shows and people would look curiously when my son would flap his arms and make loud noises as he was watching the trains go by. I would comment to him, “Wow! You’re so excited seeing this train!” for the benefit of those watching, rather than having to explain to them why he’s acting like that, which looks unusual to many people. One kind gentleman looked at me one day then snickered, “We all feel that way inside–we just aren’t showing it!” which made me so happy. I have found that most people are thoughtful, kind, and understanding. You’ll always have a few rude people, but you cannot take it personally!

But getting back to the question of what to do about it, I said that all you can really do once the child is melting down is co-regulate! I talked about the podcast on co-regulation that is so helpful. I also mentioned the podcast on preverbal affective signalling that Dr. Greenspan stressed was so important because it’s the path to no longer having catastrophic emotional reactions. How do we get there? You get that engagement and back-and-forth interactions (using affect, gestures, facial expressions, etc. around the child’s area of interest) and prolong them getting as many circles of communication as possible in a flow. You want to do this when you are having fun, in a comfortable environment, playing, as much as possible so that when you DO have a meltdown in public, your child is used to interacting with you and can look to you to co-regulate rather than melt down. It takes months, years, but it happens with development. Keep working on those developmental capacities!

I also mentioned the podcast on doing Floortime with siblings and small groups where Kristy Gose talked about really talking mostly with the neurotypical kids in the bunch and getting them to interact with the neurodivergent child and how siblings often know better than us what the neurodivergent child likes and dislikes, and what makes them uncomfortable.

Another parent suggested getting rid of the button saying your child is autistic because you shouldn’t have to apologize for your child; self-advocates say that it was humiliating when their parents did stuff like that and also that they didn’t give permission, and it could lead to more bullying by being identified (because kids can be mean). If you’re going to Disney, etc. where you have to watch for their safety if you are separated, then sure, but not to advertise it everyday.

Another parent will say things like “My son likes to ask a lot of questions” without mentioning he has a disability and found that this is a way for people to learn about their son without talking about it as a deficit.

Finally, a parent brought up how they now can see the meltdown before it happens and catch it before it happens, which I explained was what Eunice Lee talked about in this podcast, and what Dr. Stuart Shanker talked about in this podcast. All you can do is look for the cues and try to proactively intervene in the situation.

A parent asked about partners having different ways of implementing an approach. Their partner feels like they’re always trying to correct them and gets frustrated; that they’re always trying to control things. I resonated with that and said that it’s hard and always backfires because we can’t ever control everything and it won’t make the other partner change what they do. Another parent brought up that it’s about the ‘R’ in ‘DIR’, which is the Relationship. We each have a different R with our child and we have to allow our child to have a unique relationship with their other parent, even if it looks different than what we hoped for. Another parent said that their partner is never interested in learning with them about Floortime and maybe it was the way they were brought up, as Dr. Glovinsky talked about in this podcast. This parent has noticed that the woman in their family will tend to accommodate the Floortime methods, but the men do not and the child responds differently to the women versus men.

We talked about the autism narrative that is so negative that makes us panic about everything going on with our child even though it’s easier and better to focus on their strengths, and support their challenges.

A parent asked about telling their child they are autistic. They have not yet, and the child is nine years old. We talked about why self-advocates say it’s so important to do so and how to do so in an appropriate way. We talked about discussing how brains are different, and I mentioned what Chele Abraham-Montgomery said about it in my recent podcast–it’s a strength and a difference. A parent said that Kristy Forbes who is autistic and has autistic children and a big online presence read a book recently aloud called The Brain Forest which has good, positive descriptions of neurodiversity. The parent also likes the book called Some Brains.

A REMINDER THAT THE NEXT PARENT SUPPORT MEETING WILL BE IN TWO WEEKS ON NOVEMBER 28TH. NO MEETING NEXT WEEK.

November 7, 2022

This week we had Occupational Therapist, Gretchen Kamke join us. She is a Floortime coach in the DIR Home Program and a DIR Expert Training Leader with ICDL.

A parent asked about vision processing and mentioned seeing an opthalmologist, but wanting to understand more about it. I mentioned the recent vision podcast with OT Maude Le Roux and that you want to bring the child to a developmental optometrist who can check for all that is mentioned in that podcast.

A parent asked about challenges of their child’s receptive language and finding an OT who doesn’t stumble on this. Gretchen said she goes to their websites and looks at what their training is. Do they have sensory integration training? Do they just talk about behaviours? Ask questions.

How can an OT help the body control movements, a parent asked. Gretchen said that everything we do with our body is impacted by how we process sensory information. We want to provide meaningful opportunities to experience interactions in the environment. I suggested the sensorimotor podcast with Gretchen.

Gretchen explained that the science is that we want to help the child feel more competent in using their body. The art is how we make it more meaningful.

A parent asked about brushing teeth. The child won’t put the toothbrush inside their mouth nor let the parent brush their teeth. The child also has extreme sensitivity to eating and will only eat purees. They will need to anaesthetize the child to get dental work and the parent is worried about the after effect of the anaesthetic.

It’s not just oral, Gretchen says. It’s stressful. Every interaction is impacted by a previous interaction. We’re always comparing sensory information and predicting what it’s going to happen. We all have a quest for safety. With the food complexities it’s clear the child has a very sensitive tactile system. The parent has tried different toothbrushes and toothpastes and Gretchen says to keep exploring; give the child enough options to be a part of the decision making and support predictability. Also, is there a song? a rhythm? Try using affect and fun singing, “1-2-3” while brushing then, “Break!” and repeat. Maybe it’s just “1“, then a break. The parent says that the child is putting the brush in their mouth in the living room and tasting the toothpaste, but Gretchen says there’s no experience of getting teeth brushed in the living room so the child feels more safe. She suggests empathizing while brushing. Make it predictable. Play tooth brush to brush, where you brush the child’s teeth for a second, then brush yours, etc. Create more pleasurable affect around teeth brushing with shared experiences. And create patterns of success NOW by stretching the capacities when the child is calm. You don’t want to avoid brushing and get cavities and then when the adult teeth come in, the child still isn’t brushing.

A parent asked what to do when a child quickly flings things onto the floor then thinks it’s funny and looks for a reaction. Gretchen would ask why? Are they exploring their environment? Seems like maybe it’s hard to initiate an interaction. This might be a cool way to play with the child. Use affect to sets boundaries, but only if you’ve had other pleasurable interactions in the day. You want to give the child pleasurable interactions. She points out also that you can see the same exact things from 2 kids that have very different reasons, so we always want to wonder why.

A parent’s child is looking to interact at preschool but the other kids aren’t interested and they’re worried their child will be left out. Gretchen says to share this with the teachers. Ask, “Is my child showing any interests in an activity that you think another child might like? Is there a good peer they can interact with?” The child likes drains. Gretchen suggests asking the teacher how they can make drains interesting to kids who aren’t into drains and could the teacher incorporate a lesson that uses a drain? What about the drain does the child like? Stuff going down the drain?

I mentioned discussing with Jackie Bartell, next month’s DIR Expert guest, that we can share the experience of helping the child experience success in initiating an interaction so we might go with them up to a child and ask them to play. Gretchen says that as a Floortimer, she doesn’t think about teaching specific skills because she trusts in the process, but in this case having that shared interaction and experience of success is like a skill.

A parent asked for any resources for at-home fun physical activities to help improve co-ordination and copy movements. The child has low muscle tone and apraxia and is cautious jumping, running, walking on inclined surfaces, etc. Gretchen suggests roughhouse play at home with a lot of playfulness and moving the body in different directions. Incorporate movement in their special interests such as red light-green light, head shoulders knees and toes, etc. Get them comfortable at moving their body with the just-right challenges. You could put cushions on the floor or an inflatable mattress and walk on them. Stay attuned. When there’s some fear around falling you can say, “Oooo! That was a big movement!” or, “Wooo! That made you a little bit nervous!” I suggested these podcasts that discuss ideas:

How can I support visual and vestibular processing at home, a parent asks. I suggested the vision and vestibular processing podcasts. Gretchen says that it’s the same answer as the previous question. Use movement! Support these in play. Play in a lot of different positions – crawling, rolling, swinging.

A child’s teacher suggested they need oral input. The parent is wondering what kind of oral input to provide because the child currently has a broken tooth. Gretchen says to ask the dentist. Some suggestions were given such as silicone straws.

A parent’s child started putting their hands in front of their eyes at age 2 and a half as a main interest and is wondering why it started at that age? Gretchen said she’s wonder less about that and more about how to work with it and support interactions and engagements around that. It very might be the vestibular system, as mentioned in the vestibular processing podcast.

A parent is concerned about how much the child loves staring at the clock, watching the time click. They bought the child a watch but they won’t wear it. Gretchen says that it could be an interest in numbers and/or an interest in watching the clock change and that it is likely a sensory issue to not wear the watch. Again, Gretchen repeated, MAKE IT INTERACTIVE and playful.

October 31, 2022

A parent’s child is hitting the baby, knowing not to, but looking for the reaction. A parent suggested doing hand-over-hand showing them ‘gentle’ because just saying, “Gentle! Gentle!may not have meaning for the child. I suggested playfully saying (because the child is still quite young), “Whoa! Whoa! That’s not gentle!” then playfully kissing the child and giving them attention and saying, “You wanted (parent’s) attention!” A parent reassured them that this phase will end and won’t last forever!

I asked how everyone liked the ICDL Conference and got some conversation going. Someone mentioned the DIR in schools presentation, others mentioned Dr. Shanker and hearing from self-advocates. Others loved the format of the 10 days and enjoying attending the live sessions and the double offerings to be able to hear things again with a new audience. It made one parent want to start a journal and they said they need to process and decide what’s next for them. Someone loved seeing the wide range of ways DIR is implemented worldwide, and also seeing the collaboration and comaraderie within the community. Others liked the ones on transitions, humour, nonsense, and empathy. Someone mentioned loving all of the Floortime video examples shows. Everyone said they need to watch recordings again. I added that I loved what Dr. Kathy Platzman said in her gala thank-you speech–that you can go to the conference every year and hear the ‘same’ material (in one variation or another) but SHE changed from the previous year, so she always gets something new out of it.

A parent asked about co-sleeping and many parents described their experiences of co-sleeping with their child. I stressed that it’s a personal decision and sometimes cultural and we talked about pros and cons.

A parent asked about a child waking up in the middle of the night crying and we discussed many reasons why a child could be upset that we have no idea: gas in their belly, growing pains, a bad dream, etc. I talked about Dr. Neufeld’s attachment tips for bedtime such as telling your child you’ll put a heart (paper cut out, or whatever) each time you check on them through the night and kiss them and then them waking up to a pile of hearts next to their pillow. 

Someone asked about how to introduce DIR/Floortime to a practitioner or teacher working with their child–what starting materials would we suggest? We talked about them taking DIR 101 and getting the 15% off promo code from my podcast and also looking through the intro videos at the START HERE link at this website (above).

Next week is a new batch of sessions so YOU HAVE TO RE-REGISTER. It will also be the first week of the month which means a DIR Expert guest. Next week’s guest will be Occupational Therapist, Gretchen Kamke from the DIR Home Program.

October 17, 2022

A parent started with their trouble getting their son to eat since he was sick and recovered. The child is still not eating anything except the same breakfast cereal. What to do? A parent suggested playing with food as sensory play to help to some extent (rice, pasta). Another parent said they have started reading Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating which is good and focuses on reducing anxiety, making meals more enjoyable and less focused on what they are eating and more on the process of enjoying meals, like these podcasts talk about:

A parent gave the example of how their child loved peanut butter then suddenly stopped but then started again and was able to communicate that it was a different brand, “Oh, you got the good peanut butter again” (or something like that). I loved this example because it shows how our kids make meaning of things we may not realize because it’s not communicated! When they gave peanut butter, to the child it was the ‘Trader Joe’s peanut butter’ not the other brand of peanut butter. So the child didn’t like it when it wasn’t the preferred brand. To us, they’re both peanut butter. Our kids get used to things and sometimes just want to stick with what they know. I see it in my son all the time. And their memories are incredible for details.

A parent with a child just diagnosed at age 2 is finding their child is having great difficulty going to the doctor (including getting weighed on the scale), following instructions, and eating and is a bit overwhelmed. They do not want ABA based on hearing the voice of many self-advocates. I mentioned that as Colette shared with us a few weeks ago, it’s about the child FEELING SAFE. A parent said that their child who is now age 4 was similar at that age, not doing well with waiting, going to the doctor, etc. but after a year of Floortime-friendly OT and the parents doing Floortime at home, the child is doing well with regulation, waiting, going to the doctor, etc. Another parent said how helpful the DIR Home Program  has been for them and specifically for doctor’s appointments, this Daniel the Tiger episode. I suggested that the parent could also look up local DIR practitioners at the ICDL DIRectory. Parents gave examples of things their doctors do to help their children such as one meeting them outside since the child only screams if they go inside, or standing on the scale with the parent, then subtracting the parent’s weight.

Another parent offered that all they had heard about was ABA-style and that their original Occupational Therapist was terrible, but since they found Floortime it is all so much better, so said to stick with Floortime.

Another parent just did Dr Dan Siegel’s webinar on his Wheel of Awareness practice which helps the parent get to a regulated state and suggested looking it up. When you’re going through something, it’s like dumping a tablespoon of salt into that water, and then realizing how hard it is to drink that. The solution is to create a bigger container so you dilute it which expands your tolerance. The parent also has had great support from Kasheena in the DIR Home Program.

I suggested some of these Parent Support podcasts I’ve done:

A parent said that this time of year is so great for walking in the woods, which is so relaxing. It might be a good time to go on a hike or go apple picking. Their child might not eat an apple if you cut it up and put it on the table, but if you go apple picking the child will eat many apples. They also make applesauce in an instapot which the child loves.

A parent expressed concern about starting school and a parent suggested making a one-page summary of their child for the school since many staff won’t bother reading the long Individualized Education Plan (IEP). A parent said that they do a one-page summary about their child to give to teachers.

