28 Apr 2015

Mindful Awareness. The Bridge to Acceptance

Mindful Awareness. The Bridge to Acceptance

Author: esautter  /  Categories: Author Blogs , Autism and Communities   /  Rate this article:
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Last year I was at a birthday party at one of those big places where the kids jump around on trampolines and mats, and a host is assigned to the party.  I was helping the birthday child’s mom get the cake, presents, and food organized with our host, Sean.  He was asking her a lot of questions and giving a bunch of details without looking at her or waiting for her to respond.  He did not pick up on the social cues that she was confused about where things were supposed to go or what she should be doing to help.  She was getting overwhelmed and annoyed with him and the situation.  I told her I would work with him to get things set up and sent her off to enjoy the fun with the kids.  Later I told her that it was apparent to me that Sean had some social challenges and might be on the autism spectrum.  She felt really bad about her impatient, semi-rude behavior and immediately changed her attitude and thanked me for sharing the information.

In this case, and I believe in many others, my friend’s awareness brought acceptance for Sean’s unfamiliar and what she thought was unexpected behavior.  Because April is autism awareness month, I have been thinking a lot about how it’s not only important to build awareness, but also acceptance.  Acceptance for those who may not learn, think, engage, or act in ways that feel familiar or are considered the norm.  In today’s society many people do not fit the norm, and if we raise awareness in a mindful way, it can breed acceptance.

If we think about mindfulness as paying attention in the moment, on purpose, without judgment, we are ultimately talking about awareness (paying attention) and acceptance (without judgment).  Being mindful about various people and differences, we can gain information and increased consciousness.  Often when we are not familiar with something, it makes us feel uncomfortable or even threatened.  If we can be more attentive to these thoughts and feelings, we can work on changing them and embrace what seems unfamiliar, thus making it more familiar.  

This takes work but is well worth it for ourselves and those who may look to us as role models: our children, students, employees, and co-workers.  When gathering information and being curious as we do with all people we meet, try to focus on the ways that a person who seems very different is actually similar to you and on that person’s positive traits.  Remind yourself how it feels to be left out, misunderstood, or unable to fit in.  Step into the other person’s shoes with compassion.  You might even join or build a community or gather information from an organization or online resource that provides knowledge, awareness, and support.  When communities collaborate, walls can be broken down which can be the first step towards non-judgmental acceptance.

I encourage you to practice mindful awareness and acceptance today, this month, and every day.  If you are a parent, teach your child about how other people might play, learn, or think differently than he/she does, and provide your child with a mindset that might spark inclusivity toward all of his/her classmates/peers.  If you are an employer, think about the communication styles of your employees, and realize that just because one person might not engage in small talk or might talk too much and not fit in socially doesn’t mean that he/she is not a good fit for the job.  Provide that employee with the needed feedback and tools, and help him/her focus on his/her strengths and the part of the job that he/she is doing well.  If you are a teacher, be sure to collaborate and consult with the special education teachers, go to conferences, and become aware of the various ways that kids learn and engage with other people and the world.  One size does not fit all.  Focus on building awareness and using that awareness as a bridge to greater acceptance!

MEET THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Sautter, MA CCC-SLP, co-directs and co-owns Communication Works, a private practice offering speech, language, social and occupational therapy for children and adults.  She has worked with preschool to adult clients and their families since 1996 in private practice, schools, and hospitals. Following her professional passion, Elizabeth has specialized in social communication, self-regulation, and executive functioning. She thrives on learning and developing functional and creative intervention tools and programs to support her clients, and enjoys collaborating with other professionals and parents. In addition, her relationships with her sister and extended family members with special needs have made her work a lifelong endeavor. She has completed a mentorship and internship with Michelle Garcia Winner, Stephanie Madrigal, and Pamela Crooke, and has co-authored two popular children’s books about whole body listening, Whole Body Listening Larry at Home and Whole Body Listening Larry at School. Elizabeth is also the author of the AAPC title Make Social Learning Stick!. Elizabeth lives with her husband, two sons, and a dog, who continually teach her new life lessons and keep her smiling.

Make Social Learning Stick! is a “go-to” manual for parents, caregivers, and professionals supporting social and emotional skills in children. The user-friendly, how-to activities can be used in everyday life to increase verbal and nonverbal language, listening skills, understanding of hidden rules, perspective taking, executive functioning, and more. The activities presented are recipes for social and emotional learning for which parents, teachers, and therapists typically already have the ingredients. With close to 200 fun and easy activities, including contributions from leading experts such as Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC-SLP, Kari Dunn Buron, MsEd, Leah Kuypers, MAEd, OTR/L, Emily Rubin, MS, CCC-SLP, Sarah Ward, MS, CCC-SLP, and Pamela Wolfberg, PhD, the book offers close to 200 ways to embrace teachable moments throughout daily routines.

Read more blogs by Elizabeth A. Sautter, MA, CCC-SLP, here.

 



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