I do not know how he came to acquire the nickname Egg but ever since he came along that’s what my youngest son has been called. I run The Sensory Projects www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk (which should now really be called The Sensory Projects and Sons!) My work focuses on people with profound disabilities and sensory differences, but my son’s advice will apply to your work too.
In this series of articles we are going to share his insights with you, if you are keen for more there is an ever growing collection on my Facebook profile: come and make friends. www.Facebook.com/JoannaGraceTSP
This is article 9 out of a series of 10! To view the others click here.
We communicate in a variety of ways, our body language conveys a message, our words, even the smells that we give off! A lot of communication is to do with the face, so it is understandable that someone learning about communication would want to explore this incredible communicative tool. You, like me, may find children want to touch your face, explore its movements. Mirror work is great for looking at faces. Creating messy play activities on a mirrored surface is a great way of discovering faces, like a game of peek-a-boo with yourself, and of course there are films and cameras as a way of capturing and relooking at faces.
Some aspects of our communication are essential and some are social conventions or traditions; considering these as we explore communication can help open up the communicative landscape to include people with different types of brains. For example, having ears that work and a brain that understands the messages received from those ears is essential to hearing someone speak. Looking at the speaker is not.
When we speak we want children to look and to listen, this is the tradition. But what if for some children looking means they cannot listen? Many autistic people can look and hear, but when they do this, the effort taken to maintain the looking uses up their capacity to take on board what is being said, whereas: if they do not look, then they can listen.
We live in a world full of neuronormative assumptions about communication, but your room in your setting is your world to create, and by watching the children closely and noticing their different communication styles, you can create a little world in which neurodivergent communication is respected alongside neurotypical communication.
To learn more about some of these differences please read my first son’s book (written when he was 5 years old) My Mummy is Autistic (here’s a glimpse inside) published by Routledge and with a beautiful foreword written by Chris Packham. And if you are curious about adult experiences of autism then my book The Subtle Spectrum, also published by Routledge and this time with a foreword by Steve Silberman (author of the award winning “NeuroTribes”) is for you!
Our bodies communicate in millions of little ways and a lot of them are on our face. So your face is really interesting to me. You just look at my face but I want to explore your communication with all of my senses.
I want to touch your communication, I even want to taste and smell it. Getting close to me can enable me to do this.
We are sitting opposite each other which is good for direct exploration but actually only half of the information is there. When we sit side by side and look in a mirror I can see what your face is doing, AND what my face is doing. Watching you and me in the mirror helps me to understand that the shapes your face makes are to do with the shapes my face makes.
Some of my friends prefer face-to-face conversations, some of my friends prefer side-by-side conversations.
(These words first appeared on Jo’s Facebook profile you are welcome to send her a friend request to watch out for more insight www.Facebook.com/JoannaGraceTSP)
Joanna provides online and in person training relating to sensory engagement and sensory differences, look up www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/online-college for more information.
To view a list of her books visit www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/books Follow Jo on social media to pick up new sensory insights, you’ll find her at: Twitter, www.Facebook.com/JoannaGraceTSP and www.Linkedin/In/JoannaGraceTheSensoryProjects.
About the author:
Joanna Grace is an international Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, trainer, author, TEDx speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects.
Consistently rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted, Joanna has taught in
mainstream and special school settings, connecting with pupils of all ages and abilities. To inform her work, Joanna draws on her own experience from her private and professional life as well as taking in all the information she can from the research archives. Joanna’s private life includes family members with disabilities and neurodiverse conditions and time spent as a registered foster carer for children with profound disabilities.
Joanna has published four practitioner books: “Multiple Multisensory Rooms: Myth Busting the Magic”, “Sensory Stories for Children and Teens”, “Sensory-Being for Sensory Beings”, “Sharing Sensory Stories and Conversations with People with Dementia” and “The Subtle Spectrum”. Plus three inclusive sensory story children’s books: “Spike and Mole”, “Voyage to Arghan” and “Ernest and I” which all sell globally and her son has recently become the UK’s youngest published author with his book, “My Mummy is Autistic” which was foreworded by Chris Packham.