A parent said their child is unable to tolerate long pants or winter gear but living in Canada, it’s cold! Their O.T. only suggests the Wilbur brushing protocol. Help! I explained sensory integration and why the O.T. would say that doing the Wilbur method would help integrate the sense of touch (tactile system), but I’m not an O.T. so that was my best guess. I suggested the following podcasts that get into sensory sensitivities:

And podcasts that had great suggestions for sensory integration activities:

We talked about doing Floortime around dressing–putting longer pants and coats out to play with, watching the parent put one on and off, putting it on your head being silly, etc. just so the child gets used to the clothes in a fun setting. But if the clothes are aversive to their tactile system, it could feel as painful as a bikini wax to us, to give an extreme example. We need to appreciate their experience of pain. Another parent suggested putting on soft long johns underneath their pants or a long-sleeve T-shirt under their shirt, etc. to keep them warm.

A reminder that there will be no meeting next week, October 24, due to ICDL’s 2022 International DIRFloortime Conference which starts this Friday, Oct 21st and goes until Oct 30th. I will be presenting at 2:00PM Eastern next Monday and hope you will attend! You can register here

October 3, 2022

Being the first week of the month, we had a guest. This month’s guest was Kieran Rose, The Autistic Advocate!​

A parent asked about how to help their child transition from water play, which is such a preferred activity above all else that the child will have a meltdown. Kieran says there is no quick fix and that they will have to ride it out a bit, but it will get easier as the child gets older, and as you meet the child’s needs. He added that as the child will be more understanding of their emotional self, it will start to settle down. Kieran shared that he found moving water intoxicating himself and suggested that the best way to ease the transition is to work on the child’s sense of time. Saying things like, “Warning: 5 minutes left” is too abstract. Instead, give gentle reminders, use visual reminders such as a timer, and build in a routine around ending so the child gets the cues of when it’s going to end, e.g., a toy that facilitates play at the ending point.

Kieran referred to the Inside of Autism course where he discussed Monotropism and attention/focus, as in our podcast, especially around a child’s special interest. Using the slowing down of end times and using what intrinsically motivates the child to transition to another preferred activity is the way to begin helping.

Another parent expressed concern about their child hitting their little sibling, and seeming to do it to get a reaction. Kieran said to first think about it as sibling rivalry and attention from Mom and Dad versus looking at it as ‘an autistic child’ issue. He wondered if something changed recently and if it’s a new behaviour, and the parent said yes, but a lot has changed in the last few months in the home environment and wondered about using punishments. Kieran stressed that punishments won’t get to the root of what’s going on nor work.

Rather, he suggested to use modelling: talk to the child about something they love a lot and how they would feel if someone broke it; how would they feel if someone bigger than them hit them, etc. Saying, “Gentle!” might be different for different people. Base it in the child’s own experience. Did someone ever hit them? How did that make them feel? Relate the 2 things together so they have a concrete example of what you don’t want them to do and why. The cause of this new behaviour could be a hangover of stuff from the last few weeks, wrapped up with the child not liking the new sibling very much; sometimes we can overthink these things, he offered. But do avoid the punishment element which can backfire because the child’s getting negative attention. You can use a social story or drawing, write it down if the child can read; reinforce what to get across that might work.

A parent’s child hugs other children but sometimes it can be deemed inappropriate, such as at school. They’ve been teaching about personal space. Kieran said to go that one step further and have conversations around boundaries and consent; asking permission is always a good step first. “Can I hug you?” Also talk about appropriate spaces to do it in; school is not necessarily the right place to give a kiss and a cuddle. Talk about the place and who it’s appropriate to do it with. It won’t sink in straight away, Kieran says, and will need to be worked on, but conversations around consent also apply to this child who also has to give consent as well to others who want to hug them! Then you realize I don’t want someone to do that to me; it levels up the more you have these conversations. Model around that and ground it in their experiences, Kieran advises. Nobody teaches consent to autistic kids at all; we don’t feel like we can say, “No! Kieran stresses.

You always want to try to use natural consequences, not punishments nor policing, etc. We don’t want to overdo it because the child might not ever want to hug again and then suppress the urge to hug, so talk about the natural consequences. Other people might not like it and might want to punish the child. Explain to the child that it’s not just an impulsive thing to do. You need to check in with the person you want to hug, or ask an adult, etc. Punishments don’t really work for anyone, let alone autistic kids. You’re not really teaching anything. By taking things away, you’re not teaching them not to do what they’re doing. It might be such an impulse control thing and punishing is punishing the child for being intrinsically themself which will berate themself for not being able to control themself. Work on the other avenues first. We want them to understand the mechanism of the WHY of what they’re doing. Support them to do better. I highlighted that punishment assumes they control what they do.

A caregiver’s child is fixated on the entire block of cheese or entire carton of juice next to them around eating. The child can’t verbally express themself. They want to have ice cream before dinner, as well. Kieran says that a speech and language therapist is important here, autistic or not, but you want the RIGHT sort of SL therapist. All autistic people should be supported with AAC, he says. Even for those who speak, speech can be very complicated. Using AAC will take the pressure off and allow the child to express themself more and more complexly. Think about introducing AAC. Kieran likes ProLoQuo2Go and gave a few resources:

For the parents of non/minimal speakers:

The parent continued that the child will bite out of the block of cheese even though they have their own piece of cheese, and will insist that the lemonade be NEXT to them. Kieran says to think, “Let’s play together!” Buy a cheap block of cheese for the child and put it in a tupperware so it’s the child’s block of cheese. First, the child needs that visual reassurance that the food is there; also since the child can’t express it, the child’s visual idea of cheese might be a block and of bread a loaf. It doesn’t match the child’s mental image. As you facilitate the child’s language more, they can start expressing more what’s going on. You might never find out, Kieran warned, though, but we don’t want to create eating problems, which can happen easily.

A parent wondered if they should get a follow up to their child’s diagnosis. A pediatrician diagnosed their child at 20 months old and the child is 3 now and is speech delayed. Kieran says that when we have neurodivergent children, we have to rip the developmental charts apart. The whole concept of ‘delay’ is focused on a normative idea; it’s an average of neurotypical children; it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Sometimes in neurodivergent children we see developmental leaps past neurotypical developmental steps. The developmental progress is different for everyone. If the child has a speech and language therapist and occupational therapist (OT), is the therapist concerned about apraxia or dyspraxia? Ask the OT about gross and fine motor and sensory stuff to be concerned about. If they’re not worried, don’t worry. Being behind is not a concern at this time; don’t panic. Try to find a pediatrician who’s invested in your child; not in ‘fixing’ or in ABA.

A non speaking, almost 7-year-old child is more self-conscious that they can’t talk and is starting to become resentful of the parent speaking for them, it seems. The current problem behaviour is that the child will scratch the parent’s face when the parent speaks for them. They tried to start AAC, but had a rupture with the therapist. Kieran says you can use AAC yourself. You don’t have to wait for a speech and language therapist. Start exploring AAC. Validate there’s a level of communication. Name things: “I’m going to get the milk” then press the picture of milk. Let the child play with the device.

A parent asked about putting an almost-3-year-old into a classroom preschool. The child is extremely fearful of enclosed spaces and goes into fight or flight just walking towards an enclosed building and cannot sit for long periods of time, not enjoying circle time nor groups singing together. The child also has never been on a strict schedule and is non speaking. The child bangs their head when frustrated and elopes. Kieran asks the parent what their gut is telling them. If it isn’t right, it probably isn’t right. We have been conditioned to not listen to our guts. It might not be the time yet; this might change, and it might not. If you think it will cause the child distress, why would you put them in a situation that will cause the child distress? We would not want to give trauma.

If you do want to try that environment there needs to be ARMY level readiness and preparation to transition to that environment so the child feels safe there. Get everyone there on board with what the child needs. Know that they won’t go into corrective behaviour if the child is uncomfortable. Have pictures lying around to look at to introduce the school. Record a video of all the steps of going to school, then do a few trips to the school driving by. Then go in the school, etc. so it becomes more and more familiar. Have the teacher come visit at home or on neutral ground to build up familiarity of what will be at school. Make sure the first day the child only goes for 10 min, then 15 min for a week, then a bit longer if they are getting more comfortable so they know it’s not somewhere permanent, NOT to increase the child’s resilience, but to help them to understand that they can feel safe there; if the child feels safe, they won’t be distressed. You will feel that in your stomach as the child’s parent, Kieran reassures.

A parent asks if it’s too early to worry that their child takes other children’s toys at 3 years old. The parent stops it and tries to explain that the other child will be upset, etc. Kieran says that this is about not understanding what ownership is and it will upset someone if you take it away. Age 3 is very young to be worrying about these things, he says. If it persists, start introducing that notion of ownership, permission and consent. Do you have consent to take that from someone? Did you ask them?

I asked Kieran for any last-minute advice to parents. He said to get to know YOUR child. Nobody will know them better than you. If you haven’t faced the things they’re facing or experiencing, there’s a whole community of people who have: the autistic community; it’s a huge resource there for you. You can learn so much more from a non-medicalizing, non pathologizing vs medical people who learned from text books. There’s so much misunderstanding on how we socialize, move, think, feel – nobody’s bothered to ask us. A huge community online can be supportive. Kieran offered us this information sheet with other resources for parents as well.

Thank you, Kieran!

September 26, 2022

I mentioned a couple of research studies who are recruiting for participants:

Mariel Zeccola at Fielding Graduate University is studying parent-mediated autism interventions online. Her goal is to understand what parents like, desired program attributes, what type of support is helpful for online parent coaching. She’s doing this through interview and is looking for 10-12 parents of kids with autism to do an interview online (or phone). Kids can be any age. If you are interested in participating, please email me (Daria Brown) and I will connect you with Mariel.

A.J. Drexel’s Research Opportunity for fathers:

The Early Childhood Family Lead for the Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) Project is looking to connect to fathers of children ages birth – 5 years who would be interested in attending a virtual Family Feedback session on October 3rd at 9AM – 10AM or 6PM – 7PM. SIGN UP HERE IF INTERESTED (not sure if this is only for residents of PA).

We started with a few parents sharing. A caregiver mentioned that their child will be starting equine therapy (riding a horse) and music therapy which is a step forward because the child wasn’t ready before the pandemic. Another parent’s child said a new word! Yay! That’s their 4th word.

Another parent’s child has an intense interest in water. The child loves water tables and pouring water in pipes. Transitions are a challenge and when it comes to water, it’s tough to take the child away. How can the parent transition away from this?

We discussed a few aspects to this. First, why is the child so interested in water play? It could be a sensory need–in my son’s case it could be visual stim where he loves and craves to watch movement. It could be a stim in general where the child regulates by immersing themself in this joyful activity. It could be they enjoy watching the cause and effect and figuring out how water works.

In terms of the transition piece, Kieran Rose said in the redefining autism podcast how transitioning for some neurodivergent people is like pulling them out of a black hole before they can stabilize, then attend to something else. It’s very difficult. It could be that they don’t have that sense of time yet, which comes at a much later capacity (6th FEDC) so they don’t know when they’ll get to play with water again. It could be about their praxis challenges where they don’t know what comes next and it’s scary.

I had a couple of ideas about this. One was about aids to use to make the transition easier, which will depend on the child. Some will respond well to timers or visual schedules so they can see before water play what they will do, then what will happen after. Also, it could be about co-regulating through the transition where we sit in that discomfort (as discussed in the latest podcast in my on-the-spot parent support coaching) and really empathize with the child that you understand it’s hard to stop their favourite activity.

Dr. Neufeld suggests starting with things that are out of your control because it’s less tempting to give in to our child’s demands when we have to be firm. If you have to go to the store, and the store is closed, then you can’t open it! You have to adapt to the situation–the store is closed! Oh no! Then, co-regulate.

A caregiver said their child does the same thing–has a very hard time understanding that the splash pads have been shut down for the season. The child will take their hand to press the button to turn it back on and when that doesn’t work, will take the other caregiver’s hand to turn it back on. I suggested staying in that moment, showing that you’re pressing the button but it’s not working and shrugging, saying, “Oh no! It didn’t work!” and staying in that moment of discomfort, which tends to be so difficult for all of us to do.

Another parent is concerned about their child’s empathy because the child laughs when their sibling cries and seems very interested in the parent’s face when the parent is angry. I talked about the Theory of mind podcast where we talked about empathy and understanding what another person might be thinking about is a higher order capacity. It’s not feasible to expect young children to understand that. Also, the child might be uncomfortable with the sibling’s tears and laughs out of discomfort, not of mocking them. As our children learn about emotions, they have to feel what each feeling feels like. You can’t really teach emotions. It’s developmental and you can plant seeds earlier by wondering together what someone else is feeling when they are crying, for example.

A parent’s child switched Physical Therapists recently who recommended AFOs (braces for feet or ankles) but the child jumps a lot and parent doesn’t want to stop the child from jumping and twirling since these activities regulate the child and you can’t really jump with the AFO’s on.

Another parent suggested that sometimes it’s just about the child figuring out where their body is in space and could be a phase. Two other parents’ children also had experiences with AFO’s that they shared. I talked about how my son wore AFO’s for a few years for toe walking to prevent constriction of the muscles in the lower leg to avoid later surgery. My son also had squeaky shoes, though, and when he wore them, he would touch his heels down when he walked (i.e., not toe walk) in order to hear the squeak, so it was a natural reinforcer of heel walking. It’s important to work with a Physical Therapist (PT) and even an Occupational Therapist (OT) because there are concerns around balance, falling, growth constriction concerns, etc. that can be very serious. An O.T. will figure out how to fulfill the sensory needs the child has by toe walking and jumping while also wearing the orthotics (maybe only during bedtime, as one parent suggested).

September 19, 2022

A parent shared a success story: Their child who was struggling with a lot of changes at home, including a new sibling and extended family members in the house, has been doing much better and is calm again.

Another parent shared that their child just started pre-K and is having a hard time. The child cries and melts down everyday saying, “I’ll be scared without you!” to the parent, and cries on the way to school each day. The teachers let the parent know the child’s fine once they’re gone. I suggested checking the notes from last week and commented that it’s great to have communication with the school. It’s so hard because we hate to see our children distressed. Another parent commented that role-playing about school with characters helps them find out what’s happening at school. The child will role-play that the character doesn’t want to go to school where they have no friends. The parent talked to the school about taking a minute to form a relationship. There’s a camera in the school and if the child needs assistance the parent can message the school to mention that the child needs help.

Another parent’s child finds a storyboard helpful with photos that explain what will happen with photos of the teachers and classroom, etc. Another parent suggested giving it some time because their child got more excited after about a week of school once they were used to it.

