I decided to take some of the most important passages from “Engaging Autism” by Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder, with other quotes paraphrased. These are the lines from the book that I underlined when I read the book three years ago. I did the same for the John Gottman relationship books on a blog a while back. Of course, like Rodney Dangerfield said in “Back to School,” the guy underlining the pages “could have been an idiot.” So with that said, here goes:
Quotes from Stanley Greenspan’s “Engaging Autism” (I bold parts that I think are most important, and I divided the quotes into categories where I thought they fit best).
Developmental vs. Behavioral Approaches
- Many programs that focus…on symptoms or behaviors rely on the troubling assumption that many children with ASD cannot ever acquire skills for truly intimate relating, empathy, and creative problem solving. The DIR model focuses on the underlying deficits that lead to symptoms.
- Schools tend to be very structured and to put a high priority on compliance and limit setting, rather than on engaging, interacting, problem-solving, and thinking creatively and logically.
- The behavioral model led to modest educational gains and little or no social or emotional benefits.
- The old way: children could learn social behaviors in a scripted, memorized way, but not engage in spontaneous and creative social interactions and thinking.
- With the new developmental approaches, we see it as a continuum on which all children can become warm and related and purposeful.
- We now understand that the lines of early development are interrelated. Rather than assessing language skills, motor skills, and social-emotional skills separately, we should look at how well these abilities are integrated, how they work together as a whole.
- An example of a non-DIR approach: isolated skills, such as matching shapes, rather than essential developmental building blocks.
- The DIR model shows how to use a range of interventions in a truly integrated manner.
- Parents and clinicians need not make a Solomon’s choice between relationships on one hand and cognitive and language skills on the other. Cognition, language, and social-emotional development all stem from the same foundation.
- DIR is organized by asking: What are the problem behaviors? How is the child doing on the fundamentals of relating, thinking, and communicating? How is the child doing on her processing capacities, and what are the contributing factors (including biomedical challenges) affecting these capacities? What experiences work and don’t work to help the child, and how capable is the family of doing the things that work?
Don’t have a Ceiling
- Progress comes from getting the child to take the initiative. The biggest mistake is telling the child what to do to provoke a set response, rather than challenging her to take the initiative or to solve a problem with you.
- It’s just as important to work with children when they’re at peak performance as when they’re struggling, because then we help them advance developmentally and master higher levels all the time.
- Never assume a ceiling on a child’s abilities. Always assume you can get to one more level, and after that, one more level.
- The child may have a disorder or a set of problems, but he is not the disorder. He is a human being with real feelings, real desires, and real wishes.
- The brain develops into the fifties and sixties, so it’s never too late.
Learning and Language through Emotions, Engagement, and Relationships
- Mastery of the early stages of emotional interaction is associated with language and thinking skills.
- Language, cognition, and mathematical and quantity concepts are all learned through emotionally significant interactive experiences and relationships. Emotions enable us to learn.
- Emotion is critical for many elements of language.
- When engaged, children have a desire to communicate.
- At the second level are the ongoing and consistent relationships that every child requires for emotional and cognitive competency. Children with ASD need even more warm, consistent caregiving than do typically developing children. Almost all human learning occurs in relationships, which must foster warmth, intimacy, and pleasure.
- Use words meaningfully through emotions and pretend play rather than by rote.
- The goal is to have all of the emotional experiences of life expressed through circles of emotional interaction.
- Turn the activity into shared interaction.
- The ability to love deeply is present in children with ASD, whether or not it can be easily expressed.
- Children should be encouraged to express negative feelings. Don’t take the child’s expressions of negative feelings personally, but respond sympathetically so he doesn’t get the idea that expressing his feelings is dangerous.
- Emotion always come before behavior. The child needs to enjoy relationships with parents, peers, and teachers in order to learn.
- Many adults who had ASD and other special needs as children achieve a high level of empathy or enter the helping professions, because often they had to struggle more with challenges or feelings of disappointment than their peers did. (My comment – this proves that kids with autism can learn empathy.)
- We believe the primary problem in individuals with ASD is a biological difficulty in connecting emotion to motor actions and later to symbols. Emotions link different types of mental functioning.
