This short article focuses on the emotions of children with ASD and one way to support them in recognising and engaging with their emotions.
So what might NLP be able to offer in terms of supporting children to engage with their emotions? There are potentially many and I explore 2 here, from the perspective of a practitioner, and what could be useful as a starting point when working with a child with ASD.
It’s useful to consider what one might find useful to presuppose when working or communicating with a child with an ASD. As an NLP4Kids practitioner, I have found the following presuppositions useful as a starting point for myself to work with a child who has an ASD (presuppositions are central principals in NLP that are its guiding philosophy. These are not claimed to be true or universal but they can be resourceful, if we pre-suppose them to be true).
1) People work perfectly – there is no right, wrong or broken. We are all executing our own strategies as best we know how. Being curious about how you and other people operate, can help to change an un-resourceful strategy to something more useful and desirable.
2) There is no failure, only feedback – labelling a result or effect as ‘a failure’ can become personal. Recognising ‘information’ as simply just that, keeps us out of ‘failure’, with more choices to change our responses to the information.
3) Every behaviour has a positive intent – a person is NOT their behaviour. Recognising how the intention of a particular behaviour serves a child, can help to offer other, potentially more resourceful choices to bring about the same intention.
4) We process all information through our senses – developing the senses, so that they become more acute, can help give us better information and can help us to think more clearly.
Many children (as well as adults) with ASD have challenges with processing everyday sensory information (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. There is also ‘balance’ and ‘proprioception’ – awareness of where your body is in space). This can have serious effects on a person’s life. People who struggle to deal with all this information can become stressed or anxious or even experience physical pain, which could result in challenging behaviour.
Emotions (sometimes referred to as ‘feelings’, ‘moods’ or ‘states’) are triggered by information coming through at least one of our senses. We can help children with ASD engage with their emotions by isolating or focusing on each sense in turn. Engaging children with ASD, to each of their senses, could help them to understand what they, then, experience as an emotion. When isolating each of the senses through playing a ‘senses game’, for example, you are providing an environment for learning, sharing and support.
We can further support this approach by breaking down what is happening for them. There are 3 straight forward steps to ‘mapping’ their experience of an emotion (1);
1) What is the evidence? – What have they seen/heard/touched/smelt/tasted, etc.
2) What are their thoughts interpreting – what assumptions could they be making about the situation and about themselves (from what they have seen/heard, etc)?
3) What’s the impact? – how do 1) and 2) affect them? What impact does this have for them? What is the resulting emotion that you can help them to identify and name?
Through using this short exercise verbally, on paper or in a physical space, you may be able to offer another perspective for a child with ASD, by connecting their sensory information to their emotion. This could help support their growing understanding of what an ‘emotion’ means to them and their experiences, rather than just interpreting and explaining from only our own experiences, albeit with our best intentions.
By Brendan Dobrowolny
(1) – adapted from the ‘Clean Feedback Model’ (www.trainingattention .co.uk)