A few parents mentioned that their children get triggered by the parent being on a mobile phone, so I mentioned this new study that just came out about how disrupting parent-infant interactions had a negative impact on development.

Another parent’s child started a playgroup a couple times per week where they attend with the child. This gets the child used to being in a group activity. The child really seems to want to be around other children and interact so the parent felt the need to bring the child around other children. Currently the child is taking other kids’ toys. A parent suggested playgrounds and running around outside to get the energy out. I referred to the podcasts about sensory activities to regulate our children at home.

Another parent’s child uses hands-on gestures to communicate and has been constantly touching the parent which is very overwhelming and makes it harder to focus on needs.

I provided a few resources for parents from this site based on the discussions above:

Another parent shared a success story: that their child has really thrived in preschool and is now interacting with children after struggling so much last year.

A parent is feeling depressed because their child is being excluded from the class and calling the parent to pick up the child. The child talks all night repeating all the words that they hear all day which means the child is stressed. The parent wants to say, “My child wants a chance and deserves a chance.” How can we cope and find solutions, the parent wonders? The teacher seems determined to discriminate against their child. We had a discussion of suggestions for the parent including talking to the team and the person in charge at school, presenting the case in a gentle way that focuses on how the child is being made to feel.

Announcements:

September 12, 2022

Today, being our first meeting of the month, was our DIR Expert guest and this month’s guest was Colette Ryan

Safety was the theme of today!

One parent’s child has been having many meltdowns over the past couple months as there have been changes in the home with guests and a new sibling. I also mentioned that it took me 45 minutes at school drop off this morning because my son would not let me leave and melted down every time I tried. It is very draining and heartbreaking.

Colette mentioned that this time of year is a time of changes for everyone and the transition back to school can take 4 to 6 weeks. We want to pay attention to their sense of safety.

A parent’s daughter is struggling with with attention at school. The school says they can’t implement Floortime in school because of her focus and trouble with transitions, and that she is overwhelmed in the classroom visually and with auditory input. The parent wonders how can they help them implement something at school to focus on the Floortime because she thrives with it at home?

Colette focuses again on safety. Can they bring the child to a quieter place with minimal toys and have Floortime moments in that area? New teachers and changes are a challenge to the sense of safety.

Referring back to my son struggling to separate with me at drop off, Colette included that when there’s so much unknown about the day, children will hold on to who makes them feel safe. She added that we want our children to see how safe we feel with their teachers and if you can ‘immunize’ your child to their teachers, they will also have permission to feel safe with them as well.

When we get excited about the day, we provide meaning for our children. FEDC 4 difficulty with sequencing makes “first this, then that” a challenge. It’s hard to understand what comes next and later in the day and next week. It makes you feel unsafe. Praxis is the steps of our actions, but with a novel action, Colette says, and I mentioned that my latest podcast on unpacking aggression discusses this.

One parent said the visual calendar helps. Another said back-to-school YouTube videos helps their child. Another said that when their son repeats things (often described as being ‘rigid’), then it’s usually a sign that something is worrying the child or that the child is getting sick.

A parent talked about their son struggling with ‘new’ and ‘old’. He keeps talking about wanting things that are new and points out things that are old. The child is going through puberty so there are lots of things going on.

Colette wonders if the child has an understanding of what ‘old’ and ‘new’ means? ‘Old’ is something I saw before and ‘new’ is something I haven’t seen before. Meaning making is hard for us because we take these things for granted. Can we support him in creating the meaning of what ‘old’ and ‘new’ are? Is the old thing feeling unsafe? Let’s support the child and figure it out.

Colette says that adolescents are in the ‘what’s in it for me’ phase like toddlers. I did a podcast with Dave Nelson about puberty. Dave wrote a piece on ICDL’s website that’s worth reading on this topic, as well, Colette offered. Colette suggests showing pictures of body parts, including the brain. We can talk about it. There is a book called, ‘Hey Warrior‘ that talks about the brain. Also, The Whole Brain Child book discusses this.

Colette says there is the entire interoception of puberty as well. There’s hair in new places, body odours, tactile/proprioceptive/vestibular differences, and hormonal changes in our brain.

Gene Christian has worked with older individuals and has written about aggression. You may see more aggression in puberty. What supports do I and my child need?

How do we talk about anxiety? Colette’s son’s word was ‘discombobulated’. Is there a picture on your fridge to show how you’re feeling they can point to? Do you need to jump on a trampoline, go outside and run, or be by yourself.

One parent’s son has said, “Too hyper” and the parent asks, “What does your body need?” and will give a deep massage.

Colette says if we ask a question that’s at Capacity 6 when they are at Capacity Zero (safety) or Capacity 1 of regulation.

A parent’s 5-year-old is non speaking and is the youngest of 4 kids. At home the child is very happy, but the child doesn’t seem to remember pre-Covid so the child is now very scared to leave the house (but is ok in the car). If they stop the car anywhere other than at home, the child gets very upset and have a meltdown.

Colette says that the predictability is gone for this child. When we get into a car as an adult, we know where we’re going, but the kids don’t. It’s anxiety-provoking. Colette likes the idea of having pictures to see what’s going to happen. Some people don’t process auditory so well. Having pictures of where they will be going might help the child.

The child hums to soothe and has a shaky voice while scared and the parent wonders how to begin to get the child out of the car. Colette suggests to go to the park and wave. Then go to the park, wave, stop the car, then go again. Then go to the park, wave, stop the car, open the window, close the window, then go again. Repeat as the child gets more safe.

A parent suggests acting out the scenario with a stuffed animal or characters. Colette says yes, if the child is symbolic.

A parent asks what they should make sure if included in their child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Colette says that the foundation is regulation so we want to be able to support the child’s school shadow/aid to regulate the child. Help them understand your child and their sensory system so the shadow can provide the required sensory supports.

Colette also provided some great resources on the ICDL website for us:

Provide an ‘All about me’ document that you can change as the child changes. Write what the child likes and doesn’t, how to help them in a first-person voice.

Announcements:

August 11, 2022

A parent shared that their child said their 1st 2-word phrase, “Open Ketchup” when they wanted it on their food. Yay! I re-told one of my favourite stories of seeing our friends at a model train show and telling the caregiver that after the show we’d be going to see the Christmas train at the mall and getting dinner. The autistic child looked right at me and asked, “Where did you say the Christmas train is?” I turned to the caregiver and exclaimed, “He talks?!” I had never heard this boy speak in the years we knew them until there was something important enough to him to ask me about. When we’re motivated, we’ll speak!

Another parent’s child is a bit sick so they’re seeing a bit of regression. They are also frustrated with their Floortime school because it isn’t really a Floortime school. There’s a ton of staff turnover. The parents are doing their best at home, are in the  DIR Home Program, and all the training and learning they can do do everything on their own. Another parent added that they don’t have Floortime where they live, but the child has built a relationship with staff, so they keep it up for that reason and said, “I think relationships can ultimately be more important than the perfect therapy.” I mentioned that Dr. Gil Tippy has said that connection is 99% of the Relationship!

Another parent suggested finding 1 or 2 people who are on your same page who listen to you at the school, then get them to push everyone else into being on the same page. This reminded me of what Jackie Bartell said in the DIR in Public schools podcast. Another parent said that if we don’t push as parents, nobody else will. Parents can suggest micro changes bit by bit, and maybe the staff may not even realize it’s Floortime. We can also suggest training to the staff, but there’s more to it than just taking the training and we need to let them know about our child, specifically.

Another parent had a great suggestion of modelling (without saying anything about it) how to do Floortime and interact with your child so the therapist sees it, and sees how it’s working. We talked about how it also depends on the therapist as some will be amazing with our kids and others, even with training, won’t seem to get it.

I suggested that this might be a great question for the upcoming free virtual meeting about returning to school which you can register for by clicking on the flyer below:

A parent brought to our attention how much they enjoyed ICDL’s latest Newsflash on Humour and DIR/Floortime. Another parent brought to our attention my latest podcast with Maude Le Roux on the impact of vestibular processing on development. I suggested that every parent should listen to it! So many helpful insights!

A parent said they recently learned something about what’s going on inside around her child’s organs and mentioned it to the physical therapist and the PT said that yes, they were working on that. I said how nice it is when we realize our therapists are working on important things, even without telling us and how some therapists will assume parents don’t need to know all the technical details. Other parents want those details. Keith Landherr gave us an example of this in our podcast where he justified what he was doing in therapy to a parent over email to appease the parent’s concerns that they weren’t working on the goals they wanted.

A parent wondered whether to demand their child speak when pulling their hand to bring them to show them something, using the fact that they want to bring them somewhere as a motivator to get them to speak. What one parent said they do to inspire words is to follow the child’s lead and then lead the child somewhere else; let the child take that lead to let them know they can rely on the parent, then play silly and go to a different room so the child will think, “No! Wrong place!” It’s about using humour playing clueless. It’s about applying that little bit of tension each time as discussed in the rubber band podcast.

You can review the FEDCs here and on my blog post here.

Another parent is a bit apprehensive about their child starting at a brand new school next week in 1st grade, but the child is happy about the new school and the school is having an orientation. Also, the child loves the painted mural on the side wall of the school and knows one child going there already. I commented how this is great for the child because having those familiar things will help so much. Loving to go to the building with the nice painted mural and the school that (person we know) goes to. You might also meet new kids at the orientation. Take it one day at a time. I suggested re-listening to Kasheena Holder’s podcast with me about co-regulation on how to get through any challenging moments with your child.

A reminder that our next drop-in meeting will be on Monday, September 12th when we will resume our usual schedule on Mondays at 1pm Eastern time.

August 4, 2022

Being the first week of the month, we had a DIR Expert Training Leader join us. This month’s guest was Speech and Language Therapist, Bridget Palmer.

First I made an announcement of an upcoming free virtual meeting about returning to school which you can register for by clicking on the flyer below:

A parent asked about their child asking the same question over and over and over and over again, wondering if they don’t know the answer or if it’s something else. This made me giggle because I shared with the group how my son does this multiple times daily and that I recalled Mark Rober saying that his son does as well because he likes to hear the predictable responses of Dad. Bridget added that indeed, Temple Grandin also said that she’d ask her mother the same question over and over because she loved hearing her answer.

The parent said that they answer the question, they use humour, and use affect. Bridget said that many ask because they don’t understand and some ask even though they do understand what they’re asking about. We think about comprehension–what they understand, and the expression–what can they say and why they would be asking over and over, Bridget explains. Are they asking to hear it out loud so they can process it or do they need to process the question and answer it in synchrony? Is it regulating, co-regulating, meaningful, the child’s passion? WHY is your child asking? Because they love to hear your voice say the answer and hear the thing they love to hear over and over or is it that they don’t understand and they’re searching to make sense of their world? You know often why your child is asking to repeat something.

If they understand, answer and try to stretch out the interaction. If they don’t understand in that moment, then answer the question and think about comprehension. Do they understand language alone, or do they need affect or gestures paired with it to understand? Is there a reason you think they might hear you say the answer over and over again?

I gave an example of the repetitive questions my son asks that he knows the answer to and that he doesn’t. He asks over and over who my favourite Super Mario character is. I will answer, “Toad!” then next time I’ll say, “You forgot already?” then I’ll reply, “Who’s YOUR favourite character?” and change it up each time. A question he doesn’t know the answer to is when he asks how old the delivery guy is, for instance, or if they have a pet. He is trying to make meaning for someone delivering a package to us. In my podcast with Dr. Joshua Feder on repetition, Dr. Feder discussed why it’s so important for our kids to repeat things they are learning.

Another parent asked about their non speaking child who seems to understand a lot, can repeat ‘r’ and ‘p’ (in pig, for example) and seems to have cognitive development. They have tried speech and language therapy but found it very expensive and not useful as their child is quite hyperactive and the therapist’s way of dealing with it didn’t seem helpful at all. Bridget says that in Floortime we’re looking at the developmental capacities. Are they regulated and able to share attention (FEDC 1)? Then, are they engaging and relating with you, getting that gleam in the eye (FEDC 2)? etc. through the capacities. Speech comes at FEDC 5, Bridget explains. You know the child best. Speech need not be verbal. It can be sign, a gesture, etc.

The caregiver asked what to do because they get stuck and don’t know what to do if the child doesn’t seem interested. I talked about the podcast I did with Dr. Amanda Kriegel (and Mike Fields) about following the child’s lead and with Dr. Ira Glovinsky about how playing with a chair–on the chair, under the chair, around the chair, etc. became a 40-minute Floortime game. As Dr. Greenspan said, Bridget pointed out, just observe your child (Wait. Watch. Wonder.) Trust yourself and join in with what the child’s doing. That includes, I added, finding out what the child’s boundaries are as Mike Fields illustrated so wonderfully in this podcast, where you test the waters then back away, acknowledging that your child didn’t like that, then approach again and inform them that you are coming, with affect and silliness until you see any sign of resistance. Then, pull back and say, “Oh! You didn’t like that! Ok, I’m backing off!

I suggested the parent could do anything, but the example I gave was boundary setting by driving a car back and forth going ‘vroom vroom’ in front of child; they walking away saying, “Oh you didn’t like that!” Then try again and repeat. Then next time give a heads up: “Here I come. My car is coming to you. You may not like it! Here I come! Vroom! Vroom!” and then go slower and quieter, then faster and louder, using a LOT of affect and hope to get that gleam in the eye or giggle or interest.

Someone suggested starting Floortime by seeing if your child likes to point at flashcards and naming them, then quizzing them on it to increase eye contact and get them to sit longer. We quickly jumped in and said that we DO NOT do this in Floortime at all–unless the child loves flash cards and initiates that themselves, but eye contact and sitting are neurotypical social expectations, Bridget stressed; autistic self-advocates say they can’t process while looking and listening, and some say it’s too intimate. If sitting happens, it happens, but it’s a more neurotypical school-based readiness experience and has nothing to do with being connected nor learning. I encouraged everyone to listen to my latest podcast with Maude Le Roux on vestibular processing.

Another parent shared to copy what your child does. Do what you know they like to do but not WITH them. Do it near them and then they notice that you’re doing their thing and are intrigued and happy.

