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The sign of good parenting is not a child’s behavior; the sign of good parenting is a parent’s behavior ~ Andy Smithson.

We had spoken about the Broad Autism Phenotype (BAP), last week and this post elicited a lot of responses from our readers, most of them wanting to have themselves assessed for BAP, some in lighter vein and some serious participants who signed up to have themselves assessed.

 Having said that, when we explain autism to people, the first response often is, “That sounds like me”! Taken in isolation, a lot us may feel like we have some indicators of autism. And then there are others who have a bunch of indicators, yet miss the BAP by a whisker. 

Maybe you carry BAP traits, maybe you don’t, either way, let’s take a look at some of the implications of certain characteristics in parents that may impact the child. It is after all the parent’s behavior that plays an important role in the child’s behavior. The simplest example on hand is the parent’s behavior on seeing a dog (And if you’ve done this in our presence, you know the rest of the story..)

But it goes something like this, if the parent is terrified and grabs the child and leads him away with the advice that dogs are dangerous, the child also begins to respond the same way to the sight of a dog. The parent may have an experience that has made him react this way to a dog, or not. But the child may just take off from that response with no history of his own with a dog. Children watch, observe and learn beyond what is directly taught to them, which many parents may not see and notice. (Insert: Lecture from us if this happened and we caught a glimpse of it)

Another aspect of parental impact on a child’s behavior is parent responsiveness. A responsive parent is one who notices and responds to subtle changes in the child’s body language, verbal and nonverbal communication. It means recognizing communicative intent, or an expression of interest or disinterest even, with or without spoken words. It also means not redirecting the attention of the child towards the parent’s interests, and reducing the instructions given to the child and the questions asked of them. Watching parent-child interactions for a short while can indicate parent responsiveness to very subtle overtures of the child. It is fascinating to watch how parents move back to the directive role within ten seconds of an interaction with their child, that too in what is fun play time. This is despite being told that the play interaction should ideally not have any questions or directions thrown in for 30 seconds. We’ve had parents tell us that their child would be happy to listen to something we ask of them but not comply with his folks or that their child is happy to be around us and not so much at home (True story!). There is absolutely no magic trick being used except our responsiveness to the child’s subtle communication. If he expresses disinterest, we change the topic, if he expresses interest in something, we go his way. 

Like we said earlier, many adults relate easily to one trait of autism or the other. If such a person is the parent of a child with autism, BAP or not, the presence of single traits can have many implications for the child. The parent may not be the most responsive parent and miss the subtle cues from the child. This we have seen happen over and over again, making the child very anxious, insecure and completely misunderstood. The parent may despite his own shortcoming, keep pushing the child to acquire some skills that are high level skills for a child with autism. It may almost veer on the policy of “I could not so it, so I want you to”, putting the child under extreme pressure given his innate deficits.  If you find yourself guilty of this, stop, pause and reflect! Your child doesn’t have to do something just because you couldn’t do it you could do it. He is his own person. If he could express himself, he’d be singing to the tune of Eric Clapton who went “Before you accuse me…Take a look at yourself…”

Adios,

Gita & Swati

References

Flippin, M., & Watson, L. R. (2018). Parental Broad Autism Phenotype and the Language Skills of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of autism and developmental disorders48(6), 1895–1907. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3431-7

Shire, S. Y., Gulsrud, A., & Kasari, C. (2016). Increasing Responsive Parent-Child Interactions and Joint Engagement: Comparing the Influence of Parent-Mediated Intervention and Parent Psychoeducation. Journal of autism and developmental disorders46(5), 1737–1747. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-016-2702-z