Breakthrough With Autistic Child; Thinking Outside The Box

How often have you had futile thoughts like, “Nothing is working. I feel like I am banging my head against the wall”? And then you surrender the mental strife, you “Let Go and let God”, “Cast your fate to the wind”, think “What will be, will be”, and to your amazement somehow a new opportunity, insight, or answer presents itself.

In order to “think outside the box” to allow the intuitive, creative, and unforeseen powers access, shutting down the conscious mind seems necessary. It’s like rebooting the computer when a program you’re running freezes. Have you had this experience?

Years ago I had an extraordinary breakthrough working with an autistic child and some personal revelations about getting trapped by linear thinking. It was a turning point in learning to trust the wisdom of the subconscious mind and whatever lies beyond.

The following is an edited version of one of five articles I have written and is published in an NLP casebook titled, “Leaves Before the Wind” If you are interested in purchasing this book or learning more go to my website: http://www.of2minds.com/ under the Publications tab.

In 1982 I was hired to create, implement, and direct a Child Life program at Bronx Lebanon Hospital. Most of the children were hospitalized for medical reasons but there were also children who were housed in the hospital on medical and protective hold while allegations of negligence, physical battering, and sexual abuse were being investigated.

Jay was nine years old and found wandering on Interstate 95. After locating his mother, the Department of Child Protective Services removed him and his four year old sister from their home and brought them to our hospital.

Jay displayed marked autistic behaviors; marginal eye contact, withdrawal or rigidity when touched, self stimulating rocking, hand flapping, and head banging. He was non verbal and also not toilet trained.

There were two play sessions in this therapeutic recreation program; mornings for infants and toddlers, and afternoons for the rest of the children. I tried bringing Jay into the afternoon session and it became quickly apparent that he needed one on one time. He seemed lost in space running around the periphery of the room like a whirlwind, toppling everything in his path.

I have an undergraduate degree in Special Education, but had very little experience working with autistic children, and twenty five years ago autism was much more a mystery than it is today. My lack of knowledge pushed me to be in the moment, structured time and activities fell by the wayside.

I followed his lead, hoping to stumble upon an entry into Jay’s world. I offered him a variety of toys like busy boxes, musical wind-ups, cars and dolls. I tried to entice him with art materials sitting off to the side of him, rather than face to face to be less intrusive. I even set up a make shift climber using the playroom tables and chairs. I mimicked his chants and squeaks trying to get and hold his attention. Sometimes he’d dart a glance in my direction, but I truly felt as if I was invisible and an inanimate part of the back round.

This is the way it went for months. I remember a desperate gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach, like being stuck in a sink hole. I also remember withdrawing emotionally. And then I took a vacation and attended a NLP modeling seminar on NLP applications and psychic phenomena. There I had the pleasure of studying with a Congolese performer, who taught us dances, drumming and my favorite; African chants.

When I returned to the hospital I was more relaxed but I still hadn’t come up with a new game plan for Jay. So when I brought out and presented him the same equipment, I wasn’t surprised that he was unmoved. He settled into a chair and I sat down next to him. He occupied his space and I was floating in limbo basking in sweet memories from the seminar.

Without thinking I started to sing one of the African chants. Jay stopped what he was doing, TURNED TOWARDS ME, LOOKED ME SQUARELY IN THE EYES, SMILED, and REACHED FOR MY HAND! He placed it on his thigh and BEGAN TO PAT OUT THE BEAT OF THE SONG AS I CONTINUED TO SING! …

In my next blog I will continue this story about the remarkable relationship that developed between us, and how Jay began to respond and learn. I will also tell you more about my personal revelations. I welcome your comments and questions. Feel free to post them directly or email me at: Stephanie@of2minds.com   If you would like to learn more about me and the services I offer click on the Services tab in the upper right hand corner of this page: http://www.stephaniealt.com/

“Fine-tuning your intuition safeguards your future and opens doors to the extraordinary.”                            Stephanie Rachel Alt, MS

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