While most children will greet Daddy with a hug or smile, many autistic children aren’t capable of the normal affectionate interactions that keep a family intact. As the father walks in, his son is busy lining up his toys or engrossed in the spinning wheels of an overturned toy truck. Dad calls his name over and over in hopes of seeing those eyes light up and his son come running to him with open arms – but to no avail. Dad even gets down on his knees in a desperate attempt for some eye contact, but his son turns away and even spurns his father’s touch with disturbed grunts.
Emerson B. Donnell III lived that experience and ultimately decided to do something about it. His experience and research has resulted in the formulation of strategies designed to elicit proper emotion from an autistic child, and today Donnell’s son greets him at the door with hugs, kisses and an engaging smile. The strategies to bring their world together have also helped his son’s speech increase exponentially.
Donnell, author of “Dads and Autism, Learn How To Stay in the Game” (Altruist Publishing) said that without the proper tools, developing a loving connection is a monumental, if not impossible, task. But it’s a seed that can blossom into the healing of both the autistic child and the family as a whole.
“One of the greatest disappointments about children with autism is their inability to connect with other people,” Donnell said. “This is especially heartbreaking for the parent-child relationship. Parents yearn to reach their child who is right in front of them, yet they have no idea how to go about it.
“Parents confronted with autism experience grief and loneliness at their inability to connect with their child, and it can tear a marriage apart at frightening speed. As a matter of fact, it’s probably the greatest contributing factor to why dads leave, and the widely accepted 80-percent divorce rate.”
Donnell’s approach combines strategies and tactics from a variety of proven sources, meshed with his personal experiences “The new therapy that I’ve applied is called Applied Affectionate Behavior Analysis (AABA),” he said. “I have also coined the term Discrete Affectionate Trials (DATs). These are specific exercises designed to elicit and develop proper emotion and affection in autistic children.
“Imagine being given tools to help their children develop proper greetings, goodbyes, hugs, kisses and playful interaction? What if you could curb them of dangerous habits like bolting, or the deaf run? Imagine being able to make your presence, your voice and your face relevant to your child.”
According to Donnell, autism needn’t be a prison sentence for your child, or for your family: “I can say with all certainty that if it weren’t for the specifics I use at home, my son would still be a distant-eyed stranger in my house. Developing these tactics has not only saved my son, but very possibly my marriage.
“As a result of this success and catharsis in my son’s behavior, I am so compelled to share these strategies. They may salvage so many other marriages by helping break the dull shell of autism to bring their bright, loving and affectionate children out and into their parent’s arms.”
For more information, visit www.dadsandautism.com.
– Courtesy of Rachel Friedman