Interaction – noun. Mutual or reciprocal action or influence.
The Best Gifts in Life are Free
They’re available everyday. Interaction is one of those gifts! As you ponder the interaction ideas that will be presented monthly (starting with this one), you will increase your awareness about its significance. The context will often be “children”, but you could easily substitute the word “people”. These concepts can enrich any relationship – even the challenging ones! As you practice, you gradually lose your fears and try for more.
You already know it’s important. You become REALLY interested in interaction when someone you care for doesn’t seem to be motivated or able to interact!!! It’s how kids learn and grow social and language skills. Numerous little exchanges take place every day that influence all of us.
Sometimes Its Not Easy
A child who has challenges relating often doesn’t interact in the typical ways. Kids with autism can be “in their own world” or “exclusive” much of the time. Play skills do not develop in the usual sequence gradually building in complexity. This is because many types of play involve interaction and/or practicing interactive scenarios – such as pretending to play “house” or playing with action figures. The natural development process of social and language skills is altered significantly and/or stopped altogether.
Four Reasons Interaction Can Be Difficult
As children develop they learn to communicate in ways others can understand. They also learn to integrate their sensations and thoughts. They learn to manipulate their bodies in constant response to their experiences and motivations. This process usually occurs rapidly during those first few years of life. The following are just a few of the detours and road blocks that can interfere:
Imagine trying to make sense of your world as a child experiencing the following symptoms…
- Sensory challenges – sense of sight, touch, hearing, etc. has been altered due to a variety of causes. Lights may be blaring, background sounds deafening, or maybe a constant crawling feeling in your skin. Your senses seem to work as separate entities, picking up bits and pieces of information in fragmented ways.
- Neurotransmitters imbalance – thoughts spin, awareness is altered. Every tiny detail pops out at you and grabs your attention. You constantly feel anxious about what will happen next. You want to try to talk, but your body seems to have a mind of its own. You hold onto any little control of your world you feel you have. You concentrate on what makes sense and appeals to you.
- Physical pain/sensations – “stars” in your vision, ringing in your ears, pain in your joints, intestinal distress, extreme muscle weakness, etc. You do not have the language skills to explain how you are feeling inside. You want to keep doing anything that brings relief.
- Emotional response – Any of the above can result in strong feelings of confusion, anxiety, lack of motivation, etc. as well as strong urges to seek comfort measures, i.e. hiding in dark places, covering ears, mouthing objects, etc. People are confusing. They seem hard to please. No one seems to understand you, and you don’t understand either. You do what feels good. You act out to protect yourself. The response is predictable, so it becomes one of your social strategies. You like that it gives you some control.
Note: There are many biomedical strategies (diet, supplements, medications,etc.) to attempt to regulate body functions and ease the symptoms listed above. These often take time, commitment, patience, money, and a great deal of detective work from parents and caretakers. The results vary enormously. Autism now effects 1 in 94 boys (1 in 150 children), and is increasing at an alarming rate. This condition has the potential to have an enormous impact on our understanding of health and healing strategies. Our society has so much to learn. Despite years of on-going, intensive efforts, my son has not been one of those miraculous recovery stories. Yet. This is frequently the case for many families. Still, there are plenty of things a caring adult can do that make connecting with any child possible and extremely rewarding.
What Interactions Do You Avoid Because They are Less Than Comfortable?
We all do this. Even as full functioning adults! As you consider the above reasons from the mind of a developing child, you become aware of the huge challenges some kids face daily. Sometimes the more predictable physical world is easier to understand than the complex world of people. That’s why kids with autism frequently engage in repetitive behaviors. They find comfort in doing the same things over and over. All people do, actually, in varying degrees. We are all simply taking care of ourselves. A child with autism is simply taking care of him/herself in the same way.
Why You Can’t Force Interaction
I’ve witnessed (and tried) many strategies that try to stop children from being exclusive or certain behaviors in order to “teach” them. Often what we are hoping the child will learn fails. What the child actually learns is more ingenious ways of taking care of him/herself. For example, my son quickly learned that saying “I have to go potty” will get him alone time and end any pressure that he perceives is being placed on him to interact. It’s also a great bed-time stalling strategy. He knows it is very hard for an adult to say, “no, you can’t go potty” since you never know when he really needs to go. Smart kid!
“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” — Pema Chodron
You do not have to be a “professional” or “expert” to make a difference in the life of a child. There are many things any caring adult can do to build trust, improve interactions and establish foundations learning. Perception and Motivation are key ingredients for growth in adults and children. As you deepen the relationship, you can help the child overcome those detours and road blocks. Surprisingly, through this process you find that the child helps you overcome yours as well! You pave new ways together. Whenever interaction is challenging there is a huge opportunity for growth.
How to Make It Easier
BooksByTara was born out of this desire. YOU make them dynamic! Applaud yourself for having the courage to explore interaction. This is where you start. Interaction is one of those everyday things we don’t tend to reflect upon. We just assume a lot and do. Consequently, it can be easy to get into ruts. It’s also easy to hit walls when the other party responds in ways out of your comfort level. Does someone know how to push your “buttons”? That’s a definite opportunity!
“It seems easier to trust what you know, but what you know keeps you a prisoner in your mind.” –David Paul Doyle
A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with the First Step
Each month the BookByTara eNewsletter will highlight an interesting interaction idea for you to actively investigate. See yourself learning fun, cool ideas. Challenge yourself to commit. Try fresh approaches. You will learn how to use the books and other things that motivate your child as vehicles for new adventures together! Your creativity and perseverance will grow in the process (AHA! – More free gifts!!!)
I encourage you to share your thoughts and additional ideas with me as well. I LOVE to learn new perspectives, and questions can help deepen understanding for everyone.
The following reveal additional portions of the interaction ideas we’ll be exploring. You’ll discover a variety of gems and jewels throughout – Click, Explore, and Enjoy!
- BooksByTara printable – Ten Tips
- specialsolutions.net (The article “Extraordinary Parenting” on this site is awesome!)