Questions & Answers
1. WHAT DOES "REFRAME YOUR THINKING AROUND AUTISM" ACTUALLY MEAN?
It means changing from what I call a ‘deficit’ model to one of appreciating the intelligence and potential of each person with autism.
People with autism are often diminished by a narrow and outdated medical model when there is so much evidence to the contrary. When we begin to explore autism via the Polyvagal Theory (PVT) we get a much better appreciation for the people who live with autism, and we can be more empathic in our approach.
THE VAGAL NERVE
- Central to reframing autism is the crucial role of the vagal nerve in helping people perceive, regulate and manage body sensations that are often debilitating.
- The polyvagal theory has become the foundation for a new and progressive approach to therapy.
- This is evidence that, as with neurotypical people, those on the spectrum have the capacity to build emotional resilience, grow and gain practical skills, at any age.
- Helping those on the spectrum (‘students’) tap into the innate intelligence of the mind and body.
- The importance of resisting the need to control the outcome.
- Helping students’ to realize self-capacity and self-belief. Changing your mindset as a therapist, parent or supporter.
- How to achieve a paradigm shift to a new logic of self-directed therapy.
- Why coercive exercises fail.
- The A.R.T. of non-directive therapy
- Body Cognition is what it feels like to be ‘centered’; perhaps for the first time ever.
- Feeling ‘centered’ in mind and body is a challenge for everyone, and people on the spectrum are no different – they are just less well-equipped to do so.
- Holly demystifies the physical symptoms that affect those on the spectrum.
- Holly’s program is unique in that it addresses the ‘autonomic’ issues that may go some way to explain the physical challenges of autism.
- 90% of physical actions and reactions occur ‘pre-brain’, and better vagal tone can help control unwarranted flight or fight; frozen or immobilised responses.
- Holly demonstrates that co-design is not something you learn to master; it is something that you learn to play with.
- At the core or refraing autism is the principle of co-design as a process of genuine collaboration and not, as with traditional approaches, coercion.
2. WHAT IS YOUR FIVE ELEMENT PROGRAM?
It’s a series of progressively more sophisticated tools and techniques to restore a connection between the brain and nervous system. This steadily progresses a greater and greater level of resilience and self-control. It starts off slowly and the pace is carefully matched to each person.
I’ve titled the elements Sync, Calm, Re-code, Integrate & Thrive, to make the process accessible. Each element has a desired possibility and models & tools that are surprisingly simple to use.
3. WHAT IS THE "HOLLY BRIDGES AUTISM REFRAME TECHNIQUE" (A.R.T.)?
It is a process and toolkit to realise and sustain positive outcomes. We start from the premise that every student is intelligent and can upgrade their mind / body connection – if they are given the right tools and are treated respectfully, positively, and creatively.
People learn to reconnect through a process I call Listen, Feel and Move. They begin to feel empowered and all manner of things become possible spontaneously. My ART approach helps them to discover how to apply and sustain this.
ISSUES THAT A.R.T. ADDRESSES
A pervasive issue in ASD is not being able to register and manage internal body sensations. These sensations can overwhelm all efforts to address debilitating issues, and each of the A.R.T elements is designed to help resolve this through what is called ‘interoception ’. In this session, Holly demonstrates how people on the spectrum may:
- Feel what it’s like to get into/be in a calm state and how to regulate this.
- Improve their capacity to sense internal feelings and sensations in the body.
- Teach the body to respond differently to environmental stimuli.
- Learn to integrate their mind, to get better command of your body.
- Learn how to free themselves from a fight, flight, frozen or immobilised state, and into a calm ‘parasympathetic ’ state.
- An internal sensory system in which the internal physical and emotional states of the body are noticed, recognised/identified and responded to
- The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” function. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) controls the body’s responses to a perceived threat and is responsible for the “fight or flight” response.
4. HOW DOES A.R.T. WORK IN PRACTICE?
At its core is the principle of co-design. This locks in a process that is about collaboration and not, as with traditional approaches, coercion.
