Moving Beyond Movement Practice: Experiences Of A Client With Autism
What follows is a conversation with Brent during one of our sessions. Brent is a person I have been working with for a while now who has been diagnosed at a young age with autism.
Before we started the session he came with his usual “I don’t feel like it to today.” After 5 minutes of struggling to balance on a wooden ball, he shook it off and we went for it. We worked a little bit on expanding the breath and internally sensing the body, looking for what kind of spontaneous movements he wanted to do.
Then we went to the park to observe how nothing in nature is perfect or symmetrical, therefore perfectionism is maybe not so natural. While observing how ugly the tree was in front of us this season, we did a standing practice where we ‘protected our fire.’ After doing about 15 minutes of this practice he said to me:
“it is wonderful to notice that you can look at your fire, but also beyond it, and also to the left, to the right, but it is too easy to fall into just looking at it from the front and forgetting all that is past!”
Yes, Brent has a remarkable way of expressing himself so I will let him do the talking. Here is a transcript of his recent thoughts on our way of working together:
“You have to learn to let go.” These are the words they have been telling me since the beginning. You have to live more in the moment. You have to learn to accept. But these are one those things that you cannot communicate in words… It just is not possible!
For example, one week ago I had a quarrel with my girlfriend. Some things had happened in her life and finally she will now do some of the things I once advised her to do, but of course not because I told her: because she now has had a couple of experiences through which she understands it herself and realises it is like this and that, not because someone else told her - through her own experience!
And that is something I noticed in my experiences with psychiatry, there you totally do not get this. There you receive the experiences of other people or “we are psychiatrists or psychologists and we know it should be like this.” But this does not help me because I cannot just accept it like that! A human being has to discover it himself, I have to have the experience myself to know: “this indeed is the way!” Frustrating!
I really find it regrettable that I was not able to do something like this when I was 11. Because I really have something with movement I’m now realizing. There are people who do not have any affinity with movement but I do and I easily make connections through movement and subsequent reasoning in my head so for me it kind of is the perfect combo. I do notice now that I can move my body and at the same time deeply put in multiple things and connect them as you do in your way of working.
(Click here to read Brent's experience with complex coordination practice)
But I really wish that when I was 11 and had fits of anger, that there was someone who said “come, let us use these things for something else and let us ‘physically reason’ how you are feeling.” I find it a bit sad that I only find out about this later in my life but it is what it is and maybe it also is no coincidence. Maybe I had to have those other lesser experiences to realise that this does work for me to then… who knows… do something with this myself to help others.
Besides, I also do not really know if this way would work with the autistic people of my group where I live because maybe they would not find enough connections with the movements. Because I tried to explain “how do I define what Olivier does?” and then there comes ‘movement’ and… It just is not easy to put it into words.
For example, a couple times they did yoga sessions with the group but in the end everyone fell asleep and that is not the purpose. One girl of the group did tai chi but it gave her stress. But that is, I think, all because they do not find anything beyond it, they do something and yes they do it, but they cannot pull it out of its context and bring to to their own context. And that is so unfortunate.
Also disappointing for me is to observe that very little of the autistic people I know work on themselves. Few go to a therapist, and this by the way is also a form of therapy for me. Little work on developing themselves causing them to remain stuck in the same bubble.