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More About Coregulation

July 7, 2008

I am working on the parent goal of maintaining co-regulation with Sarah. Coregulation is a way of collaborating and relating that is directive, because the parent lays out goals and serves as a coach and guide, but not authoritative.

This program is forcing me to slow WAY down and be mindful of how Sarah and I work together. I am working on breaking long standing habits of doing things myself (Just Git ‘Er Done!) or simply diving in and giving her instructions. This is immeasurably important for our kiddos on the autism spectrum. Real Life requires people to relate to and collaborate with others in all sorts of situations without continually being fed explicit instructions. It also forms the foundation of all the other skills we will learn in the program. We can’t help Sarah learn new skills if we’re not coregulating.

This requires me to slow down and think things through a bit. Sarah and I need to step into the dance together instead of my just rushing in, dragging her along.

Part of this is making sure Sarah and I both have clear roles, when we do things together, so we can collaborate smoothly. For example, when we made scalloped potatoes, I handed her a potato peeler and said “I’ll cut up the potatoes after they’re peeled.” Then she peeled and I diced. On another occasion, handed her the shopping list, in Wal-Hell, and said “I’ll push the cart.” I drove and she selected the items we need.

This lays the groundwork for my not continually giving instructions (here, you peel this … cut this … put this there … hand me a loaf of bread … now choose some cereal …) She knows what her role is, and she thinks for herself, deciding “what comes next?” This helps build dynamic thinking and communication skills.

Another skill parents learn in RDI is using more declarative language (statements) versus imperative communication (requests, commands, and questions). For example, I direct her attention to a problem (“this fork doesn’t work very well stirring the cookie dough”) instead of making a direct request (“please go get me a large spoon.”) Again, the child is doing more thinking and responding instead of just waiting for her marching orders.

A third thing I am working on is using more “broadband communication” — less words and more gestures and facial expressions. Parents of kids with Asperger’s and autism need to help their kids practice this in a purposeful way. (Which means getting better at this myself)

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