A caregiver asked about the vocalizations of a non speaking child and mentioned interoception. Bridget loved that the caregiver is looking and noticing what the child is doing and pointed out that the sound is a vowel sound, which is produced by opening your mouth. Ask these questions, she encouraged:

  • What sounds is he making?
  • Is it to express joy? Sadness? Something else?
  • Is it voluntary? Involuntary?
  • What might it mean for the child?
  • What it might mean for you as a pair?

Bridget continued that you have to coordinate your respiration with your vocal chords to speak and asked if the child’s vocalizations are coming when they are moving or stationary. The caregiver said it’s when the child is moving. I pointed out that our children might be at a different stage than their age level and making these vocalizations is how babies begin to speak. Bridget added that it’s called, “vocal play”. I gave the example of how my son loved to gurgled and roll his ‘r’s, and then scream loudly as an experiment of cause and effect to hear what his voice sounded like. It was adorable!

Another parent followed a mom on Twitter named Brandi Thompson (@awesomebrandi) who recommended a kid’s keyboard with large, coloured keys for non speaking autistic children. She talked about how she helped her non speaking son as he was learning to type, and how she assisted him with physical challenges just moving his arms and fingers. Another parent mentioned using fewer words as our children learn to speak so they can process more easily and have the chance to respond.

A reminder that next Thursday, August 11th is our last drop in until the 2nd Monday in September, the 12th, when we will resume our usual schedule on Mondays at 1pm Eastern time.

July 21, 2022

A parent asked about a child who uses 2-word combinations and how to expand and elicit more speech, including introducing new words the child can use. We talked about how teaching speech and words will just produce memory-based reproduction whereas in Floortime we want to facilitate interactions that naturally help the child acquire speech and language as described in this podcast about W-A-A.

A parent asked if there is a limit on how long to do Floortime for with their child in one stretch. I described how we can get to the point where all of our interactions with our child are Floortime and how Dr. Greenspan described the different aspects of a comprehensive Floortime program that includes scheduled Floortime sessions.

A parent asked how to handle a child who is demanding to be carried, else has a meltdown. We talked about setting limits and also about embracing the meltdown. A parent said that we’re always so concerned with what they should be doing (in our opinion), thus constantly filling the space and always trying to move the needle instead of just being with the child and co-regulating. Another parent suggested crouching down and giving the child a hug, but not picking them up. Another said they made a game of crouching down and letting the child climb onto their back and be their ‘backpack’.

A parent asked about eating challenges so I suggested these podcasts:

Someone asked how to find a DIR/Floortime therapist in their area so I pointed out ICDL’s DIRectory.

A parent asked about screening daycares. A parent offered to google the daycare and read the reviews. Another said to really talk to the staff and let them know what your child needs. I offered that I called many places to ask how they deal with behavioural disruptions until I found one I felt comfortable with.

A few parents shared some celebrations of progress their children have made. Yay!

July 14, 2022

A parent asked about a child who loves water but will play ‘inappropriately’ with it. How do you enforce the rules/boundaries? Another parent asked how to approach behaviour/discipline in a Floortime way? I explained that there’s no direct answer for behavioural challenges, but indirectly, we work on this in Floortime by building the foundation: The developmental capacities. This can take a long time. It’s not like you get a prescription and do this or that and your child changes. It’s development. It’s a process. Over time you see big changes with development.

We had quite a conversation about how building up the functional emotional developmental capacities allow our children to co-regulate through their emotions through back-and-forth circles of communication so they don’t need to act out or melt down. Where is your child developmentally? That determines how you interact with your child and what you can expect of them.

Here’s a few more references around developmental capacities, behavioural challenges, and limit-setting and boundaries:

I suggested that when your child sleeps, if you get any break with sleeping, you can listen to these podcasts a bit each week. Someone mentioned that Omega-3s before sleep seems to help like eating fish (not fried) before bed helps you sleep.

Until your child is regulated, you have to be that person looking out for your child and that they’re going to try to adapt to their environment and do these behaviours until they are further along in development. Engage them, use lots of affect attuned to their profile, etc.

A few parents described ‘intentional’ behaviours their children did such as having a mischievous look on their face while doing something they’re not supposed to. We talked about how this shows that Floortime is working because if they are getting a reaction out of you, they are testing cause-and-effect!

We talked about the things our children do and how we think it’s not productive but they may be experimenting with Cause-and-effect. We also talked about redirecting behaviour. I also suggested listening to my latest podcast with Kieran Rose about the assumptions we make that are false and can cause harm. He described how anyone working with autistic people need to be promoting their agency, authenticity, autonomy, and self-acceptance. A parent suggested a book entitled, My Moods, My Choices with monsters making different faces; what you can do when…

A parent described how their child is pretty regulated until about 7pm then really just wants all of the parent’s attention which is divided among the siblings. The first thing that popped into our heads was having a consistent bedtime routine that is predictable to help regulate the child in the minutes/hours until bedtime.

A parent talked about their child being happy and playing and then slapping the parent so much that it hurts. We talked about what John Carpente described in a recent podcast, to pretend to cry and be very sad about what happened, so the child sees the effect they had. Empathy comes from feeling that the parent is sad and we learn to say sorry but training for saying ‘sorry’ is not empathy.

A parent asked for resources for ‘wh’ questions to develop speech in a 3-year-old Asberger child. We talked about how Dr. Gil Tippy said there’s a difference between reading vs comprehension and similarly there’s a difference between memorizing answers to ‘wh’ questions and actually understanding the meaning and being able to think of an idea and to answer uniquely and intrinsically from abstract thought, which is a capacity that does not come until the 6th capacity.

I reminded everyone that you can look at these parent notes and on a PC press CTRL-ALT-F to find a keyword in the notes.

July 7, 2022

Being the first meeting of the month, we had a guest DIR/Floortime Expert guest who was Speech & Language Therapist, Katie Shepherd. She is with ICDL’s DIR Home Program and an ICDL trainer of certificate courses.

A parent is wondering how to interpret their child answering questions correctly versus incorrectly. The parent will ask, “Did you have one?” when the child takes out their daily B12 supplement. The child replies yes but the parent knows the child didn’t have one yet. Other times, (for example, “Did you go pee?“) the child answers correctly.

I suggested that the comprehension of past tense might not be there as the concept of time is part of the sixth developmental capacity. The child could just be hearing B12 and say yes because they want to have the supplement.

Katie asked about the child’s intrinsic desire to have B12.

A parent announced that they’ve been focusing more on preverbal communication and their child is more engaged and playing more with non verbal communication. They’re getting great results including more eye contact and engagement. The parent is wondering how to replace words with non-verbal communication?

We talked about using a lot of affect!

A parent mentioned about the differences between declarative and interrogative statements. Instead of asking a child “What is your fave colour?“, etc. where they’re trying to figure out the correct answer, say something like, “I’m going to take my vitamins now.” Then wait. When the child brings the supplement to the parent, the parent could also say, “Ah, your B12!” and wait with smile using affect to support the child’s coregulation and engagement, Katie added.

Katie talked about balancing comments and questions being good but FIRST the communication without words is so important! It’s also about understanding the child’s intent and reading their cues.

Another parent suggested that the child might not be lying intentionally, but might be saying Yes, that they took the supplement yesterday. Another parent said that the child might be saying the expected answer.

Another parent shared that they get lots of circles of communication with their child around cooking. We suggested getting a lot of circles of communication around taking the supplements each morning.

A caregiver shared that the child started AAC at school and home and is making progress, but in the past couple weeks, the caregiver watched videos from the STAR Institute summit from this and last year and in those videos and live sessions they had something called letter boards and some speakers critiquing AAC versus letter boards. The child can’t punch the letters yet nor spell, though. ‘Speller verse’ was something they mentioned. The caregiver wondered if there is a simple way to start the child on learning some basic words that are on the AAC (core words) then somehow incorporate spelling on the letter board?

Katie said that she would need to know more about the child’s developmental capacities, and ‘the I‘ including the sensory processing profile because all of these impact the child’s development. When she’s thinking about AAC, there are no prerequisites; you can use it to build meaning and to support building intentionality.

Katie talked more about making everything meaningful with actions that you do such as going down the slide at the park saying, “Ready, set, go!” as you slide down slide. We want to see the child’s intentional motivation, but you have to meet the child where they are developmentally.

I suggested these two podcasts:

Another parent had a great experience with the DIR Home Program and did an Intensive at ICDL’s therapy center. The communication and engagement is increasing immensely, more so than the words. The child comes to the parent often and seems to want to communicate and the parent wants to understand so asks, “What is it?” such as if they’re playing in the sandbox and the child makes something the parent will ask, “Is it a castle? Is it a fish?

We talked about commenting on what the child just did, waiting, watching, and wondering and not asking questions because they put pressure on the child.

Another parent asked about the differences between receptive vs expressive vs pragmatic language. Katie said that receptive language is about comprehension. The parent wondered how to explain to others who don’t understand that the child isn’t comprehending what they’re talking about. We discussed talking about it.

A parent was concerned that their child says ‘the wrong thing’ then does ‘the wrong thing’, which we basically translated into the child testing boundaries and a bit of wanting to see what gets attention and figuring out what’s wrong. Katie added that the child wants to see the parent’s affect! I suggested the Little Scientist podcast where this was discussed at length.

A parent said their child also does inappropriate things such as rubbing the child’s face counting up to 9 then on 10 slaps the parent’s cheek very hard. At first the parent just backed away, but then the parent pretended to cry. I said that this is what Dr. John Carpente suggested in the example from the recent podcast. It promotes ‘theory of mind’, empathy and is better than just saying, “No!

A parent asked how to make sure your child doesn’t feel terrible about what they did when you tell them not to do something that they didn’t mean to intentionally do. Dr. Neufeld had given some examples such as normalizing the behaviour (“I used to do that when I was your age…“).

A parent’s child is fascinated about beautiful hair, and wants the nanny’s hair loose. We guessed that it’s a sensory preference and another parent’s child did the same thing at that age. The more they said not to touch the hair, the more the child did. When they stopped telling the child to stop, the behaviour slowly disappeared.

We talked about how our kids often develop on a different timeline, so when they do some of these things, it looks inappropriate whereas if they were their developmental age, it would be fine. I suggested everyone listen to this coming weekend’s podcast with Kieran Rose, the autistic advocate, about how we misunderstand what autism is.

June 13, 2022

A parent started us off by asking about their speech and language services for their almost two year old. They talk about toys and the SLP is quizzing the child a lot. I talked about memorizing words versus working on the communication, initiating, and sharing, which is what DIR/Floortime would be more about such as these podcasts describe:

We’re not working on skills, we’re working on the developmental capacities and solidifying these. Another parent said that it’s also about not putting expectations on them and having that ‘open invitation’ and suggested the autism discussion page on Facebook by Bill Nason and his books as well.

A parent asked for suggestions on how their Occupational Therapist could engage her child more because the child wanders away and doesn’t want to do the task at hand. I suggested listening to the Keith Landherr podcast where he discusses how activities on their own don’t do anything without co-regulation and how you use the child’s interests to engage. Another parent said that telling their OT that they weren’t expecting instant results helped the therapist relax and not be so insistent on planned activities. Another parent suggested letting the child have preferred toys while doing other task.

A parent has been taking walks while the other parent does bedtime, but the child was traumatized after the parents were away for a few days and stayed with in-laws. Now the child won’t let the parent out of their site. I talked about attachment and Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s model where he says that attachment is like hunger or sleep. It’s a more basic need than these, in fact, and you wouldn’t let your child starve to ‘get used to it’, so give more than they seek and make special time just for them so they can bask in the relationship. If you must separate, focus on the connection, not the separation. Rather than saying things like, “I’ll be back soon… I need mommy time,” say things like, “I can’t wait to (some activity they love) when I get back” and leave a token with them of you, such as your shirt they can smell or a heart, etc. to hold on to you until your return.

A parent whose child is not yet speaking bought ProLoQuo with an iPad but is getting confused using it so it’s confusing the child. They can’t find anyone who knows AAC in London, England where they live. A parent suggested looking up the ‘Practical AAC blog’ and I suggested contacting Joleen Fernald and listen to her podcast on AAC devices.

June 6, 2022

Today we had DIR Expert Training Leader and clinical psychologist, Dr. Kathy Platzman, as our guest!

The first parent question was around brushing teeth. One parent’s child was fine with it until the parent touched the gums and the child didn’t like it. Now, the child won’t brush teeth. Dr. Platzman talked about sensory sensitivities and that Occupational Therapists sometimes recommend a tongue depressor that vibrates and gently introduce things they can try with their tongue and lips to get used to the feeling of brushing teeth. Also, some children find the taste of toothpaste aversive. One parent suggested getting a bunch of different toothbrushes from from the dollar store and let them pick. Another parent said that once they let their child spit in the sink, they loved it and now takes a sip of water and swirls and spits it. I suggested that the child could be teething which is why the gums were sensitive to touch and sometimes we just have to be extra gentle during teething of adult teeth/molars.

A parent was stressed about their child feeling upset about things and aggressive over the last week. What’s going on? An example given was needing to have a friend’s basketball and no longer wanting their own, and even tossing it over the fence. Dr. Platzman said that these changes are usually good news! When a child goes through developmental jumps, the bad part shows up first. She directed us back to the Functional Emotional Developmental Capacities (FEDCs). She explained that getting rigid about basketball, you can problem-solve about how to get the ball if they are at the fourth capacity such as, “Hmm… oh no, how are we going to get the ball back?

Kathy also brought up that children who have motor planning and sequencing challenges can have an idea, but can’t put it into action and this causes a lot of frustration. This is a constriction in the developmental capacities.

She also suggested that visual schedules are fine for some kids.

Transitions also came up. Kathy says they are like a pain sandwich: 2 fun things with a thin layer of pain in between. I brought up that Dr. Gordon Neufeld talks about ‘immunization’ where you invite the discomfort by saying something like, “You really want Johnny’s basketball, but you won’t be able to have it. That’s hard.” Kathy added that it’s the dawn of visualization for this child. You can start to play with that by saying something like, “What if we got home and daddy bought 100,000 basketballs and we couldn’t open the door?!

I brought up how we are always so quick to soothe our child, but growth comes from those moments of struggle and we want to co-regulate and hold our child in that space of discomfort when something is hard for them, so they can figure out how to regulate through it (which they can’t do until they have our support with co-regulating first–maybe for many years).

