I am a Floortime Player Family Consultant, and have been working with Real Connections for about four years. I am currently completing my pre-doctoral residency in Texas in order to complete my clinical psychology doctorate. I am pleased to have the opportunity to blog on the Real Connections website in order to share some of the lessons that I have learned along the way. The names of the client and mother described below have been changed for purposes of confidentiality.
Monica, a mom that I have had the pleasure of getting to know during the Real Connections weekly social club group (that her daughter attends), is a long time learner of DIR/Floortime. She is someone that I look up to for her dedication to learning about the field of autism and for the constant encouragement she offers to other parents based on her own experiences with her daughter. I interviewed her and was taken aback by her ability to describe her journey with such beauty, love, and patience for herself, her process, and her daughter.
Monica remembers having concerns for Anna early on, she noticed her sensitivity to strong smells, new people, loud sounds, etc. Anna was difficult to soothe, it would take hours and hours to calm her. When Anna turned two-years-old Monica noticed that she wanted to communicate but would become frustrated with herself when attempting to speak. Monica sought out help from her pediatrician for an evaluation. Her pediatrician sent her to the regional center for speech therapy services. They then found a speech pathologist who sent them to a developmental specialist about six months later. At two and a half years old Anna was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Monica was flooded with emotions. She felt relief for finally having an answer. She felt fear and sadness for her daughter’s prognosis and experience of the world. She felt “un-knowingness,” this world of autism was foreign to her and her husband and it was suddenly something that was intertwined with Anna. And lastly, she felt having a sense of readiness to tackle this disorder!
She got a plan together with her developmental specialist and was able to go to the regional center and advocate for Anna’s specific needs. Monica came to Real Connections and began learning the DIR/Floortime model. She learned the developmental levels and the play based approach that facilitates development through connection with others. She remembers feeling anxious about what other people would think of her when her daughter began to tantrum in a department store due to overstimulation of lights and sounds. She would feel the stares and feel as though others thought she was a bad mother who couldn’t control her child. And as she learned to help Anna she also learned to help herself. She shared, “Because of Anna I understand that I am an anxious person and how to control it. I knew I had to help her and I didn’t want her to have an anxious life. I had to model for her and co-regulate her so I had to be better.” Monica reminds us that children need the stability and reassurance of the adults around them. As parents, floortime players, teachers, and developmental specialists we must remember to check in with ourselves and identify how we feel before reacting. Most importantly, we must learn to also soothe ourselves in order to better soothe our children.
In closing, I asked Monica if she wished she had learned anything sooner and she responded, “Things just have their own course, my life has revealed that. I have a lot of faith of the way things will develop in the future. I feel less like I have to control things. Because of Anna and all that has come with our journey, I feel like I don’t have to be in control. I wish that came earlier but I’m not sure if that has a place.” Monica reminds us that there is a faith that we must have in the capacities and development of our children. She is a great example of someone who has grown to know herself while getting to know her daughter and through that process discovering the joys that come with her child. Letting the development of our children happen while we focus on engaging them as best we can is the best thing we, as providers and parents, can do. We must embrace the journey.
By: Christine Rivera