Wednesday 16 May 2012

Promoting positive behaviour and emotional regulation in autism: The 'Nurtured Heart Approach'

Clearly I am going through a phase of making like a bus……you wait for ages (for another blog post) and then two come along at once………….

I have recently learned, from RDI colleagues Dema and Libby (thank you ladies) a little about ‘The Nurtured Heart’ approach and was inspired to share it with you.  It has the same sort of philosophy of promoting and spotlighting positive interaction and behaviour as ‘Gentle Teaching’, which Brendan outlined in a guest blog post here.

Libby describes the ‘Nurtured Heart’ approach as an ‘effective balanced approach to parenting kids who struggle with emotional regulation and behavioural challenges. It takes the relationship between the parent and child into account and allows parents to positively impact behaviour by being proactive rather than reactive.’

I can certainly testify to my own emotional regulation being a major obstacle (reactive) when I am trying to support a child who presents as being verbally oppositional, persistently negative or aggressive.  We know of course that these behaviours are a manifestation of a child not coping with uncertainty or struggling with emotional regulation and/or to manage negative episodic memories…….but when you are ‘in the moment’ with those behaviours and they are occurring regularly, it can be very challenging indeed.

Here is a checklist from the Nurtured Heart approach to help parents channel their energies into positive feedback and avoid the negativity trap.

10 Ways to Propel Your Challenging Child to Greatness!! by Howard Glasser, MA Author of Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach and All Children Flourishing: Igniting the Greatness of Our Children

1. Resist the trap of accidentally energizing negativity! It happens all the time in subtle ways.  We accidentally celebrate negativity when we give it our time, energy and relationship. In that way we are sending are child the message that we are willing to celebrate “non-greatness” because that is accidentally what we are most present for.

2. Realize that all the less energetic words or approval like “good job,” “way to go,” and “thank you” and such, do not begin to touch the realm of greatness. They energetically barely scratch the surface compared to the energy we give to what’s wrong.  We need to go to the level of “radical appreciation” in order to leave a lasting impression of the greatness we wish to cultivate.

3. Greatness is a choice and for our children to eventually choose greatness on their own we need to “choose” to see greatness and bring it into the realm of things we discern, recognize and appreciated.

4. “Catching a child being good” will not serve you in propelling greatness. There is a much better lens which is “creating” greatness by the way we choose to take advantage of the moments of the day and mirror back what we see, detailing the great qualities the child is showing by the choices he is making in the moment.

5. Children led to feel like they are great by the way we reflect and attribute greatness, come to act-out greatness. This is a much better way of acting out.

6. Instead of giving discussions, lectures, admonishments, warnings, threats, etc. when a rule is being broken, give the energized lectures and appreciation many times a day when rules are NOT being broken. Be willing to flip the switch on your energy 180 degrees.

7. Make these moments super-energized by feeling the gratefulness and emotion that is authentically there. After all, if you have a child who is very disrespectful, then the truth is that when the disrespect ISN’T happening, it is glorious and wonderful.

8. See these moments of following the rules as your child making a great choice because the truth is that your child could be breaking the rules and the great news is that she isn’t at this moment. It isn’t just happening. She is choosing to follow the rules.

9. By doing this you are making yourself the energetic prize. Your connection and relationship is the gift of your giving, so if a rule is broken, just say reset and momentarily remove YOU—the prize. When the rule is no longer being broken, even seconds later, make it your mission to stay in the truth of that next moment and be willing to celebrate that choice of your child having stopped the problem.

10. By celebrate, I do not mean giving things and money, I simply mean giving of yourself. Giving of yourself means opening up the treasure trove of your heart and letting the words of appreciation flow.

I happened to be confronted with quite a tricky emotional regulation situation as Philip and I went for a walk earlier tonight.  It wasn’t connected to rules but to choices.  I was mindful of the above points and made a conscious effort not to get wound up and frustrated, and to give as much positive feedback as possible.  It took a while, but eventually, after dismissing several options (my 'reactive' flashpoints), Philip was able to regulate himself sufficiently to settle for a choice that, whilst not perfect, was good enough.

I was able to spotlight Philip’s fantastic work in remaining regulated whilst under stress, as well as making a good decision.

Dema says ‘I believe (the Nurtured Heart approach) is compatible with RDI and can greatly help with the GPR. I’m using it with the folks I coach. Check out the info on the website: the goal is full designation re being evidence-based by the end of this year.  You can see the various types of programs that are using it...foster care, schools, group homes, etc. and the results they are getting.’

The book is on my list as soon as I’ve finished ‘The Mindful Child’ by Daniel Siegel.

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