Two of today’s dances with my autistic godson Jacob. Photos by Derrill Bazzy.
I am sharing some of my notes from working with Jacob today. My hope is that they can be helpful to other parents of autistic children. You can translate this information to your child or adolescent. Please feel free to write with questions.
HOLDING YOUR OWN THREAD: What is really important is that all of us who spend time with Jacob are “holding the thread” of our own experience when we are with him. What this means is that we stay connected to ourselves inwardly. This may mean our breath, but mostly it means our own CURIOSITY AND ENGAGEMENT with whatever we are doing. When I am with Jacob, I try not to be thinking about what I am doing, which puts me outside of the experience. Instead, I focus on sensing and feeling Jacob and myself. BEING IN THE MOMENT.
That engagement with yourself has to be AUTHENTIC. Jacob is extremely attuned to you whether it looks like it or not. He knows when you are not authentically engaged with yourself or with him. BREATHE. HAVE SOME FUN.
DANCING NOT TRACKING (BE ALIVE IN YOUR BODY): I find it helpful to think of what Jacob and I are doing is dancing together. This is especially true when we are outside, because of all the available spatial relationships: up/down, near/far, postural (like running, climbing, ball throwing, swinging) or gestural (mudras, touch, ball spinning etc).
The dancing part is that I suggest improvising spatially with Jacob. What this means is that I don’t “track” him or just follow him around. When we are doing that, generally we have lost our own “thread.” We are just following. Create your own pattern while maintaining a felt sense of connection and movement relationship with him. Be creative. If he is walking in a straight line toward the swing, you can walk in a curvilinear pattern toward the play structure and then loop over toward him and away. That awakens you in your body and engages Jacob’s curiosity. The more juicy, playful and engaged (AUTHENTICALLY) that you are the more likely it is that Jacob will enter a delicious conversation with you. BE ALIVE IN YOUR OWN BODY.