Autism. Introducing Nervous Ned and friends
If you've been reading for a while, you'll know that we've been concentrating on improving imaginative play with Bright Eyes for our RDI program. I'm very happy to say that we have successfully completed that imagination objective and have now moved on to working on .... tah dah...
This is where we learn how to talk to ourselves to reduce anxiety or help us do something we feel we can't do. For example, in a traffic jam, we might start getting really upset and thinking something like, "This traffic is terrible. We'll never get home!" Self-talk is where we say to ourselves something like, "Don't worry. It's always busy at this time of day. We'll get home eventually. Next time I can leave earlier and avoid the rush."
This is very hard for Bright Eyes, not least because he doesn't actually start by acknowledging the problem. He starts by denying it.
For example, the other day when he didn't want to go to school, instead of being able to say, "I don't really want to go to school. I'm feeling tired/worried/whatever," all he could manage was, "It's not Friday. It's Saturday. I'm not going today because it's Not Friday." He tries to alter reality so that he can avoid his anxiety.
The first step that I see is to help him acknowledge the reality of the situation. Then, he can start to engage in self-talk.
To help with these issues, I have introduced two new characters into our lives. Nervous Ned lives on my hair and jumps over to Bright Eyes' head sometimes to tell him things that make him panic. Silly Sally also visits with Nervous Ned and tells Bright Eyes things to trick him and make him say things that aren't true.
By drawing attention to the 'tricks' that Silly Sally is saying, I can get him to say things that are more in line with reality. By asking him what Nervous Ned is saying, I can get him to calm down more quickly and gather his thoughts without the anxiety.
(By the way, Nervous Ned is not my invention - I saw him demonstrated on an RDI resource video clip. Silly Sally is all my own however!)
I think it's a smart invention. Hopefully he'll be able to start telling more 'truth' about his feelings and his desires. I'm not saying he's deliberately lying, not by any means, but I do think he's now at a stage where he can start to articulate more precisely what is wrong instead of going into denial-type panic language at the first sign of anxiety.
Is anyone out there an artist? I'd love a sketch of Nervous Ned and Silly Sally if you feel inspired!