The ‘Two Day Rock and Water and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and children with additional and related needs’ is a unique Rock and Water approach that helps children (and adults) who are diagnosed with ASD to develop more self confidence, better communication skills and strategies to deal with the world and it’s sometimes overwhelming demands.
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. Master instructor Marc Boas, Theo Kamevaar and Freerk Ykema have developed a new manual (250 pages) containing successful strategies, dozens of new exercises and up to date information about ASD.
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 (too rocky): emotionally closed, macho, surviving through power and force or;
Water (too watery): too compliant towards others, not being able to assert oneself very well, and avoidance 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 program shows, first in a physical way, that both strategies have their value, but that this depends on the situation. The behavior is not rejected, but extended through exploration of alternatives.
The program 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.
Self-awareness increases through activities and by learning to know and recognize the accompanying feeling
The physical exercises are aimed at three skills:
1. grounding (learning to stand calm and strong)
2. centering (controlling breathing = controlling emotion)
3. focusing (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 a Rock or Water reaction, depending on the circumstances. The exercises reinforce the three basic principles to be able to develop yourself as a person:
1. Security (without a basic feeling of security it is very difficult to grow)
2. Assertiveness (how do you deal with difficult situations without losing your self- control)
3. Communication (non-verbal, the applied aspect of assertiveness)
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 one sense can alternately be very sensitive (hypersensitive) or very insensitive (hyposensitive), or that one sense is very sensitive and that the other senses 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. And that is also 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 program. We therefore have worked out the current exercises in smaller steps and are developing new exercises that are more closely aligned with the abilities of children and adults with ASD.
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.
After completion of the lessons children and adults have:
A greater understanding of non-verbal communication; More reference points for controlling emotions; More skills, both verbally and non-verbally, to respond to a situation adequately.