I suggested these blog posts where the work is always at solidifying those lower capacities:

Kathy talked about how we would show compassion for a friend. If a friend of ours came to tell us about a problem, we wouldn’t immediately offer the solution, ignoring how upset they are. We would first co-regulate with something like, “Oh man, sorry to hear that.” We would move up the developmental ladder to engagement, back-and-forth and then get to social problem-solving. We do the same for our child, she says.

I discussed how everything goes back to the developmental capacities. When we learn about DIR/Floortime, we tend to take awhile to memorize the capacities but only have a shallow understanding of what they are, and we estimate where our child is based on what they can do at their best, forgetting that at most of the time our child is not operating at their highest capacity (like us). Once we really get into understanding what’s behind each capacity and what is required to be successful at each, we can better support our child. I mentioned that my new series, We Chose Play that describes my family’s experience with Floortime and watching our son go through each capacity and the remediation and accommodation we did, covers this in depth.

A parent described the challenges they are having with their child. They are typical characteristics of children on the spectrum: needing things to be a certain way to engage and having struggles with paying attention in school. Dr. Platzman said to think about an x-axis of the most comfortable people to least (peers) and a y-axis of environment with the safest place being at home to the least comfortable being at school. Now put the child with peers at school and you have two of the most challenging situations. She said that all you can really do with school is advocate for your child’s sensorimotor needs.

I suggested the Remediation vs Accommodation podcast where it was discussed how many accommodations can help our child function, but we also want to see what we can remediate with their sensory challenges to help them cope and succeed in the best way they can, even with accommodation.

A parent’s child who is almost 5 has been saying ‘No!’ to everything. Won’t wash hands and if parent says you’ll get germs says they want to eat germs or they want to die. They are also lying about having washed their hands. We pointed out that this child has a great sense of humour, and Dr. Platzman says this is dawn of idea formation, and quite sophisticated. Back to the DIR model, she asks, “Why is he saying No to so many things?” One reason could be that if you have motor planning problems you might want to do it but are unable to plan out the sequence.

The parent says that the child likes the expression on the parent’s face and is fascinated to watch the emotional expression. Dr. Platzman says that he’s experimenting with the emotional world; he’s overwhelmed with his emotions and can’t control them so he’s experimenting with how you show them. Kids at this age play with scary situations (good guys, bad guys, etc.). She suggests to do Floortime around why they don’t want to feel that way indirectly. They are afraid of being afraid/sad, so need a lot of pretend play around it; play it out in scenarios.

The parent said the child will crash cars so Dr. Platzman asked what is the reason the car is crashing? What if you ask why the car is so angry? The child also asks the parent if they are happy and the parent responds, “I’m always happy with you, but I’m not happy when you do not wash your hands.” Kathy suggests being less abstract and instead saying something like, “I’m happy because we’re going to have ice cream tonight for dinner” or, “I’m not mad at you, but I’m worried.” Give him concrete reasons so he can hook into it.

The child is trying to figure all of this out and is making YOU do all the work. Instead, ask, “Why do you think I’m so happy? What are reasons I’ve been happy in the past? I’ll give you a hint…” to make them think. Let the child do the abstractions.

A parent’s child has difficulty getting new shoes and refuses to stay in the shoe store or put them on. Kathy says that new shoes look different, smell different, and feel different. Have fun with it. Talk them up, see if they can wear them longer each day. I said my son is the same and I really have to equate the colour of the new shoes with something he likes like a Mario character–‘your Bowser shoes’. Another thing that I’ve seen work is that I talk about where we’re going, where my son wants to, but then say we can’t go unless we have our shoes on! This of course ignores any sensory discomforts the child has with the shoes, so you have to rule out sensory discomfort.

A parent’s child started refusing washing hands so they made their own soap. The parent would say things like, “I’m the adult, I’m keeping you safe.” Dr. Platzman said that this is appealing to the child’s ability to reason and think which they may not understand yet. It could be a sensory motor problem in that washing hands is literally painful so saying to do it because it’s good for you isn’t relevant.

Thank you to Dr. Platzman for spending time with us! See you all next week, same time, same place! It will be our last session until July.

May 16, 2022

Just a reminder that there will be NO SUPPORT GROUP for the next two weeks due to holidays in Canada and the USA.

We started off with introductions from new participants as we had a number of first-timers attend today.

Our new participants had a number of concerns including those with new diagnoses navigating services and choosing between ABA and Floortime, someone with older children in their 20s and wanting to refresh their Floortime knowledge for older children, how DIR can help with communication, and someone who has enjoyed a ton of progress with ICDL’s DIR Home Program and is now invested in the DIR approach.

One parent mentioned that just a simple overview reading of DIR/Floortime at a high level about joining a child in their interest and what they’re doing helped get connection by scratching when their young child was scratching. Another parent shared that doing what their child was doing not only helped with connection, but helped the child with spontaneous language as well.

A parent was basically told it would be like child abuse NOT to do ABA with their child and that’s what many of us hear. I went over the differences in ABA and DIR and how ABA is concerned with surface behaviours and compliance, whereas in DIR we want to know the ‘why’ behind behaviour and focus on internal motivation to relate and communicate, the child’s ability to say ‘no’ and to think through things and have their own ideas and thoughts.

A parent missed the Music class I facilitated with Dr. John Carpente last week because it was full so I said it will be offered again, and that I did a podcast with John about it that they might enjoy in the meantime (along with another one on music therapy):

A parent wondered about motivation when getting discouraged by not having success engaging their child. Parents suggested keeping track of successes and progress our children make in a journal so we can go back to that book when we are discouraged to see the progress our children have made. I suggested a few podcasts:

We also talked about reading our child’s cues to know whether or not they are engaging with us, since it may seem like they aren’t but they really are!

A parent’s very young child is struggling to understand why the routine is different on the weekend and wondered about using visual prompts. I suggested that while prompts are not Floortime, they can be helpful in providing structure for our children and alerting them to upcoming events, just like we use our calendars on our phones. I suggested this blog post about visual prompts.

A parent asked about doing Floortime with siblings. I suggested the podcasts with Kristy Gose:

A parent shared that co-regulation is everything and that you have to support your child and show them that you love them. They pick up on our stress. Be happy and get to know YOUR child. That’s the relationship and it’s 99% of Floortime! I highly recommended the podcast with Kasheena about co-regulation. A parent shared this image about co-regulation:

I suggested podcasts around DIR and communication:

A parent’s family all had Covid and while at home sick, the child began talking again! Yay!

See you again in three weeks on Monday, June 6th when we’ll have a DIR Expert guest!

May 9, 2022

I’ll be facilitating a Floortime through Music course for parents with Music Therapist and DIR Expert, Dr. John Carpente, on May 11th at 10:00am Eastern. Please check it out and sign up! Please attend live if you can as the recording will not include the video examples.

PLEASE REGISTER for THIS SATURDAY’s incredible World Premiere Event, Diversity is Phenomenal, The World’s First International Concert to Celebrate Neurodiversity!

Today I want to thank Donna who took the reigns as facilitator since I lost my voice with my cold! She did an absolutely fantasic job running the show!

We started off with introductions from new participants. Then, we shared our Mother’s Day experiences.

Next, two parents said they are unsure if their child’s behaviours are ones they can work on, or if they are a reaction to sensory events they find aversive or overstimulating and it’s so hard to know what to do about them.

A number of parents mentioned struggles with eating. Here are two podcasts I did about feeding:

The DIR Home Program virtual coaching can help with feeding issues.

A parent left the kids with the in-laws for a weekend and since then the kids are in super stress mode and very dysregulated; if the one child sees in-laws, they scream and are also more upset at school. I suggested listening to Colette discuss Capacity Zero: Safety in this 2-part podcast:

Another parent shared struggling to keep up with everyone’s basic needs since a new baby was born. They are overwhelmed. We talked about reaching out for support and help from others. A parent recently found out they have ADHD and it’s hard for them to get their and the child’s teeth brushed most days. We talked about the struggle to stay on top of things and many parents’ children have cavities. For teeth brushing, I suggested that the key is starting a routine and just doing it EVERY day, no matter if you’re successful or not. It might take months before they finally let you, but you HAVE to start.

A parent asked if sensorimotor improves with age? I suggested these 3 podcasts:

Sensorimotor Profiles in Floortime

Starting DIR/Floortime with your child: Step 1 is the sensory processing profile

A parent also asked about access to DIR services in Canada if they can’t afford the DIR private school. We discussed the struggle to have services funded.

May 2, 2022

I’ll be facilitating a Floortime through Music course for parents with Music Therapist and DIR Expert, Dr. John Carpente, on May 11th at 10:00am Eastern. Please check it out and sign up! Please attend live if you can as the recording will not include the video examples.

Being the first week of the month, we had a guest DIR Expert and Music Therapist, Dr. John Carpente.

We started the session talking about doing Floortime through music and I talked about singing along with songs while I drive with my son. I’ll change the lyrics to personalize them for him, and sometimes he’ll change the lyrics, too. Other parents stated that they do the same. Dr. Carpente challenged us what would happen if we changed how we sing by slowing it down, change our voice, etc. and said that it’s about facilitating reciprocity in some way, keeping the child hanging and anticipating what comes next. He suggested that starting off with familiar songs is a great way to begin and then we want to make it more spontaneous.

If they’re not getting what they expect, he continued, they have to modulate themselves emotionally as well in the moment. Many of our kids are rigid in that they don’t want us to change the song from the way it’s meant to be sung, so John said to incorporate body language and facial expressions, or affect, to make it fun and silly as we change it up.

When we do this they are processing it in a temporal way and this also brings in their cognition along with their understanding of gestural cues (which is a prerequisite for language). We do the same thing in play, he says. It’s Floortime, and this is another form of play.

A parent said they do singing while their child is on a swing. Dr. Carpente suggested going faster and slower and stopping when not swinging to change it up and make it different. The parent described the song the child does in preschool that sings about what each child is wearing. John suggests wondering by saying, “What do you think they’ll wear tomorrow? Does anybody not wear a shirt?” If your child is not yet answering questions, you can wonder these instead of asking them, “Hmm…I wonder what they’ll be wearing tomorrow“. All of this creates a puzzle to promote thinking.

Dr. Carpente shared a very moving clip from a music therapy session of a young girl who gravitated towards the drums and went from being slouched on a chair to be regulated, engaged, reciprocal, in a shared problem solving mode, and being creative with her own ideas–from Functional Emotional Developmental Capacity 1 through 5. It was incredible to watch. More videos will be shared in next week’s course.

A parent shared that their child’s first language is music, it seems. The child plays music based on the mood they’re in and allows the sibling and parent to sing along. The parent gave an example of when the therapist started singing a song to the tune of ‘mommy finger’ changing the lyrics and the child jumped right in and finished it eagerly, but only uses verbal language when through music and is otherwise non speaking. The child also gets really upset and gets scared and feels the drama in the scary parts of music, such as the song from the movie Frozen and is very dramatic about the dramatic parts.

Dr. Carpente commented that this child clearly connects with music in that way and wondered how they learned the emotional qualities of music. The parent thinks it was through watching movies with soundtracks. John said they must have great auditory processing skills and memory and suggested the parent use music to modulate the emotion.

Music is fundamental, he continued. The developmental capacities and the individual differences are expressed through the music. The relationship is getting stronger through each measure of music, he stated. Keep it fresh, he advised.

If the child knows what’s going to happen next, we’re not expanding the play, we’re just repeating the play.” – Dr. John Carpente

A parent’s child struggles with role playing and needs support from the parent and will bring music to the parent, but struggles to express the feelings that the music expresses verbally. John mentioned meaning making and suggested elongating idea creation and exploring feelings to work on introspection listening to music. It’s one thing to say what does the song mean versus “What does the song mean to you?” and explore what’s happening relationally between the two of you, he offered.

Do something. Figure out how to engage through a range of emotional experiences while tackling the “Why? Why is that?” questions including wondering what this feeling is about, and figuring out what happens when they happen outside of a predictable context. This is where you can use empathy and say, “Oh it’s gotta be so hard for you; what’s that like?” What if you joined the story and became the emotion with the child. You can ponder that when you feel this way, you’re not sure what to do. It’s a look into the child’s emotional world. John wondered if the parent can write songs with the child, or a poem that can be put to music.

Another parent expressed that their child is interested in piano and drums but they don’t know how to teach the child, who goes to the instruments then looks to the parents and they don’t know what to teach them. Dr. Carpente stresses that we don’t teach. The bounds of education can be a deterrent. We want to make it interactive because we do everything in the context of interaction. Make it into a game, facilitating back and forth interactions. Many of our kids have a hard time sustaining interactions for a long period of time, he says.

This parent and another both said their child gets up and walks away if the parent comes and tries to teach them. John gave an example of coming up to the piano, playing a couple notes then dramatically moving away quickly with affect, like a tease or a flirt. Then come back and put your hands up pretending you’re going to play and by the child’s cues to not proceed, back off dramatically. I mentioned the podcast with Mike Fields who used a similar example when doing a home visit where he knocked on the door, the child was distressed, so he slammed it shut. He knocked again, the child was still distressed so he closed it. He repeated this numerous times until the child was curious about what was going on and why this guy wasn’t forcing him to do something he didn’t want to do. Eventually he got engagement from the child.

You can find more information about Dr. Carpente HERE in the first introductory paragraph where there are links to his Center in New York.

April 25, 2022

I’ll be facilitating a Floortime through Music course for parents with Music Therapist and DIR Expert, Dr. John Carpente, on May 11th, who will also be our guest DIR Expert on May 2nd! Please check it out and sign up!

A parent started off by describing how their child hadn’t done his rituals in a long time, but they all came back this weekend; he’s trying to self-regulate around something, but the parent hasn’t noticed anything. We talked about how maybe the child is fighting off an illness and uncomfortable. We have to play detective to figure out what changed. Also, we discussed how the child could be about to have a developmental growth spurt and thus all of their cognitive load is being used on the new skills so they fall back / regress to their old behaviours. A parent said that this is what they’ve noticed with their child. Another parent’s child is also regressing right now, but they are also starting to talk a lot more.

Another parent’s child has learned how to not open drawers they’re not supposed to, but now started opening new drawers. We discussed how perhaps the child is curious about what’s in drawers, which is great that they took initiative, or perhaps it’s and OCD-type behaviour for regulation, or maybe it’s limit testing-am I allowed to open THIS drawer?

