In spark*, spark*EL and Self-Regulation in Everyday Life, after working on awareness of ability and awareness of need, we help build the children’s resilience in using the skills and strategies. This is one of the unique features of the spark* model.
Resilience is a process where children adapt positively to challenges to their attention and learning. They learn to withstand and recover from distractions, disruptions, and temptations. They adjust to these in positive ways (for example, not melting down) and they don’t let things get to them.
When starting work on resilience, always start in a position of trust with children. That is, they know us and trust that they are safe with us. We then systematically introduce things that might tempt them (like a favorite activity or interest) or distract them (like a noise). This should be done in a playful way so that children feel like superheros of their own brains.
With our support and by modeling a ways to deal with disruptions, children learn “I can do it even when ….”. They continue on with an activity, thought or intention, regardless of what is going on around them.
Most of the executive functions are needed for the resilience stage. Inhibitory control is strongly challenged with the children’s having to stay the course regardless of what happens. They must learn to resist temptations and not just slip into old familiar behavior patterns. They need to rely on their own planning and organization, working memory, and self-monitoring to stay on track. Cognitive flexibility is challenged but, with our support, they learn how to flow with challenges.
Typical advice for parents, teachers and therapists dealing with children with autism is to structure the environment and tasks, ensure a calm and quiet setting, and more. At some point, however, we need to help the children develop resilience in dealing with less structure, less-than-ideal settings, other people’s motivations and interests, and distractions. This is what they’ll encounter in real life and that’s why we work on resilience in spark*.
Becoming resilient means that the child can continue his/her path toward a goal and isn’t deterred by disorganization, interruptions, distractions, or the obstacles that are likely to occur in everyday life.