2 Day Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Workshop
The 2 day Rock and Water ASD Workshop is a unique Rock and Water approach that helps children (and adults) who are diagnosed with ASD to develop more body-emotional and self awareness. The workshop will assist in increasing self control and assertiveness, to develop body language awareness, to encourage better communication skills and to decrease feelings of anxiety. Instructor Marc Moas and Freerk Ykema have developed a new manual with many adaptations and new exercises.
When people in general - and in particular people with ASD – end up in a stressful situation, they often respond according to one of the following two stereotyped patterns of behaviour:
- rock (emotionally closed, macho, surviving through power and force) or
- water (too compliant towards others, not being able to assert oneself very well, avoiding behaviour).
In both cases there is a risk that people are not able to stay close to their own feeling and that they will “lose themselves”.
The Rock and Water programme shows that both strategies have their value in a physical way, but that this depends on the situation. The behaviour is not rejected, but extended through exploration of alternatives. The programme makes use of psychophysical didactics. The starting point is the development of emotional awareness on the basis of body awareness, which ultimately leads to self-awareness.
Boys suffering from ASD will, just like other boys, have a need to be physically active and express themselves physically. Because their body image is often built up in a more laborious and fragmented way, and because their sensory integration (the processing of incoming stimuli) will often be beset with problems, these boys will feel more uncertain in their own bodies and thus more uncertain when it comes to physical activity and expression. That means that their most natural way of self-experience and building self-knowledge as well as developing self-confidence, self-expression and communication, will be under threat.
These boys - and girls too, of course - will consequently gain a great deal from the psychophysical didactics of the Rock and Water course, where they get to know and express themselves better and learn to connect to the other and to the outside world - all in small and structured steps. The course teaches them the joys of physical activity and of making physical contact (in appropriate quantities or through amended methods), while it also teaches them to experience and demarcate their own boundaries and hence to engender respect for the boundaries of others.
Self-awareness increases through activities and by learning to know/recognise the accompanying feeling
The physical exercises are aimed at three skills:
- basing (learning to be on solid ground),
- centring (controlling breathing = controlling emotion), and
- focussing (being concentrated in what you are doing).
These skills represent the three foundations of the Rock and Water method:
- self-control leads to self-confidence, which in its turn leads to self-reflection.
In this way a form of self-knowledge develops, so that a conscious choice can be made between rock or water reaction, depending on the circumstances.
The exercises reinforce the three basic principles to be able to develop yourself as a person:
- Security (without a basic feeling of security it is very difficult to grow);
- Assertiveness (how do you deal with difficult situations without losing your self-control);
- Communication (non-verbal, the applied aspect of assertiveness)
In recent years it has become evident that persons with ASD can also benefit from this training. This is why the Gadaku Institute has developed a two-day Rock and Water training that shows participants how they can use the various Rock & Water skills in their contact with, in educating, in training and in offering therapy to persons with ASD.
Dealing with stimuli
In this special training we consider the fact that persons with ASD usually have a specific way of dealing with stimuli. For example, they often have a disrupted stimulus-coping system, which implies that a sense can alternately be very sensitive (hypersensitive) or very insensitive (hyposensitive), or that one sense is very sensitive and that the other sense functions insensitively. In the training we deal in particular with oversensitivity of the sense of hearing and of the tactile sense, and on the other hand with a low sensitivity of the proprioceptive system (the body awareness).
This training explores how this can be taken into account.
Integration of intellect and feelings
In this special training we also pay attention to the fact that persons with ASD often have a limited integration of intellect and feeling. They have less access to their feelings and are inclined to compensate this with intellect. As a result the skills and exercises remain superficial and can therefore not be applied as well in a general sense. This means that we have to address these skills and exercises in a different way in the training. This is why, for example, we pay much more attention to contrasting exercises in which participants have to switch more frequently between the inner Rock and Water attitude, why there is an extra focus on the role of breathing, and why exercises are repeated more frequently.
The limited body awareness in this target group means that they often have more problems with the physical exercises from the basic Rock and Water programme. We therefore have worked out the current exercises in smaller steps and are developing new exercises that are more closely aligned with their specific pattern of movement.
Persons with ASD generally have a different way of assigning significance. They are inclined to consider their experiences in too much of an absolute sense. This is because they have problems with putting their own ideas about what they experience into perspective and with separating the context from the activity. This means that they can easily “get lost” in what they experience or do. This is why it is important to offer a predictable and clear structure to the student with ASD as much as possible. In the training we show how this aspect may be reflected in the way in which the training room is used, how time is demarcated, and how the training can be structured.
Persons with ASD often experience bullying. This is why there are extensive exercises in realistic and proportional resilience and self-defence. The connecting thread in the lessons is the integration of all that has been learned in the form of scenario and stress trainings. Scenario and stress training is based on concrete situations, for example at school, on the street or at work. This training also has a good effect on persons with ASD, because of the practical and concrete reference points.
Result of the training
After completing the lessons:
- there is a greater understanding of non-verbal communication;
- there are more reference points for controlling emotions;
- there are more skills, both verbally and non-verbally, to respond to a situation adequately.