Some parents suggested weighted vests, different gadgets/tools to provide alternative inputs and we discussed how Occupational Therapist, Robbie Levy, said our bodies get used to these inputs so she prefers dynamic activities as suggested in this podcast.

The parent described one of the ‘ritualistic’ behaviours is touching all the garbage containers out on a walk. A parent suggested handing the child a drum stick to hit the garbage bins with or to put a rubber glove on the child. We all loved the drum stick suggestion! Other parents said their children also touch everything outside.

A parent pointed out that sometimes we overthink things and our children’s behaviours are just typical ‘kid’ behaviours, not necessarily ‘autistic’ behaviours. I pointed out that a doctor said to me years ago that all of us do weird things in our development that we outgrow.

A parent asked about screen time for their child. The child is regulated when on the screen but they also want to set some limits. I described how Dr. Gil Tippy told me to throw our iPad out the window when my child was young because the more time your child is on the screen, the less time the are moving and exploring the world through play, which helps their sensory systems develop–gaining visual/spatial awareness, etc. We talked about coregulating if they get upset when we won’t give them their screen or take it away, and how we need to have firm limits in place and plans to schedule fun activities to move them to so they will be motivated to leave the screen.

Next week being the first week of the month, we have a guest DIR Expert, Dr. John Carpente. See you then!

April 11, 2022

I’ll be facilitating a Floortime through Music course for parents with Music Therapist and DIR Expert, Dr. John Carpente, on May 11th, who will also be our guest DIR Expert on May 2nd! Please check it out and sign up!

Please donate to Ukrainian refugees relocated in Europe who have autistic kids and require sensory items, organized by DIR Expert Galina Itskovich who is from Ukraine. Please donate what you can!

A parent described a battle with the insurance company and school district to have support for their child that is not ABA. The child was doing great in preschool, but has become situationally mute since starting Kindergarten. The child has been reading since age 2.5 and can write, text, and finger spell, but the psychologist from the insurance told the parents to not give the child what the child needs unless the child verbally asks. The school did provide an AAC device but is expecting the child to fit in with the other students rather than accommodate the child’s needs. The parent has been learning as much about Floortime as possible and is thrilled to have found our support group.

I suggested the podcasts with Joleen Fernald:

I talked about Inside of Autism course from the autistic advocate, Kieran Rose, that covers the myths of autism and the self-advocates’ views that a few of us in the group have taken and found to be very valuable. Also, Positive Development is getting insurance coverage for DIR/Floortime services.

Another parent shared that they started in the DIR Home Program and in doing Floortime their child is now doing so well and they are so pleased they didn’t choose ABA.

Another parent expressed how happy they were to find out about Floortime and they are doing everything they can to learn about it and are in the process of getting a Floortime provider 1 time/month to train them in Floortime, which is covered by the school district.

A parent is frustrated at the inequity in the system and asked how we can get legal advice for getting support for our children that they deserve. I suggested contacting the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and the DIR Coalition of California (DIRCOC). I also suggested helping NY State get coverage for DIR by signing the petition and following the steps in this blog which will help other states follow suit. We have shared these frustrations many times in this group how unfair it is for our children.

A parent is moving to another country that will be a different language and asked if anyone had experience on helping the child adjust. One parent was stuck during Covid in another country that spoke a different language and had some insights to share. We talked about how safety is the number one concern and that other goals, such as toilet training, may be on the back burner while you’re transitioning. Another parent said that the Floortime through Music course mentioned that music was a way to help.

Another parent shared some exciting successes. Their child put together a wooden helicopter, started cooking, and they had community friends offer to repair their home at no charge.

Finally, a parent discussed how helpful finding Affect Autism and this group has been to learning about Floortime and that they are happy their child started mimicking sounds to begin communicating. They suspect one of the parents might be neurodivergent as well and they are just still navigating their way through a new diagnosis.

There is no support group next week due to the Easter holiday, but we will be back in two weeks.

April 4, 2022

I’ll be facilitating a Floortime through Music course for parents with Music Therapist and DIR Expert, Dr. John Carpente, on May 11th, who will also be our guest DIR Expert on May 2nd! Please check it out and sign up!

Please donate to Ukrainian refugees relocated in Europe who have autistic kids and require sensory items, organized by DIR Expert Galina Itskovich who is from Ukraine. Please donate what you can!

Speech and Language therapist Bridget Palmer was our DIR Expert guest for the first week of the month of April.

A parent has been busy with work so sometimes demands a lot of compliance and wants to know how to expand in play and help support the child during transitions between parents. The child is having terrible meltdowns and just can’t express what’s happening. The child will cry the whole time in the bath then cry when out, wanting to go back in. It also takes the child a very long to go to sleep at night. How can the parent help the child?

I suggested listening to the recent podcast with Kasheena Holder on Co-Regulatory Support which covered how to help the child feel safe.

Bridget said that even if we don’t know WHY they’re having the feelings that they’re having or WHY bath time might be difficult, the child wanted the parent to stay with them and that is the most important part of the experience. The child wanted to be in that relationship. If the parent can say to yourself, I’m going to BE WITH this emotional experience with this child, and it’s going to be tough, this lets your child know that you’re the one helping and supporting them through it. You can even say, “This seems tough. I’ll be with you. We’ll do this together.

Bridget also suggested listening to Dr. Greenspan’s old radio shows.

She also suggested describing what you see with your words: “You’re using a big voice, you’re stomping your feet,” etc. to be respectful of the child and delicate with the child rather than saying, “You’re feeling angry.” You don’t have to fix it or make it better; you’re just with them in those big feelings.

Another parent asked about greetings. Their child is very talkative but won’t do greetings, except sometimes in play; teachers will say bye and the child will look but not say anything.

Bridget asked, “What is a greeting?” It’s an emotional experience to say hello or good-bye. Hello can be wonderful. Good-byes can be a very different thing as you face separation. Sometimes it can be a goodbye-hello when we’re transitioning.

Communication can be 3 parts: a social reference: smiling, looking, moving towards them; an action or gesture: a wave, a body lean; a vocal experience: saying ‘hi’ or a vocalization or laugh, Bridget explained, and synchronizing these 3 things is pretty complex.

Bridget commented how the parent said their child looks at them in the morning, which is a greeting. Greetings are a very neurotypical thing. Is it that we want them to do a neurotypical greeting or are we helping them do something they want to do? Everything we do to another person is a demand which puts an expectation on the child, Bridget says.

She also suggested noticing when the child is doing greetings in pretend play to learn more about how the child is understanding greetings.

I added that it’s more a problem with us than with our children. We have the expectation. What we can do is talk for your child by saying something like, “Oh, my child just smiled and that means they’re happy to see you and are saying hello.” You can also ask “How would you like to say bye to Grandma?” I shared how my son will walk up to Grandma and turn around with his back to her to receive a hug (as described in the Polyvagal Theory podcast).

When Bridget was working in a preschool that had ‘greetings’ as a goal for children, she asked them how the kids are connecting with the other kids in the room versus the teacher goals of having the kids do greetings.

Another parent talked about their older non-speaking child’s hums, as music was the child’s first language. As parents, they said, we have a compulsion to want our neurodivergent loved ones to fit into the norms when they don’t, and don’t want to. She asked Bridget to elaborate on humming, and sound as expressive language, as well as body language because people think you don’t have thoughts if you don’t speak.

Bridget responded that this parent understands the emotional content and knows it’s meaningful and wants others who spend time with the child to also be able to read the child’s voice, body movements, and facial expressions. She suggested to google Ido Kedar who talked about his experience communicating as a non speaking autistic person. I suggested reviewing my podcast with Joleen Fernald and with Maribel Serrano Holder about supporting non-speaking individuals.

Another parent asked about their child not responding their name and that it was suggested to them that maybe the child doesn’t have meaning for their name but when the parent asked the child to point to Mom, Dad, sibling, then themself, they did. Bridget said that if she calls a name, it’s about her calling the name but they may not want to do what you’re about to ask them to do. When you call the child’s name, is it so they don’t run into the street? “Stop!” might be a way to get them to stop. Why do we want them to respond to their name? To look at us? To give a direction? She stopped putting that as a goal for kids in her work years ago.

What are the words the kids are responding to? If the word is meaningful, the child will respond. She says to ask yourself:

  • When do I call my child’s name?
  • What do I hope will happen?
  • Why do I hope it will happen?

It’s a very neurotypical thing to want a child to respond to their name. I added that affect adds the message and that’s what our kids pick up on more than the words. So a parent gave the example of their stern voice being the reason the child will stop versus using the child’s name.

Another parent thanked us for this conversation and mentioned that there are different approaches between parents. Bridget responded that children don’t need each caregiver to do the same thing; they know those relationships. From a language perspective, she’d say “Walk!” instead of “Don’t run!“; say what you WANT them to do, and say “Give me” with your hand out, which is about Words-Action-Affect (W-A-A).

Thank you, Bridget for joining us! If you liked Bridget’s coaching, you can request her as part of the DIR Home Program.

March 28, 2022

I let everyone know that on May 11th I’ll be facilitating a Floortime through Music course for parents with Music Therapist and DIR Expert, Dr. John Carpente, who will also be our guest DIR Expert in May! Please check it out and sign up!

I also shared a website where you can donate to Ukrainian refugees relocated in Europe who have autistic kids and require sensory items, organized by DIR Expert Galina Itskovich who is from Ukraine. Please donate what you can!

A parent from Ottawa asked about Floortime and I suggested looking up SLP Cindy Harrison’s clinic.

A parent new to the group and with a new diagnosis asked about the differences between ABA and DIR. I gave an extensive description and suggested checking out these resources:

A parent asked how to handle a child who throws things inappropriately without saying, “Stop!” because the child is young and doesn’t understand that it’s wrong. I described how my son did the same thing when younger. He threw pinecone after pinecone on the school roof and Dr. Gil Tippy visited one day and said to him, “Hey! I want a pinecone to throw, too!” and kept being a ‘playful pest’ asking for a turn. He then used affect and anticipation to build my son’s interest in his throwing the pinecone, too. Basically you make it a playful interaction in whatever way you can. If that means putting a pail or bin in the way of what your child throws, you do that. It’s the ‘throw the things into the bin’ game. I suggested these blog posts:

I also shared that the series We chose play’ shows my family’s journey with our son from birth through learning Floortime with many Floortime video examples.

A parent asked if anyone had done the DIR Home Program and wanted some feedback. A few parents said they found it extremely helpful and others said you will want to record video of yourself playing with your child to review with the Floortime coach to get the most out of it. Season 1, Episode 6 of We chose play’ is an example of a coaching session reviewing a Floortime video with Colette Ryan from the DIR Home Program.

A parent asked about Tomatis listening therapy. We talked about how it helps with auditory processing challenges and that usually within 6 weeks or around 6 weeks later, you might notice behavioural challenges in your child as their brain assimilates the new information before they make a developmental leap. Results are different for every child and usually you do many rounds of Tomatis over a few years, like we did with our son. Season 2 of We chose play’ covers our years doing intensives at A Total Approach in Glen Mills, PA where Maude Le Roux‘s staff provided Floortime and interventions such as Tomatis and Interactive Metronome for our son’s sensory challenges.

Also, in case you’re interested, Use promo code AHHHHH for 20% off sitewide, now through March 31 at 11:59 p.m. at Redbubble if you’d like to purchase items with the ‘We chose play’ logo, such as the journals we discussed a couple months ago where we keep a list of positive things our kids do, mugs, stickers, magnets, cloth bags and more!

See you next Monday when SLP Bridget Palmer will be our next DIR Expert guest for the first week of the month of April!

March 21, 2022

One parent’s child was just diagnosed and the spouse doesn’t agree with the diagnosis. The child masks at school, so they don’t see what goes on at home. The parent is trying to get supports for the child.

We had a rich discussion about how it can be difficult for many parents to accept the diagnosis and part of that is due to the false autism narrative that exists and the medical model that says autism is a tragedy. Parents go through a grief process but need to accept the child as they are. Also, sometimes the child learns to mask around one parent because they don’t feel as safe with that parent, so that parent doesn’t see the disability. I suggested autistic self-advocate Kieran Rose’s Inside of Autism course and Dr. Robert Naseef’s Father’s Support Group: http://Email autisminstitute AT drexel DOT edu to sign up for the link..

Another parent had an IEP meeting at school and were discouraged. Many parents of preschoolers are scared of public school. We talked about how important it is to have a good relationship with the school staff to advocate for your child.

March 14, 2022

As it was our first meeting of the month, we had a guest DIR Expert: Jackie Bartell.

A parent mentioned that they’ve been doing Floortime for the past 9 months with their 4-year-old using lots of affect and trying to engage the child everyday, but now when the parent says, “No!“, setting limits with lots of affect, the child is continuing to do the ‘naughty’ things to get that response again. The parent said, “I’ve made mistakes” and has been responding “in the wrong way“. First, I said there is no beating ourselves up. It’s not a mistake. Jackie emphatically agreed. I said it’s a celebration that the child is seeking and initiating engagement. Now, it’s a matter of redirecting the initiation to more appropriate behaviour, as I had to when my son saw Dad’s affect when he smacked his face then started smacking everyone. The child learns about cause and effect interactively with others.

Jackie says we have to provide the space and opportunity for learning. With this experience, the parent learned about their child: that they’re initiating, and making a developmental progression in FEDC 3 (circles of communication). The child is looking for connection because it feels good. They’ve learned that when they do something, they get that affective connection, so what’s another way we can respond to them so they can learn there’s other ways to initiate besides what we consider ‘being naughty’? Jackie suggests looking for little/smaller times when the child initiates and react with big affect to these smaller initiations.

When the child does this thing you consider ‘naughty’, respond in a very flat way and find another connection to redirect the focus. With my son, we said, “We don’t hit. It looks like you want to play with ‘Johnny’ or ‘Dada’ (or whomever). How else can we ask him to play? How about a gentle tap tap on the shoulder?

Jackie had a student who initiated everything with a scream. She had to find a shared moment with him when everything was peaceful. He learned, then, what the expected behaviour was. He learned that he could get interaction with Jackie when he was calm. It’s a deliberate practice, she explains. When you use no affect, that removes the desirability to interact in that way. If the child laughs or smiles back, the parent feels like the child doesn’t understand, but Jackie says the child’s closing a circle of communication. The child threw a toy at the parent’s face, wanting to play and interact. Jackie says to look right before that happened. Did the child have to turn the volume up that loud to get the response? What was the sequence that got to throwing something? What is the child communicating to you? What is the purpose of that observable behaviour?