Importantly, co-design is not something you learn to master; it is something that you learn to play with.
Reframing comes from unlearning; challenging all that you think you know about how things should be, and how they should go.
You learn to sit back and listen, to elicit, to be ‘second’ (not take the lead or force a response) even when the student cannot speak or be directive.
You learn to look for new things, new ideas, tiny new green shoots; you learn to ask questions and more questions while not needing a concrete answer.
The answers lie in the ‘awakening space’, not the result. We aim to create room for new visions and opportunities for – families, clients, carers, and the community – even when they do not believe anything new is possible. You learn that even the tiniest glimmer of hope can bring about the greatest change, as long as you don’t ‘jump on it’ but let it grow and blossom at its own pace.
5. WHAT ARE THE WORKING MODELS OF A.R.T.?
We design a flexible program that promotes a growing awareness of the self and the body system. We use practical physical movements to show how bring the body back into harmony with the mind.
As we progress, the tools become more and more sophisticated and the student becomes proficient through a wide range of applications.
Essentially, this is a paradigm shift to a new logic of self-capacity and self-belief; of being a co-creator in a value proposition that embraces diversity and change. It is designed to create the conditions where new neural networks may develop, mapping out new territory.
In short, this is “rewiring” the brain to greater levels of capacity, in people of all ages and situations.
THE POLYVAGAL THEORY
The PVT is a working model of what can happen when the mind and body are aligned; when the person can both recognise and stay in a parasympathetic (relaxed, restful) state, providing the mind/body with a chance to connect; to heal and grow strong.
THE GATE CONTROL THEORY OF PAIN
The GCT explains how the pain sensation is sent up to the brain via the spinal cord (and Vagus Nerve) and how touch, pressure and mindfulness can over-ride the pain sensation.
In this context, facilitation is how manual muscle stimulation can influence relaxation, movement and communication between different parts of the body.
By improving internal representations of the body and internal sensory perception, this can enhance proprioception (movement, spatial orientation); vestibular sensation (coordination, balance, spatial orientation); awareness of bodily processes, and thus promote feelings of wellbeing, confidence and safety.
The ART program sets out to:
- Use co-design as a fluid process and not a destination
- Realise insights by learning to unlearn
- Converse with those who can’t speak
- Spot and nurture the green shoots of progress
- Deal with the ‘chaos’ that is an absence of concrete answers
- Guide people into the awakening space
- Develop and consolidate personal strength and resilience
6. WHAT MODALITIES ARE TYPICALLY EMPLOYED IN A.R.T.?
As a core objective, it is about ‘bringing awareness back into the body’:
- Listen – we create conditions where the student can learn how to attend to internal sensations
- Feel – we learn how reconnect the student to his or her feelings and stay connected.
- Move – as we progress we find factors of interest to the student (walking easily down the stairs, talking on the telephone, looking in the mirror) to broaden the learning to everyday life and practice the tools and techniques.
Once this is mastered we look to using these tools to bring to reality the dreams, hopes, aspirations of our students into the real world.
Applied relaxation aims to teach the student how to control anxiety by self-soothing, and ‘teaching’ the body to sit in a parasympathetic (relaxed, restful) state.
This is the opposite of a prescribed (forced or coercive) program, and means being sensitive and empathic to what is needed in each and every session. Key to this is letting the student and his or her body tell us ‘what is next’.
ARTFUL COGNITIVE BEHAVIOUR THERAPY
Encouraging the student and stakeholders to challenge long held beliefs and assumptions about what is possible and what a person can or cannot do.
Unfixing the eyes and teaching the student to operate in a ‘soft state’; to cooperate with the body, with moving and with learning.
These are selective physical and mental feedback techniques that ‘teach’ the body to read and reduce stress-sensation.
Exploring the student’s emerging self through counselling and the application of the ART toolkit and techniques.