The Path to Discovering Career and Developing Authentic Relationships
Why is that we talk about adults finding and working in their passion, but don’t honor that same passion in children with autism? Child A has a interest in trains that is deepening, he knows routes, parts of trains, and anything imaginable…yet this is discouraged and we want him to know about the latest youth craze to increase relatablity to neurotypical peers? Can you imagine how you would feel if your words, interests, and passions were not honored and funneled to what people imagined you to be just to fit in? Maybe you can relate. Maybe not.
My BFF has a son who loves trains. He can get lost in them. He is now almost a middle schooler…you know where most people have outgrown the love for the steam engine. She struggled initially and because we are friends, my frank discussion was “Let Him Be”. And she did. They have a membership to the train museum. When they visit us here in Michigan, they visit the train museum and he studies them. This child has graduated from small to elaborate train railway configurations. He is now creating trains on his ipad app, buying train magazines. This one interest developed his need to read, build, organize, create, analyze, and love math. It will surprise us greatly if he entered college as a liberal arts major. You see where I am going with this?
Let’s go deeper. The line that divides the neurotypical and children with autism is the incessant nonstop linear conversation about the keen interest. Instead of teaching them to develop the skill of showing interest in another and developing that particular skill and its subsets, we move forward and teach them to disavow…forsaking all others in an effort to join the neurotypical pop culture and teen talk.
Why do we do this? Because we don’t necessarily know how to teach the skill that they really need. The real skill here is to talk about other’s interests even when you don’t want to. There are additional reasons:
- Adults are struggling with the same. Finding passion and finding the career path that ignites us.
- We would have to learn about things that don’t interest us (i.e. trains, routes, parts) so that we can get into the teaching conversation skills and alternating topics, etc.
When teaching social skills, social cognition, verbal fluency and more; the clinician is tasked to give tools to support better participation so that real social experiences and relationships can be experienced. This means that we move beyond the fluff. The fluff will move us from the artificial social questions often seen in ABA drills. But move us toward the statement to statement that ABA really needs to teach conversation fluency. Removing the fluff will require the clinician to study conversation and how it really works in the neurotypical population rather than how we imagine it as adults. The fluff moves us to expand the recommended sports activities as recreation to children who may like sports from afar, but cannot coordinate their bodies to participate and have fun. This means finding that we will begin to vow to Expose and Honor.
Expose: Giving real opportunity for our clients to experience other activities, people, and interests.
Honor: Set scheduled activities and events that honor absolutely what they like and want.
In both Expose and Honor, we work on conversation fluency, perspective taking, social cognition, physical and emotional regulation, etc.
I have found that when the two are combined and forsaking is off the table as an option, the development of a person happens. Not a mini clinician. But the them they are to be.
That’s the work. That’s the honoring their passion and my own.
Landria Seals Green, MA., CCC-SLP