I added that throwing the toy was the child’s only way to communicate. Laughing may just be the child not knowing what to do and another parent added that their child laughs when anxious. I brought up that in the book Kids Beyond Limits, Anat Baniel says that when our kids have that uneasy laugh, that is a moment when they are learning something. I added that it’s a moment of tension described in the rubber band podcast with Jackie.

The parent pointed out that as the child gets older and faster it’s more dangerous when they throw toys; they made eye contact, then the toy was thrown. The parent says they’ll need to be quicker and attend to the ‘before’ moments

A parent asked how to set limits with the older child who is hurting the new baby. The parent said the child also used to pull hair. Jackie said the child might just be saying, “Hello, I want to interact” and you can say, “I can’t play right now.” If the child kicks the baby, the child might not realize they’re hurting the baby. They’re trying to join the parent and baby and want to connect. You can say to the older child, “The baby doesn’t like it if you kick your leg. Let’s touch the baby gently this way.” Tell the child what the expected behaviour is. Find a meaningful way to be with the baby. Facilitate connection with the baby and comment on the child being a big sibling.

The same parent mentioned that the child also snaps their fingers in their faces. Jackie asked what’s happening in the play that’s making it hard for the child to participate when the child snaps in the parent’s face seemingly ‘randomly’? Yes, maybe it’s a phase like when the child was pulling hair, but maybe it’s not random. The child is increasing attempts to be interactive. Think about how we can give our children a different way of gaining interaction or understanding about something they’re experiencing. The parent mentioned the child seeking attention. I drew attention to the Seeking Emotion podcast.

Another parent has a 2-yr-old who has been pulling the cat’s tail in a very rough way. The parent started showing excitement when the cat purrs so when the child interacts, the parent says, Oh look, the cat is happy you aren’t pulling the tail and is purring. I directed the parent to the notes from past sessions where we discussed children being rough with pets, including the session where Dr. Tippy was the guest in January and a week or two later.

I made the point that all of these behaviours that parents are talking about are exactly why Dr. Greenspan who created DIR talked so much about Preverbal Affective Signalling: getting our children to do circles of communication to co-regulate before they get too big. I alluded to the story Sanjay gave us in rubber band podcast with Jackie and me about the teen autistics picking up the therapists to go where they wanted. If we don’t guide our children’s ability to co-regulate, they will find it difficult to regulate their big emotions.

A parent gave this book as an example to use about not hitting kids. Jackie added that we want to provide opportunities to interact and giving meaning.

A parent mentioned that their child struggles with motor planning and attention, and gets distracted easily. Attention isn’t in a vacuum, Jackie said. Rather than try to fight that, use affect to draw the child back into the attention. As child develops you don’t have to struggle as hard with affect because they’re more interactive. I suggested these two podcasts I did with Occupational Therapist, Maude Le Roux:

The parent said that the child will sit for an extended period of time with one arm in their sleeve when getting dressed or when getting undressed even though the child is capable of getting dressed, but is just more distracted by everything that’s happening in the room. Jackie suggests the parent could use affect and say, “Do you need help with your sleeve?” to either give him meaning to work through this sleeve situation, or simply to draw the attention back to getting dressed. Also, sometimes kids–autistic or not–just don’t want to put on their pajamas; it’s ordinary behaviour!

The parent could also come up with a playful response, Jackie continued, to let them just stay like that, such as, “Hmm… weren’t we getting dressed? There’s a problem here. We aren’t dressed yet, and you want to play.

Sometimes we get in the rut of pathologizing everything our kid does. All kids kick the baby, Jackie says. All kids want to keep playing.

February 28, 2022

A parent asked about a helper coming to the house and questioning how the parent is handling ‘behaviour’ of the autistic child. The helper came for a visit and seemed confused when the child didn’t respond to them calling the child over. The parent explained that they are not focusing on behaviour, but on a developmental approach and wondered if other parents have tips. We just talked about explaining that they’ve found that behavioural approaches don’t work with autistic children, that adult autistic self-advocates condemn behavioural approaches and that they chose a developmental approach and then show the helper what works and how to connect with the child and that they’ll have to enter the child’s world and use affect and make it fun.

A parent celebrated that their child cut their own meat all by themself which they usually do. They decided to see if the child could do it and the child did! Also, the child showed interest in wanting to help change the aquarium water and scooped 7 fish into the net and stayed 15 minutes to help our while being so connected and having back-and-forth interactions. Great celebrations!

Another parent’s child has been pooping in the toilet and having no accidents! Yay!

Another caregiver is concerned about a child who was toilet trained but has been having many ‘accidents’ each day for the last 6 weeks, coincidentally after going on Prozac to calm them down. A few parents said they had issues on Prozac and that maybe it’s relaxing the child that they’re not feeling the cue to pee. We suggested asking the doctor. I mentioned the podcast I did on Autism and Medication.

Another parent said that when their child has a big change or stress, the child has a pee accident. I mentioned that these types of regressions were discussed in my recent toileting podcasts: Part 1 and Part 2. We spent a lot of time talking about some of the points brought up in the podcasts and I urged all parents to take the time to listen to them both due to all of the wonderful tips and great information in there to help with all aspects of the toileting process.

Another parent’s child got sick for the first time with diarrhea and vomiting after everyone in town caught a stomach bug. The child hasn’t been eating as usual and seems way more sensitive to a lot of things in general since. The parents are disappointed because of these setbacks because their neurotypical child, the sibling, bounced back in a day. We reassured the parent that this must have been quite an experience to feel vomiting for the first time and not pleasant! The child is probably a bit freaked out and is scared to eat. We discussed normalizing the experience by talking about how yucky that was that everybody got sick and vomited (saying BLEEEECCCCCCCHHHHH as if vomiting) and how they hate when they get sick, too. Wasn’t it awful how (sibling) got sick and all the other kids got sick and we all get sick sometimes but then we get better! Look! (Sibling) is better! Soon, you’ll feel better too! That kind of thing, because the child is probably really confused about what happened.

A parent wondered how to deal with separation anxiety after parents separated and the child is transitioning back and forth between parents. The one parent gets the child excited for the other parent to come but when the child returns, it’s traumatic and the child has a meltdown for 30 minutes or so. It’s so hard. We brainstormed about how the parent could make a social story with photos or a little book about changes about what to expect. The parent could prepare something really fun for that child to do upon return. The parent could also talk through the scenario, that it’s really hard not having the other parent there, that they feel sad, and that’s ok. Talking about what is happening can help the child process it.

Another parent described how their child masks reactions and feeling then explodes when returning home. This parent suggested sensory objects like playdough or kinetic sand during transitions.

Another parent pointed out that since we do everything, the child is used to us getting them to do stuff, and the child is more comfortable with us, feels more safe with us, and thus can meltdown with us, whereas the other parent puts no demands on the child and just lets the child watch a screen all day and maybe doesn’t feel as comfortable with that parent so won’t meltdown for them.

See everybody back on March 14th with guest DIR Expert Jackie Bartell.

February 14, 2022

We started this week with takeaways from last week when DIR Expert Kasheena Holder joined us. One parent appreciated how she described the DIR Home program being involving the parent in every decision. I remembered the co-regulatory piece and why and how it is so important and announced that Kasheena and I will be recording a podcast on the topic soon. Another parent reflected how difficult it can be to co-regulate and how much patience we require as parents when our children are doing things that are disruptive. We get impatient or angry.

I brought up that in the communication cues podcast with Colette Ryan, she discussed the process of rupture and repair. We may lose patience with our child, but we can always repair the relationship. I also talked about the podcast with Dr. Kathy Platzman about avoiding the blame and how we cannot blame ourselves for not being perfect! I also talked about the developmental piece. We cannot expect our children to behave in a manner that is above where they are developmentally, even in any moment. If they are dysregulated in any moment, they are in a fight-or-fight moment and no amount of reasoning or logic will help them.

I described my experiences with my son when he was little. It felt like every time I turned my head for even a mere two seconds, something catastrophic happened. Whether it was something being broken, a bin of toys being dumped, something being thrown across the room that shouldn’t have been thrown, or someone’s cup of liquid being spilled, it felt like walking on eggshells and almost like a chronic case of traumatic anxiety, worried about every possible thing.

A parent shared that we can always give an outlet for hitting, for example, by directing them to the pillow to hit, or outside against a tree with a whiffle bat. Another parent shared that they’ll talk to their spouse about their child’s stages of particular behaviours saying, “Daria’s son used to do that and he’s not anymore!” (knocking down stuff, slapping faces, etc.) Our children definitely go through stages and co-regulation is so important. If we need a break, we need to take our breaks.

Another parent brought up the inconsistency of our children’s sleep and how it varies so much, which makes it so tiring for us! It’s true! I recalled when I was pregnant that everyone said to me to sleep when the baby sleeps and we have to take the same advice now with our kids when they don’t sleep well. I shared that my son will sleep well but then have some days where he wakes up mid-night and then I get no sleep. There can be many reasons for it. I suggested the podcast on Developmental Growth Spurts with OT Maude Le Roux where she talks about how our children can regress while they’re mastering newly acquired skills because all their brain’s focus is assimilating the new skill, so the previously mastered skills might fall back–temporarily. Growth is stress. Stress can be good or bad. Sometimes our kids may not sleep because they’re fighting off illness, but other times, they are about to have a developmental growth spurt!

Another caregiver brought up my podcast on Self-reg with Dr. Stuart Shanker and I echoed that these topics were again discussed in the Co-reg podcast as well with Dr. Susan Hopkins. Dr. Shanker had said that from time to time he would snap at his son on the spectrum, then beat himself up because he knew better than to do that, but that if he was annoyed, it would leak out and when you’re frustrated the child feels it, so you have to understand and see your child through a different lens and ask, “Why?” and “Why now?” about both your child’s and your own behaviour. I added that our why’s are usually a lot more complex than our child’s. Ours are often filled with the sense of sadness and ambiguous loss for what our children can’t do that other kids can. It saddens us.

Another parent had a very bad experience with their child’s public school not accommodating their child and keeping the child safe and asked for ideas how to get support. Parents had different ideas about how to find an advocate and whom to email. One parent suggested the website https://www.ourkids.net/ where Canadians can find a school to accommodate their child’s needs if the public school is just becoming too frustrating. Another parent argued that us all leaving won’t help the problem of public schools not accommodating our children.

Another parent’s child is taking toys from other kids in preschool and has a meltdown when the teacher gives the toy back to the other kid. Also, the child is getting more frustrated with special days that are out of routine (e.g., Firefighters as guests, Valentine’s Day celebration, etc.) and pulls their (required) mask off and throws it, etc. We discussed some topics to suggest to the teacher to facilitate and model wondering about the problem interactively rather than just taking the toy and giving it back. I suggested the podcast on small groups and Floortime with Kristy Gose.

We didn’t get to the question about the disrupted routine, but using social stories to prepare the child in advance for what will happen that is different could assist as well as the preschool teacher co-regulating and supporting the child through the different routine.

See everybody back in two weeks (as next Monday is a holiday in North America).

February 7, 2022

Kasheena Holder from the DIR Home Program was our guest DIR Expert this month, being the first week of the month.

Kasheena began the session describing the process in the DIR Home Program and how the most important piece is establishing the Relationship with the parent over the sessions to get to the place where parents feel safe sharing their concerns, their progress, their struggles. We also talked about the mismatch of therapists and how we need to find someone we are comfortable with, and that if you don’t gel with someone, it’s fine to ask to switch to another person and nobody takes it personally. You have to get the most out of it in a way that you feel supported.

A parent’s non verbal preschooler had lots of changes for in the last 2 weeks because the school switched both the teacher and the aid. The child had 3 different substitute teachers in last week and the child’s sleep patterns are off, etc. At drop off the child threw a fit for the first time. It’s been a challenge getting the child fed and ready, whereas they child used to love going to school. The parent had to bribe the child with the screen. How can the parent have open communication with the staff?

Kasheena brought up co-regulatory support for child. “I really miss my teacher” is what the child is feeling. Let’s mirror that. Meeting the child emotionally and connecting so they get that Mom understands what I’m feeling. While you may not be able to support the change at school, the more we are able to offer ourselves with more opportunities for connection and be that coregulatory support, the more we provide that cushioning for them to work through those challenging times. We can do this as parents. Connect with the emotion they’re having, “I’m so sad, I can’t see this teacher.Attune to that and connect with that.

Practically, can you put something on a card that the child can see that is connecting with the child so that when you show them the picture, they see that you understand? You can also participate more in the transition process from the car to school that connects with the experiencing the child is having. Allow them to feel the experience that’s happening. Shed the expectation about ‘this is a task’ (getting into school), and instead connect with the emotional meaning of the experience. Let’s see if we can find the affect they’re having now that will help them feel as if they’re being heard. This process develops a shift. Validate and support the journey forward. It’s a lot richer if you can jump in to the process where the teacher jumps in at drop off. This is hard. Give hugs and squeezing so the teacher joins your process. You can model co-regulation for the teacher to slow the teacher down and allow your child the time to transition.

At every juncture, Kasheena added, our relationship will not require the same effort.

I suggested my podcasts with Dr. Ira Glovinsky about these hard topics:

We’re tapping in to their emotional selves, Kasheena said, so we can feel another person’s warmth or sorrow even though they didn’t say, “I am sad“. It’s about Being with. How can we empathize with their feeling of frustration with our kids? Many parents can’t do it because they didn’t have it modelled for them as kids. Much of the time parents are thinking what their children should be doing or it’s about teaching them what they should be doing, instead of just letting them feel their emotions, I added. We can’t teach emotions. We experience emotional knowledge, Kasheena added. It’s like an internship. You have to experience it; it has to be with you. It’s not coming from the reference of teaching it.

Kasheena likes to exaggerate the affective experience so they can feel it, elongating the emotional experience. I brought up how psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld talks about the adaptation loop–needing to feel the futility of not being able to change a situation you’re in–before you can adapt. This is about stretching that rubber band. If we don’t give them the chance to feel, they can’t adapt.

