I have been parenting Michael now for twelve years, and can usually give others great advice about how to speak to kids with autism, ADHD and other different brains. Yet, there are still days and nights where I find myself forgetting about how I sometimes use language in a confusing way for Michael and then I sigh to myself. Some examples are in order. Most kids with ASD are literal in language, so certain English expressions can be confusing. If your child is whining about not getting a privilege and you forget and say, “you’ll survive,” he or she may, like Michael, think “what do you mean? I’m not sick. I’m not going to die. Of course I’ll survive.” Another example is giving your child options like you could do things in a way like A or in a way like B and not elaborate so they don’t follow clearly. Yep. I’ve been guilty of doing both this week, though I have to say that I am usually extremely clear with Michael about things like following his daily routine, as well as how I speak. So, on that note, how can parents talk to kids whose brains are wired to be more literal and concrete? Why, you need to phrase things in simple and concrete ways so that there is mutual understanding. Here are some examples:
1) Talk with short clear sentences to your child: “Today we will be going to this place at this time.” Then make sure through a picture sequence or words you remind your child of what they need to do to get ready. Depending on their age, let them decide the time frame on how to get it all done.
2) Stay calm and be patient when they ask questions: This means if their anxiety is going up, yours needs to stay where it is if you are calm or go down if you are not. If you feel yourself inching towards panic, go to your inner calm place. Radiating peace to them is important.
3) Avoid thinking out loud: This was a bad habit of mine, but now since parenting Michael I have gotten a lot better at having dialogues with myself INSIDE my head. You talking about the past or future around your child (especially things you regret doing or are worried about) will only increase their worry.
4) Give them positive language and support when they are agitated: We all like this, exceptional or not, but giving them words for how they are feeling, and showing them you care even if you don’t have all the answers then and there can help them find these words for themselves in the future.
5) Help them see they can find solutions: Encourage them to find ways to calm down, talk through how they feel, and come up with solutions to problems in a direct and logical way that works for them. This will build their self-confidence and it decreases your stress as a parent. After all, we are not supposed to put out all our children’s fires. They need to learn to handle their own emotions in a calm way.
Exceptional Parents, what are some of the positive ways you talk to your Exceptional Child and see success in your family interactions? What have been some of your mistakes? Every child is different, but in the end, as long as your child feels safe, heard and the message of what you are trying to say is clear, you are both on the right path to communicating in a positive and calm way. Until next time .
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