Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

Suppose he had ‘defined’ the quality ‘outgoing’ for himself with behaviours such as, for example, ‘approaches others’, ‘smiles on approach’ and ‘starts conversations’. Now he is walking along a sidewalk. There are people walking towards him, as he is walking toward them. So he is doing one of the behaviours – approaching others, even if not because he is being ‘outgoing’. Since he is doing one of the behaviours, for every person he is approaching he should be walloping himself on the back and being pleased with himself. If he does this long enough, eventually his pleasure with himself might result in a smile of self-satisfaction. Whoops! Now he is doing two of the behaviours – approaching others and smiling on approach. So he should start walloping himself on the back with two hands and being doubly pleased with himself. Now, the first person walking towards him, seeing a mad man approaching (that is, someone walking along the sidewalk and smiling), might move as far away as possible from Kevin to pass him by. But the second person, seeing a pleasant, happy, smiling person approaching, might smile back. That’s nice, and it probably makes Kevin feel pleased, so he smiles more broadly – of course, qualifying for a heavier pounding on his back and more pleased self satisfaction. A sixth person might actually greet the smiling Kevin with a ‘Hi’. By the twentieth smiling passer-by, Kevin might even feel motivated to say ‘Hi’ to him/her. Whoops! Now Kevin is doing three of the things on his list – approaching others, smiling on approach and starting a conversation. He had better grow a third arm to wallop himself on the back three-fold and be triply pleased with himself. In this way, slowly over time, various behaviours could be trained to increase and, in concert, to result eventually in the full-bloom of each quality (such as ‘outgoing’ to moderate his introversion) in himself which might have been a personal development goal.

Eventually, Kevin followed the plan fully, and blossomed into the very kind of person he had defined as his ideal-self. He also grasped the idea that he could change his mind in the future and become any kind of ‘new’ person he might want to be at the time.      Having said this, it needs also to be said that there was some resistance to carrying out the programme at first. The idea seemed too much of a commitment to change on Kevin’s part. To help Kevin to get over this initial resistance and participate fully in the programme, Felicity thought it might be fun to try something else. In the face of all reason, he did.

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