Jake's Take On Autism
Autism Mind Body Self
The first thing I had to learn as a guide was to increase Jake’s desire and willingness to engage with me. How did I do that ? By setting up an engagement where Jake knew what to expect. When Jake knew his role, he felt competent. When he felt competent he was more willing to engage. Simple roles are a good place to start and build from our success. Sometimes objects get in the way of an interaction. In that case we can just use our bodies to move in a playful way. There is a lot going on in this simple game. Anticipation, eye gaze, laughter, a sense of connection and fun! All motivators to want to engage again in the future. I love guiding engagements that work on increasing motivation, connection and fun! A crucial piece in guiding is the ability to scaffold your partner’s success. Some ways to scaffold the hand game are to start by giving verbal cues “ready, set, go” matched with body movements. As the apprentice gets more adept at the game, add in the pause and along with it the anticipation. Readddyy, settttt, pause, go! During the pause, widen your eyes to spotlight the anticipation. If you match the verbal words with movement you can remove the words and just use the movement. Finally remove words and movement. As soon as you are successful with a back and forth engagement, add a variation, We add variations so the engagement doesn’t remain static or the same. We also add variations so your partner can see that slight differences in the engagement don’t change the overall game. In fact, we want our partners to understand that small variations add to the enjoyment of the engagement! Variations include raising your hands higher or lower. Varying your speed. Faster or slower. Change the chant from ready, set, go to 1,2, 3 go on your mark, get set, go! Try it one handed. Try it it one handed with the other hand behind your back. Reverse roles and allow your partner to be the leader. See what variations you can come up with!
Managing Stress During COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has been really stressful for me. It’s not just because of the COVID-19 virus that’s spreading, it is because of the sudden changes and orders given out by the Mayor of Westfield, the Governor of NJ, and the President of the United States to stay home and keep 6 feet away from people. This means that I cannot go to work, or volunteer at the dog shelter or hang out with my friends or family as often as I did and I cannot dine in my favorite restaurants anymore. I just have to stay in my house, or go outside to parks or other outdoor facilities where there aren’t lots of people crowded around. This was especially hard in the beginning because I was expecting that I would be allowed to go and hang out with friends and order in take out and watch a movie with them because I was not sick and that was what I usually did when I had free time to do so. So I had to regroup and come up with different things to do with all of the free time that I have, like playing guitar, taking the dogs out for walks, studying for my Professional Dog Trainer’s exam, and FaceTiming with friends and family when I would normally be physically hanging out with them. I’ve wanted to start playing guitar again, but I have not have the time or energy to because I was always so busy with work before this pandemic began. But now that I have the time, I have started practicing every day, playing some of my favorite Disney songs from some of my favorite Disney movies. So far, I have learned to play Let it Go by Idina Menzel from the movie Frozen, and I Have a Dream by the cast of Tangled from the movie Tangled, and will continue to learn to play more of my favorite songs. I have started to FaceTime friends and family to make up for all of the lost time that I will have with them for as long as this pandemic persists. I have also came up with new anger-management strategies to use when things get tough at home, and I have decided to think of things that I am grateful for. This helps me a lot when I am feeling down about myself because it reminds me of the good things I have in life and how far I have come in my life. It also reminds me that people, like myself, all have issues to work on and make mistakes, reminding me that nobody is perfect, and that’s okay. It reminds me that even if I have a bad day today, it does not mean that I will have a bad day tomorrow, that I always have an opportunity to start fresh and make things right for my future. -Jake Mastronardi Jake was having a hard time adjusting to life during the pandemic and all of the restrictions and routine disruptions that came along with it. Jake came to me for guidance in this trying time. I offered my advice, which was for him to look at the time home as an opportunity to do the things he hadn’t had time for in his busy schedule. I told him to think of what he would like to spend time doing, what he needs to do and what new things he could learn. Jake took my advice and has been studying for his certification exam taking long hikes with the dogs and practicing his guitar, learning new songs and playing them for his friends over FaceTime. I shared this with Dr. Gutstein over our weekly webinar and he commented on Jake’s ability to seek out my guidance and how he has the ability to do this because of years of being guided. Jake knows what it means to be guided and he trusts me as a guide. Dr. Gutstein reiterated the difference between guidance and direct instruction. I didn’t tell Jake what he had to do or what he should do. Dr. Gutstein added how crucial it is for Jake to know he has someone he can get guidance and support from while understanding he is using his own mind when deciding what to do. He doesn’t use my guidance as a substitute for using his own mind or to get instructional information. As a mindguide, I didn’t give Jake a checklist of what to do. Jake didn’t need that. He just needed a different perspective on the situation. I gave him an idea and he used his own mind to come up with ways to handle the situation that worked for him.I love how at the end of this video Jake says he hopes we learn something from this, a direct reflection on his work with the DI Curriculum and his internalization of learning from his own experiences as he transitions to being self guiding. Stay safe everyone! - Kristine Mastronardi, Proud Mom and RDI Consultant