Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Increasing Adaptations for Individuals Who Struggle Emotionally and Socially

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Increasing Adaptations for Individuals Who Struggle Emotionally and Socially

Article excerpt

My son Trent and I were on an outing shopping for his clothes. The store was loud and chaotic. Trent has autism and shopping wasn't his favorite thing to do. He began to flap his hands and snap his fingers with an extremely tight facial expression. We knew what would happen next. He yelled out and. immediately following, he truly and earnestly expressed, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." While I understood he didn't want to lose control, I saw how badly he felt about it. I sensed people's stares and heard their silence of uneasiness or disapproval. Maybe it was only my imagination but their thoughts felt like arrows darting at me. Have you ever experienced something similar to this when in a new setting with your son/daughter or with a teen/adult you assist in the community who has an ASD or disability? This article introduces Self Emotional Awareness[C] (SEA), a model for parents, educators, and professional to assist individuals with ASD or disabilities to find enjoyment and purpose in the community, movement through adversity and adaptation.

If you have a child with an ASD or disability, you may have tried outings and arrived home emotionally spent because of your child's inability to cope. Additionally, your other children may have felt let down because they were embarrassed or because they had to leave too early without enjoying the activity or outing. I know too well these experiences from my past. If you are a teacher or community coach, you may be looking for ideas to ease the student or young adult to work settings or the community environment, thus to increase adaptation.

To adapt means to change and grow as an individual and as a family, i.e., to participate in outings together, and to be part of a neighborhood and the community. Adapting is similar to developing a new habit; after you practice it consistently with the right supports in place, a new habit or adaptation takes place.

For the family, there are many different ways to include an individual with autism to participate in community outings, but some include: shopping at the grocery store, eating a meal out in a restaurant, and/or traveling on vacations. Additionally, there may be many outings such as medical and dental appointments that are necessary, and may be difficult for the individual for many reasons. I discovered that using a behavioral support plan isn't always the answer to making successful adaptations that life demands. I believe it is possible for all individuals to make greater adaptations, even those with significant disabilities. I see the SEA Model as a connecting link to one's adaptation. The SEA model process has enabled my son to adapt as a community member as well as travel by airplane for the first time, and to many different cities including New York City. I believe that pursuing one's life with family and goals for education and work options as a community member isn't a privilege but a basic human right.

I want to introduce you to writing a SEA[C] Story. The intention in writing a SEA[C] Story is to promote the understanding, purpose, and self-emotional awareness of the individual's participation and adaptation to an event, community setting or family outings. The key is to meet the individual where he or she is in development and prepare him or her through numerous strategies such as: writing a checklist in a notebook, writing a narrative, or using tech tools for writing and pictures for imagery (computer or iPhone). It is important the individual participates in the complete process to emotionally increase self-awareness about their role in participating and in experiencing the outing. All emotions are recognized, such as anxiety about the event. Equally important, positive emotions are emphasized and logical steps through the process are intended to provide prediction and expectations so the individual is willing and ready to give his best.

Let's now look at who the support people are to the individual and their role to assist in adaptation. …

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