Other Language Skills
- It’s better for children to use single words interactively with meaning than to recite whole sentences or paragraphs they have memorized.
- Children with auditory processing challenges especially need to hear the rhythm of a voice. Repeat what you say, and emphasize it.
- Since John’s main form of communication related to getting fed, mother played a little dumb to extend those moments with John was negotiating for some of his favorite foods.
- Help the child connect ideas by pretending you don’t understand.
- Say something like, “I went to the zoo and I saw a _______.” Have the child fill in the blank. Or, “He has four legs and barks. He is a ______.”
- Ask a child what he enjoyed most at school, and why? (Keep in mind many of these suggestions will have to be adapted for the level of the child. This one wouldn’t work for a child unable to communicate that level yet.)
- Listen to audiotapes of stories in the car.
- Not enough time is spent watching the child interact with a parent or other trusted caregiver. In many evaluations, children are separated from parents and challenged to perform various types of developmental tests in a way that fails to take into account the child’s individual differences. The child becomes stressed and confused. To make a proper diagnosis, a practitioner also has to see children at their very best.
- The clinician may see the child for a couple of hours, but parents see the child for hours and hours every single day for years.
- However gifted a particular therapist is, what really counts is what is done every single day, for hours a day, with a child.
- The key is to have fun together.
- A child’s progress with a DIR/Floortime program requires parents who are emotionally very available.
- If you don’t pull the sibling into the family challenge, the sibling feels excluded.
- Siblings and peers can help a great deal.
- In general, it’s most effective for the child’s therapeutic team – including parents, educators, coordinator, and specific therapists – to meet regularly to design goals for the program.
Floortime: Following the Child’s Lead
- Observe what kinds of interactions bring the child pleasure.
- Follow the child’s lead, regardless of where his interests lie. That give us a clue about what he finds important.
- Often we look for a way to reach a child – the magic key that will unlock the hidden door – when all the while the child is showing what he needs by his actions and the way he’s processing what comes his way. We need to observe what children are doing to help themselves in the moment and then figure out how to meet them there.
- We build on the child’s interest to help him move up the ladder of shared attention, engagement, two-way communication, shared problem solving, and creative and logical use of ideas. That requires not just following the child’s lead but also challenging him. So we don’t mean simply copying or imitating the child. We mean taking the child’s cue in order to build new interactions and experiences.
- The idea is to go with the flow but without giving into the child’s agenda.
- In Floortime, why do you follow the child’s lead? A child’s interests are the window to her emotional and intellectual life.
- Always challenge the child to initiate.
- Some children have oral-motor problems that make it hard for them to move their tongue and the muscles in their mouth in order to speak. Some children with both oral-motor problems may appear to have cognitive disabilities and to lack social skills when in fact they are limited in expressing their abilities by their motor impairments.
- The teacher can play little imitative games, starting with sounds the child can make, with the child and teacher looking in a mirror together so the child can imitate the way the teacher’s mouth moves.
- Orienting kids in space can help them with postural control, which helps them organize their nervous system, which makes it easier to get interaction. One example is walking on a balance beam.
- To help children be comfortable, caregivers must learn which sensations help children become calm and regulated, which ones overwhelm them, and which don’t pull them in enough.
- The level of a child’s motor planning skills must also be gauged. The best way to do this is by watching the child play.
Social Skills and Play Dates
- We always recommend that kids have at least four playdates a week, so that their main source of companionship begins shifting from parents to peers…Mommy is still important for security, warmth, and problem solving, but not for going out and riding bikes together.
- If we try to teach logical thinking to a child who is not yet able to engage in reciprocal social interactions, we are trying to build the upper story of a house on a very weak foundation.
- A child who learns how to be social in fun and emotionally engaging learning environments at home will want to be social and will be able to do it at school or at home, because he has generalized what he has learned.
- Teach with images, action, and drama.
- Children with ASD often take everything literally. One of the most effective activities is pretend or imaginative play. Encourage role play and play with puppets.
- They need opportunities for playing and communicating with peers. It’s important for children to learn to use words and gestures and develop relationships with peers at the same time they are learning to do these with adults. If they wait, this learning will be more difficult later on.
- We have never worked with a child or adult who didn’t have a desire to relate to others.