A parent is puzzled how much their child is thriving in an intensive behavioural program. Kasheena said that Relationships are what our kids connect to and thrive from and perhaps that therapist is really creating a great relationship. I also suggested the child resonates with the structure. Kasheena said to foster the relationship and transition from one therapist back to home, etc. .

A parent’s very sweet 4-yr-old who is very silly talking about farts, etc. Kasheena said that it’s a good journey of mirroring the child’s vocalizations and emotions, staying in that playful, joyous space that the child is offering you. What can happen when you’re there, is you get cues on how to stretch it. The child is the one engaging you and has more ideas that want to burst out. The more you indulge the child, they’ll be more confident to expand and have the opportunity to be creative. Enjoy being silly.

I loved this and asked the group: How often do our kids have those opportunities to feel comfortable so they can express themselves and initiate? As parents we have to shed a bit of that fear of judgment for our kids, Kasheena adds, when we go out in public when they are silly. The more we validate that process for our kids, being themselves, being silly, they will start to understand that we are sillly here, but we’re not there. It happens due to the trust you build with them. I trust Mommy’s emotional relationship with me can transcend many spaces.

When we shut down the funny, engaging self, because we see it as inappropriate, we are shutting down their willingness to connect with us. They are just trying to connect with us. It’s about giving them opportunities to be their authentic selves, so we can carry them safely through many experiences.

There’s a new baby in a family and the 4-yr-old autistic child is getting used to not being constantly with Mom. The child is now doing with grandmother what they did with the mother, but it’s turning into a lot of repetitive things and having more meltdowns and dysregulation. What’s a good way to regulate him? Kasheena says that the child is not able to verbalize or even recognize the void the child is feeling. Just provide that experience for them of us being here together as often as possible. Let the child feel the ‘we are still connected’ energy. They’re communicating it through their sensory motor self. Bribes don’t fill that emotional, co-regulatory piece. Give them the opportunity to have other relationships as well. Support the grandparent by supporting her to open up more connections.

Update: The DIRectory now shows certificate level for providers and is now up and working again!

January 31, 2022

A parent is having safety issues with their child including the child running onto the street, and trying to get out the back door with no recognition that it’s a safety concerned. Also, the child loves the family dog but intensely grabs and hugs the dog, twisting pulling tail, climbs on top of dog, and the meltdown escalates if the child thinks the dog will go away. The child loves animals but doesn’t register that they are hurting the dog physically. The child has trouble with impulse control. Some signs at preschool are that they do sensory play in the sand and friends are not wanting to participate anymore.

We reviewed from our memory what Dr. Tippy said about hurting people or animals in our session a few weeks ago. You must set boundaries around hurting people or animals and stop it immediately, no questions asked, and then co-regulate.

Another parent shared that their child is grabbing the parent’s face with their fingers and hurting them, and kicking and screaming or pushing to get what they want.

There are a lot of things to unpack with these problems.

  • First, how do we set a boundary? We want to be firm without yelling and putting the child into further fight/flight. We have to consistently set the boundary (see last week’s notes for resources on setting limits).
  • I warned about the “Ouch!” reaction. Our son so liked seeing others say, “Ouch!” that it became cause-and-effect play with people, which–while developmentally a great step (being interactive)–was not a way to interact with people. So boundaries can’t be funny. They must be firm.
  • Next, our children have communication challenges. If a child has motor planning challenges, they may struggle to communicate their needs and resort to hitting, kicking, spitting. I gave the example of my son using these methods and what Dr. Shanker had to say about it.

‘The solution’ to his is in this blog post that I pulled from information in the book, Engaging Autism, where Dr. Greenspan talked about what to do when the child struggles with communication and resorts to ‘violent eruptions’. It’s about working on the affective reciprocal interactions, which was covered in this podcast. Also, we need to remember that everything is always dynamic across people our children are with, situations, environments, and what emotional state they are in. It’s about widening that tree trunk in the Learning Tree.

One parent found that setting a regularly scheduled time to play with the family pet and a time away from the pet has reduced the ‘hurting’ behaviour. It’s really settled the kids in their household.

A parent’s childd took the house key with them when escaping from the house, but interestingly went on the exact same path that the parents take them on everyday, so by the time the parent caught up to them, they had walked to the stop sign and were on their way back. The child had memorized the route. So this parent suggested to the parent whose child is eloping, to practice a specific route so the child will do that route if they do escape.

For pushing and kicking, a parent gave their child a punching bag. If the child hit the parent, they said “WHAT?” with confused affect and tapped their own shoulder (showing the child a positive way to get their attention instead of hitting the parent). If we show them what to do and do over and over, it can help them can make a new motor plan.

One parent found using a visual timer helps when doing unfamiliar things or less desirable things like going to the dentist/doctor .The parent is wondering what the next step will be when the child outgrows the timer.

Another parent used the timer and it was going well for awhile until the child started running away when it came out, anticipating that something they didn’t want to do was about to happen. Then the child started grabbing the timer to communicate when they didn’t want to do something by bringing it to their parent, and then almost tortured themselves by being overly consumed by the timer’s presence, so they finally put the timer away.

I reminded the group about Alfie Kohn‘s presentation at the ICDL 2021 conference and how he said to use these types of ‘behavioural’ techniques sparingly, for this reason exactly, such as giving a reward for getting a vaccine or doing to the dentist, otherwise it backfires.

One of the parents was drinking out of their We chose play mug so I wanted to let you know that Redbubble has a 15% off sale if you use the code BIGONEFIVE through Feb 4th! All of the We chose play items can be seen on this page.

January 24, 2022

A parent asked about helping with their child’s anxiety/stress in situations that they want to do but are hesitant to do, such as going to a store in the mall to buy a product they want where they’ll go then pause and rub their hands together anxiously. The parent will soothe and reassure and offer the option to leave, but the child says they want to go, yet they seem scared. Another parent gave a similar example about the child really wanting to go, but not being able to tolerate a coat or shoes due to sensory challenges. I gave a few examples of my son experiencing this: at Maude Le Roux’s clinic when we first went, he would only lay on his back because maybe it was too overwhelming to have all the unpredictable space around him, or at model train shows being anxious when seeing people we know who want to say hi to him. The parent brought up that the store has aggressive salespeople, so maybe that makes the child nervous.

I talked about how Dr. Gordon Neufeld discusses ‘immunizing’ your child to these experiences that might be difficult for them by talking about them in advance and inviting the fear: “We are going ____ and you might be scared and it will be hard, but I’ll be there and help you, and we can leave if you want, anytime.Colette Ryan pointed out in this weekend’s podcast, a child can tolerate a lot more through a safe relationship because they have that supportive person there to help them through the scary situation.

A parent brought up that doing this kind of ‘immunization’ in the moment is harder because once the child is anxious, they aren’t paying attention to what we say. It’s a great point. We always have to take into account the child’s Developmental level because a child who is not yet understanding logical conversation won’t follow what you’re saying so you might need to do a social story in advance. Even with verbal kids we can talk about it all in advance and say that it will be scary, but you’ll be there for them. Once there, you can just be cautious and supportive. The parent made the point that you can have the best plan and technique to use, but if implemented at the wrong time, it might not work.

We also touched on Spoon Theory that Colette talked about in the Cognitive Load podcast this past weekend where our children only have so many spoons of energy to spend in a day. Another parent uses the app Card Talk where your child can point to cards/photos to communicate with you and you can make your own cards. It’s a speech device like Maribel discussed in this podcast.

A parent struggled separating their neurodivergent daughter from the neurotypical younger daughter when the ND child was destroying the thing the NT child built and was playing with. The child was very stressed out. Another parent said that they tend to redirect with a preferred toy to entice the child away from bothering the other child. Another parent pointed out that in that moment, the child is ‘seeing red’, so wait until they’re calm then discuss the situation (at their developmental level) and in the future look for cues to recognize these situations before they happen. There are two podcasts I did on setting limits here and also here.

January 17, 2022

Due to me losing all of my notes after spending over an hour typing them all up, with links, (Arg! Frustration!), I instead recorded this video, that recaps what we discussed today, rather than spend the time re-typing everything again. I hope you will find it helpful.

January 10, 2022

We started by welcoming Dr. Gil Tippy, our ‘first week of the month’ guest DIR Expert Training Leader.

A parent started off that their child seems bored at school and a therapist suggested Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). Dr. Tippy said that this therapist probably realizes that this child is now able to think, has a notion of ‘self’, and wants to communicate their inner life. Just do the same thing isn’t going to work any more. They are ready to start dealing with their inner life. But make no mistake, CBT is behaviour therapy. It’s a focus on behaviour. The word ‘cognitive’ was an attempt to tackle ‘inner life’ but Floortime does that just fine. Floortime doesn’t have trouble with people’s inner lives. Let’s figure out what is it that the child has an interest in. If they are at FEDC 4 then it’s easy to keep them engaged. We want to convey the message, “I’m interested in the thing you said; What do you think about that?” where we ask open-ended questions. It only matters that their brain gears start moving. It’s hard work, and the child might start not wanting to go to school because it’s too hard! Anyone would rather do easy stuff! It’s why we’ll watch TV or play a video game instead of doing things we have to do, for instance.

Another parent had a baby! We had no idea she was pregnant! What a surprise! Her question was about her 4-year-old  who is primarily attached to her and how to not make him feel rejected or neglected with another baby. Dr. Tippy gave congrats on seeing how smart her child is, and being so attuned to him. The fact that he can now move to other people instead of just to his mother is a testament to the love Mom gave to him that he can hold in him. Dr. Tippy suggested making special time for the older child when baby is occupied, especially around nurturing times like at bedtime, etc. He’ll see that love is a thing you can give to more than one person. Right now when he’s so concerned about being attached to you, let him do things over and over and say, “Don’t worry, Mommy is here and loves you“. He will be much more used to it in a month or so as you get into more of a routine.

A parent is struggling to get kid their child out of an ABA school and wonders how to advocate and support DIR for more DIR schools or at least more DIR in schools. It’s been Dr. Tippy’s mission for the last 20 yrs, he said, shining a light on what’s going on in ABA and in DIR. Things are changing, he says. It doesn’t make sense to work behaviourally with a developmental challenge; people are more and more receptive to that. He suggested supporting ICDL which is doing the most effective work in changing state law, insurance acceptance and federal law in the US. He continued that people listen to parents; parents can join together. You can find 10 like-minded parents and say that you want to take the money the state is allocating in this way and use it for our benefit. Use a church basement. Get parents together then get a guest speaker like Dr. Tippy to come and talk; ICDL can also help you organize that. The parent asked if you change ABA minds or find new people? He mentioned that the second DIR was funded, ABA places and people have been seeking DIR training. It’s a movement!

A parent has a 3-yr-old in preschool and often asks the special ed teacher if she’s had Floortime training because she seems to be a Floortimer, but she’s not! Dr. Tippy says that any good, sound, early childhood education is like Floortime. The parent wondered how you can tell if the child is ‘getting’ it or just avoiding you? How do you know if they can figure out 1-step directions, especially if it’s not a desired task? Dr. Tippy said that it is very rare to have receptive language worse than expressive language; usually they understand much more than we give credit for; they usually are understanding much more than you think they are; If that’s not true, there are unusual circumstances (e.g., hearing was tested, parent says). Dr. Tippy stressed: Think about how powerful your power to ignore has to be so someone thinks they can’t hear you!

He continued that we can assume child understands and pays close attention. The problem is the comprehension. It’s the understanding that someone else has another idea from mine and I can make something new. We want to engage, and open and close circles, and it’s clear that your child already has ‘grit’, so let’s help them move developmentally and to think more abstractly where they can imagine the world different than it is right in front of them. Dr. Tippy always assumes that they have everything inside of them. It’s his job to hold the space so they can show it. It’s that, “I’m here, I’m waiting for you, Let me make a space where this can happen for you” space.

He says that they didn’t see the need to do the other thing until you’ve shown them a reason to do it. So it’s easier to just seem like they’re ignoring you. He refers to Anni Bergman and Margaret Maher’s book and YouTube video example of a girl who only spoke with music (I couldn’t find the video) until she went to summer camp and had a crush on a boy who didn’t speak with music, so then she began to speak for the first time. It was always in there, but she just didn’t see the purpose to speak before then.

A step-parent who is also autistic finds it helps them relate to the autistic child. But the child has trauma and it’s hard to separate what is autistic traits and what is trauma. Dr. Tippy says it doesn’t really make a difference. You want to be the loving, wonderful person that you can be and want to be and that will be therapeutic for the developmental piece and the trauma piece because of the connection of the loving adult. A person who comes with the intention of being loving and kind does so much. The Relationship is 99% of Floortime because it provides safety. The child also has severe weight issues. Dr. Tippy suggested seeing a speech therapist or occupational therapist about feeding issues. I have two podcasts about this:

The parent also feels there is no support where they live and they don’t have a lot of money. Dr. Tippy said this support group is great and many parents in the support group offered their emails and phone numbers to reach out if the parent needed to talk or have a friend.

Another parent said that their 6-yr-old child is showing attitude, giving the stare, and slaps your hand away if they don’t like what you are doing. Dr. Tippy says that when they realize that communication is to share their inner life, they won’t need to slap anymore. It’s just the developmental piece that is missing. They’ll realize, “Oh! The point of all this is for me to be able to communicate my inner life!” Dr. Tippy says to ask questions that nobody has answers to. If you push hard at Capacity 4 and are good at it, you instill the spirit of inquiry in your child.

A parent of a 4-yr-old talks silly, says fart and poop, said the sibling peed on the floor, but they didn’t, then said they was just kidding and playing with their sibling. The child told house guests to, “Go away to your home in Boston” (not where they live) and will say “There’s pee on the floor” when you sit down and then laugh. The parent tries to make it fun but sometimes it’s embarrassing. I said it sounds like a typical child to me! Young children like to play with boundaries of what is taboo and clearly the child has a sense of humour. Other parents came in giving examples of how their child farts on them and laughs and does similar things. We covered how we can laugh when it’s fun and you can change your expression and tone when it’s serious time to give the child a cue of when it’s ok to be silly.

Heads up:

  • Dr. Robert Naseef’s co-led father’s support group is this Saturday, January 15th. Email autisminstitute AT drexel DOT edu to sign up for the link.
  • This short new blog post from the Co-Reg Community is great