I found my time at the ACCT conference exciting and informative. The classes I took affirmed for me that I am in the right industry.
At my last workshop, I ran into an idea that has me still reeling to connect all the dots.
The workshop was based in the Therapeutic Psychology of Carl Jung. The therapeutic model of looking at the world first and foremost believes that the everything a person does happens for a reason - "Behavior IS Communication". Jungian psychology specifically looks at ways in which we express our subconscious, like in art and dreams. The point of the workshop for challenge course facilitators is that the very act of creating art, especially when we ask people to do it as a group, creates a conversation opener, a tangible expression of what we might have difficulty labeling with words.
Here's what I heard:
One aspect of Jungian Psychology is Narrative Therapy. It is a practice by which a therapist may ask someone to just tell a story. The therapist may then retell the story with some slight changes to suggest another resolution of the conflict or ask questions that help to identify an underlying theme.
Here's what my head said:
Seriously?! As if I have not been doing that every day for the past 10 years deciphering my son's constant external internal dialogue? I can't even begin to count the hours spent trying to figure out how a specific episode of Dora or Diego recited verbatim related to whatever activity we may have been doing or a place we might have been , or something we drove by, or something he might have overheard... only to finally figure out that he was talking about food episodes because he was hungry.
[As a matter of fact, when I retold the definition/ explanation above to my husband, he actually started laughing and said, "there's a whole theory about that?"]
Then I tried to refocus on the content of the workshop. I worked with some new friends to create a sculpture of "7th grade" out of a bag of toys. We ended up setting up "boy" toys vs "girl" toys in our remembered gender segregation. It got really interesting when we looked at the other group (who got to represent themselves), and I noted how the shape they created represented both a tree and a brain (key components of challenge course work). The presenter even asked me if I was trained in psychology. (It took a great deal of effort not to have a smarta$$ answer about how the years living with the detective work of echolalia certainly should count as "training").
I can totally understand how this tool, building "sculptures" out of an odd collection of old toys and things by an entire group, can be a great catalyst for conversation about how they perceive their dynamic. I can understand how a facilitator doesn't need to be a psychologist to ask meaningful questions about how the group decided to use or arrange particular elements in their "diagram".
But what I left with was this reeling feeling that I had been had. I was disappointed. I was shaken. How many articles have I read, forwarded, shared about echolalia, about the debate of harnessing vs redirecting? How much time and money has been poured into speech therapy to "fix" this? (By the school system, even if not by me). Parents have been trying to assert (for at least the 10 years we've been at this) that echolalia is a legitimate form of communication, that while it requires lots of creativity and persistence, it can be effective.
And I am angry.
If this is pretty common medical knowledge (Jung studied with Freud, so these theories are not new), and rather regular therapeutic practice (not just theory), then why are parents of autistic child not armed with such knowledge actively? Why can't the "medical model" of autism encourage us to look into, harness even, alternative forms of communication, instead of assigning us to the incurable disaster of isolation (for our loved one, for our family)?
Indeed I am so angry, that as I proof this, I am not even sure that I can coherently express myself.
The "World" must STOP telling parents that they do not "get" their kid. The "World" must STOP perpetuating the message that experts who do not live with a person somehow know more than the family that shares rhythms, experiences, history with that person.
It comes back to that idea that we, all of us, need to start looking at the "can do"s instead of the "can't do"s. Let's start acknowledging that we are all inherently driven to communicate, but it takes creativity to "hear" sometimes.