As families experiencing autism, I think we are called upon to do a lot of reframing. I was most aware of this recently when we switched my son's school. At first it seemed that his behavior was too challenging for school #1 although I loved their nurturing style and staff. On the surface, school #2 was more restrictive, more structured, and filled with more involved students. All this combined to make a rather heavy, dark "frame;" was he making progress or was this a demotion?
When it came time to prepare my son, my better self came up with an explanation that really was more accurate and not just a euphemistic marketing job. In fact, Reid had transitioned from homeschooling with a private teacher into school #1 just 8 months prior. His attendance had gradually increased from one hour to a full day as he built up stamina. He was tolerating increased stimuli even without the presence of his familiar aid. The switch to school #2 was actually a marker of his success! He had mastered the first one; he had learned the mechanics of a school day; he had graduated from needing a one-on-one aide! All reasons to celebrate.
Now, granted I could sell ice to the eskimos and have been known to "brand" some non-preferred non-negotiables around this house. Nonetheless, I think you'll see my point. Perception is all we have. Reframing our point of view is a healthy coping mechanism and a useful motivational tool. It actually requires that infamous skill of perspective-taking and gives us practice being open-minded and submitting our plans to God.
This past Sunday at church a friend asked if I had heard that morning's broadcast of This I Believe on NPR. I highly recommend you click there and read or listen to this personal essay by a father and psychologist, Dr. Rosenstein about adaptation. He contrasts his initial reaction to seeing his son flap his arms with the acquired knowledge and joy that results from reframing.
That very Sunday morning we had two of our own examples to illustrate his point. During the service, Reid had participated in reading a Psalm responsively a bit too emphatically (actually ending with an angry shout!) Reframe: I love this about him. He got so into Psalm 98 that by verse 9 he was the resounding trumpet. And it is hard to discriminate a group of fervent believers reading in unison from an angry mob. All the nuances of tone of voice and inflection are blurred. How great that he is tracking with the sermon and engaged in worship!
Later, at the closing prayer, some word tickled his funny bone causing a sustained giggle at an inopportune time. "Small deals," is the term we've coined. And yet in the decorum of the hushed Presbyterian sanctuary they can quickly become major embarrassment? Or another opportunity to reframe!
The Lord is faithful to give us as many reminders as we need of those lessons which are most necessary to abundant life. We never know whose teachable moment it is at any one given time--my own, my husband's, Reid's or the guy next to us. In any case, He is faithful.
photo credits: www.viewimages.com, www. digital-photography-school.com, and www.npr.org