At Or Below Their Level

Communication with your ASD kiddo, especially when they’re having a bad moment, can feel like hostage negotiation. Except you’re the one demanding the getaway chopper and a million dollars. It’s challenging to say the least. And if you’re anything like me, every day can feel like the same spanking machine as the day before.

Have you ever tried communicating with your child at, or below, their level? I mean physically. Have you ever gotten lower than your child, and looked up at them when you’re trying to reason with them? Or better yet, have you physically placed yourself in the same position as your child in an effort to meet them where they’re at in an effort to break through?

It’s a tactic that I only use on occasion, and it usually involves doing it when Max is more on the sad side of things than the angry. I lost count of how many times I’ve actually sat my butt down on the floor of a supermarket, restaurant, or other public place in an effort to make him feel taller than me so that maybe somehow, some way, he can gain the confidence or have the wherewithal to tell me what the heck is wrong.

Early on in our journey, Max had a birthday party, and another boy from his developmental preschool came over to celebrate. The boy is on the spectrum, as well as his brother, who came along. When the party was over and people were filing out, the mother of the two aforementioned boys had a hard time getting one of them back in the car to go home. I watched out the window for a few minutes as the boy just sat in our gravel driveway and screamed at his mom if she got anywhere close to him. He wouldn’t budge and he definitely wasn’t getting in the car. I wasn’t sure what to do. As an ASD parent myself, the last thing I usually need is someone, especially an outsider, interfering. So I watched for a few more minutes out the window.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I wandered outside and took a wide path around to where the boy could see me. I nodded to his mom as I approached, and she gave me the high sign of approval. So I slowly approached the boy, got within about 10′, and plopped right down in the gravel and sat there. I waited in silence for about a minute. Then I started the conversation – I can’t remember about what, but not about obeying his mom. He was willing to chat, and we sat there and shot the breeze for a couple minutes. We both ran our fingers through the loose gravel and got a little dusty in the process. Eventually, the conversation came back around to riding in the car, and how important it is for, you know, getting places. I asked him if he wanted to sit in the gravel for the rest of the day, and he thought that wasn’t the best idea. Slowly, we made the decision that getting up and getting in the car would be the best plan. So that’s what we did. I got to my feet, and turned and reached out for his hand. Surprisingly, he was willing to accept the help, and we got him back in the car.

Maybe we need to put ourselves deeper into our kids’ environments when communicating with them. Sure, it takes more time and energy, and those are things that are a commodity. But it can be so worth it.

I might add that as I write, I can think of a handful of situations recently that taking my own advice would have helped. So this thought process is as much for me as it is for you. I hope you gained something from it.