When a child is engaged in exclusive, repetitious behavior (what Son-Rise refers to as an 'ism') we sit about 2-3 feet away and join them, while always celebrating eye contact and watching for green lights that we use to inspire growth. Joining is not simply mimicking whatever Danniah might be doing: it is much more than that. It is really being present in the moment, while appreciating and trying to give yourself the same experience that she is giving herself. I vividly remember being at the Start Up training when Bryn had us all ism together. We all stood up, closed our eyes and swayed back and forth. Then we patted our hands rhythmically on our thighs for a bit. Then we repeated three names over and over again "Dylan, Abdullah, John." Then we put all three together. 88 of us swaying, patting our thighs, repeating "Dylan, Abdullah, John," all in rhythmic sync. When we stopped, Bryn polled everyone in the room about what it felt like for each of us. Every single answer was some variation of, "Grounding" "Centering" "Meditative" and "Peaceful." By giving us that experience, Bryn helped us all understand at the most fundamental of levels just how important our children's isms are. It is how they ground and comfort themselves in a world of sensory overload that often feels chaotic, overwhelming and difficult to understand. Isms create safety. They are predictable where people are unpredictable. Once you realize that, you suddenly have a profound appreciation for just how mean it is to not let a child ism.
But suppose she doesn't want you to join her. Then what do you do? That most certainly happens! Sometimes we will get a firm "NOPE!" or "No thank you!" When that happens we move away a little bit, we become softer, quieter. We make sure we have our own set of the same or similar materials. If she takes our set away, that's okay, we freely relinquish what we have and then we play with an imaginary set. If for some reason that still isn't okay we might say, "what? I don't have anything. I just love you and want to be with you." If that doesn't work then we sit quietly and imagine as vividly as possible that we are whole heartedly participating. We imagine, using each of our senses, what the activity feels like for us. Where ever we can say "yes," we say "yes!" in Son-Rise.
Hearing Bryn talk about that aspect gave me a profound sense of appreciation for just how little control she has had in her own life. That needed to change! Without comprehensive reciprocal language she has been limited in her ability to tell us how she feels or what she needs. But when she scripts or isms she is telling us that she is anxious, overstimulated, bored, in need of a break. Where ever she can have control, let's give her control! And that is the beautiful thing about Son-Rise. It is a YES program. In fact, it is a YES, THANK YOU program! You want all the blocks? Take all the blocks! You want all the Barbies? Have all the Barbies! You want me to be quiet while you script Elmo? I'm quiet! Script Elmo! We are just going to be right here loving, accepting and appreciating every single thing there is about you!
Son-Rise is an absolute blast! Danniah is genuinely excited to see each volunteer when they arrive and it is so much fun watching her build relationships. It is just as much fun to watch our phenomenal volunteers learn how to harness Danniah's motivation and begin to work magic with it.