Spring time is here and for me and my family this means Passover! We have a family tradition that every year for Passover we all get together as a family (cousins, aunts, uncles- almost 30 of us!) and stay together for a week. We celebrate Passover together, go for hikes, have extended meals and enjoy watching all the cousins play. Passover is special to me for this reason, but also because Passover is a holiday of freedom and experiencing a rebirth, as a nation and for each person individually. Historically, it marks the time that Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt, but it also celebrates the freedom, on both spiritual and physical levels, that we all strive for in our lives. Interestingly, Passover usually coincides with Easter which is also a holiday celebrating rebirth in many ways.
What does breaking out and experiencing change mean for you and your child? For your child, it could mean breaking away from old habits and patterns and helping your child be willing to do something NEW (like eating a new food, playing a new game or engaging in a new conversation topic). This can be especially challenging for children on the autism spectrum who seek what is comfortable, familiar and predictable and are often resistant to change. How can you help your child be willing to break out and try something new?
The secret is this: one small step at a time. The more digestible the change is that you are introducing to your child, the more your child will be willing to accept it.
The idea is not to focus on getting your child to switch paths, but to expand the path he is currently on so that it now includes more varied and different components- in other words, expanding his comfort zone.
3 ways to help your child ‘break out’ and try new things in small digestible steps:
1. Trying new foods. If your child is resistant to eating new foods, like carrots, then instead of encouraging your child to eat a plate of carrots, try shredding bits of carrots and adding it to a food your child already knows and loves, like chicken and rice, soup or muffins.
2. Playing new games. Instead of trying to encourage your child to play a new game that he has no context for, use a very familiar motivation that your child has to create a bridge to a new activity. For example, if your child loves to play with dinosaur figurines, encourage your child to play with the figurines in a new way, like taking the dinosaurs to a pretend ice cream shop or swimming at the beach (instead of introducing something that is a further stretch, like basket ball).
3. Engaging in new topics of conversation. Try varying the topic of conversation slightly instead of trying to change topics completely. For example, if your child loves to talk about airplanes, you can tell your child that you flew on airplanes to different places and discuss the different places that YOU traveled to on airplanes.
The key is this: the more subtle the change is, the more your child will be willing to accept it. The more he is willing to accept it, the more he will see that he can handle something new and different and the more he will be willing to expand his current interest further and further.
Helping your child be willing to do new and different things is one area that I help families with. If you would like more help in this area (or in any other area of development) ,you will be thrilled to know that in honor of Autism Awareness Month, I am offering 5 complimentary “Propel your child Forward” Strategy sessions. We will use this time to discuss what you want to help your child with most, what is getting in your way of helping your child get there and the clear next step you can take to propel your child forward. To save your spot (remember there are only 5 so I encourage you to move fast) simply ,click here!