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Disconnect to Self Regulation, All Systems Go – Ready for Take Off!

Sometimes children get to stages in therapy where there is no outward movement forward. However, these times are extremely important. These are times of inward movement, or processing. A therapist or teacher needs to watch the finer details in order to recognize this when it is happening. Signs to watch for include posture, facial expression, smaller, less obvious movements in time with the music, and glances. Is there a difference between the “far away” disconnected glance and a thoughtful one?
This next video is an excellent example. First of all, this boy’s very calm demeanor is not his typical character portrayal. When “Eddie” came to me, he was self abusive, head banging and biting himself. Usually there is a good amount of back and forth interaction between the two of us in his sessions (turn taking with the recorder and eye contact). However this day, “Eddie” was a little more inwardly focused, which I felt was important for him, and I wanted to help support and facilitate with the music. If you watch carefully, he is still connected to the music. At the beginning of the video, the most obvious sign is his finger tapping. I’m not sure this is visible in the video, but certain chord sounds evoked an eye squint and slight smile also.
Every non-verbal, autistic child is non-verbal for different reasons. By watching a child’s outward behavior, his “stims”, one may find clues into how he/she learns, receives information, where his underlying processing problems contribute, or his/her compensatory means.
“Eddie’s” “Click Clack ” song was developed just by these observations. His matchbox truck, which you see, and his behavior of rocking it or “clicking” it back and forth is the behavior mirrored and matched. As I have matched the music to this behavior, I have also simultaneously alerted his attention, engaged “Eddie”, and supported his inner workings, and he has accepted my invitation into a joint activity (music playing), using this “Click, Clack” song as my invitation piece.
Today, “Eddie” has something else going on which I did not want to disrupt. Listening involves the whole brain, and one can see visually “Eddie’s” physical experience (although it is more subtle than outward actions or behavior). Listening involves areas of the brain such as the brain stem, cortex, reticular formation, and cerebellum. Listening accesses arousal level, sensory integration, emotions and as stated previously, posture. When a person hears a sound that grabs their attention, the person pulls that sound to the forefront and attends to it. Sounds that can alert an autistic child’s attention often support and reflect a child’s biology. These are the moments when the child gives a conforming, direct response. The child will use his/her body to demonstrate this. Listening has now become an active, sensory motor response. All systems are now working together, regulating, attending, and actively responding to arousal systems, emotional systems, and muscular systems. All systems go, ready for take off! (watch video below to observe example or click on link)

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