Joe, Emma’s therapist, who came to us five months after we received her diagnosis, was initially trained in ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis). As Emma regressed using ABA, Joe was the first to agree with us that we should find another methodology which might work better. When we found Stanley Greenspan (who died April 27th, 2010 – next post will be a tribute to him) Joe was an eager participant in learning how to do Stanley Greenspan’s DIR (developmental, individual-difference, relationship-based) therapy with Emma. Joe has since become the “Zen Master” of DIR. He is brilliant at it and watching him work with Emma is a profound experience. The following is a post by Joe.
“I was watching ABC’s Nightline last night, which aired a story about a pro-surfer who has autism. Watching his intensified focus on the waves certainly reminded me of Emma’s physical grace and all of her athletic talents – skiing in particular. They described the teenaged surfer as someone who’s “mastered the seas but still struggles on land.” On the water he feels relaxed, but on land he must face the pressure and anxiety of social interactions. Like Emma, the surfer has no physical indication of any disorder so his inability to respond appropriately to social interactions (or simply say hello) is often interpreted as rudeness. This is one of the dozens of catch 22’s of autism – wanting her to be seen and treated just like anyone else but also expecting others to be understanding/non-discriminatory once they find out she’s autistic.
The surfer’s story ended by crediting his autism for opening this door for his talents to shine: a door which may have otherwise remained shut. While Emma’s autism has come with its vast array of difficulties and challenges, it has also opened similar doors for her talents to shine. While I feel many of Emma’s abilities are innate, I believe a stage needed to be set in order for them to be unveiled. So I end this story by crediting Emma’s parents, Ariane and Richard, for all of their endless efforts to open every door and set every stage possible for her. As for her athletic talents, giving her the opportunity to swing herself at 18 months, getting her into gymnastics at 2 years old, and strapping her into skis at 3 years old is just a fraction of all of the sensory input she was constantly provided with at such an early age. While Emma continues to shine in the spotlight, I credit her director and choreographer, Ariane and Richard, for making it happen.”