At the time of this story, Adam was in high school. It was springtime, and he was not feeling well because of his allergies. Still, he got up each morning and went to school and did his best. One day, while he was doing some language work with his EA (unscrambling sentences and drawing out their meaning), he seemed stressed and distressed. Then on the side of his paper, he started to add some extra details:
Next day at school, another "tangent" picture was added to the language work:
Adam wanted to share his happiness that his problem had been solved. We had drawn and written out a comic strip story for him about the change in movie format (from VHS to DVD) assuring him that the movie itself would still be the same. It was challenging, we had more tears, but in the end he tried it and it worked out.
The interesting thing about this story is that the purpose of Adam's communication with the faces was to share his feelings, not to ask for a solution. It was important to him that the school staff understand the source of his sadness and then his gladness. Communication, not for physical wants and needs, but instead a request for human understanding, kindness and compassion.
At the point of contact, therapy is more art than science - yes, you need to know what you're doing and why, but you also need to respond to the person who sits (or hops) in front of you ... you need to focus on the human connection first. As therapists and educators, we are often poking at the "sore spots", dealing with the challenges and asking our clients/students to do things that are unfamiliar and difficult. Even so, the person with autism should look forward to seeing you, should run towards the door, not away to hide in the closet, when you ring the bell. Regardless of your therapy approach, the person who is the focus of that intervention should feel like you are red socks in their life, not an icy blast of sleet.
One of the things that helps all of us to go on through adversity, to get up in the morning and face another day, is the presence of caring friends ... someone to listen, share the hurt, find the laughter ... someone who lets us know that we're not standing sockless and alone in the snow.