Understanding Benjamin

This week's guest bloggers are Joel and Jamie Emery, as they bring you some insight into their son, Benjamin.

Dear Friends of UUMC,

Thank you all for your understanding and patience regarding our son, Benjamin.

You may know that he has Autism, having been diagnosed as severity level 1 on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.  This manifests itself in many ways, most evident to the congregation is that the behavior which he presents can often be challenging to understand, distracting to others, and difficult to manage.

He is challenged with comprehending social norms and interactions, neither understanding nor perceiving many of the basics we all take for granted. In life, and especially noticeable in the context of worship, he does not readily comprehend the impact of his behaviors on those around him. As you have noticed, he is inclined to move around, hide under the pews, talk loudly, or any number of other actions out of the ordinary.

All four of his parents are actively working with therapists and teams at school to help him come to understand how to engage positively with the world around him. Recently, we participated in a two-week long, full-time intensive parenting retreat, culminating in a presentation to the 13 individuals who interact with him on an ongoing basis. We’re happy to share any and all of the details of this with any of you, and ask for your easy help and support in two major areas:

1)      Active Ignoring: When Benjamin engages in questionably socially appropriate behavior, we choose to ignore what he is doing or saying. Naturally, if offensive or dangerous, it is re-directed, but if simply “odd” we try to pay no mind, seeking to minimize any reinforcement, positive or negative, associated with the behavior. Believe me, this is not easy when he chooses to lay spread eagle on the floor of a grocery store.

2)      Substantial Praise: Catch Benjamin being good! When he is doing the socially appropriate, or “right” thing, we praise him enthusiastically with specificity. And, even more so, when done on his own. “Great job sitting still!” or “I really like the way you cleaned that up!”

Thank you all for your help with our bright little guy, and we’ll see you in the pews.

All our best,

Joel & Jamie Emery