By Lisa deFaria, LCSW, BCD, Faculty, ICDL (Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders)
Susan’s note: Lisa originally posted an earlier version of this on the Yahoo Floortime board. I thought it was so timely and helpful that I asked if she would be willing to let me share it with you all, and, lucky for us, she did.
As our children move forward developmentally, "typical" phases that were previously delayed may emerge. One example is the (so-called) "terrible twos." Many kids on the autism spectrum never had the "terrible twos," a time when children become more engaged in their world, with new-found communication, mobility and intentions ("I want”/”Me do it...")
So when parents start reporting to me that their child is tantruming and oppositional and won't do what they say, I say "great!” The child has moved beyond the earlier, more disconnected, passive or self-absorbed phase and demonstrated that he is "cooking." It's when a child doesn't move to this phase that I am concerned.
Of course, with these changes, the child is, perhaps for the first time, bumping into "NO."
Now we have a new set of challenges--not bad, just different. As your child moves forward into this phase, he is also much more aware of the complexities of his environment, the expectations of others, the world moving too fast, too loud, too bright around him. Though he now understands far more language, he may be slow to process it, and many adults forget that the child can't take in a wall of words.
Motor planning, still often immature, becomes frustrating for your child, for how exactly is little Johnny going to get from here to there? A profound desire to be "in control" kicks in, as though saying, "Wait a minute! Slow down!!!" So many kids in this situation need to put their brakes on and try to hold onto control, particularly during transitions (into the car, into bed, out the door, TV off...).
Sensory issues may also be involved. "No" for our children is a bit of a different experience than it is for a typically developing child. With awareness and engagement with their environment, often more sensory issues emerge during this phase. This can create a very challenging pattern of behaviors--look at how many transitions occur in any given day!
A child at this phase needs a lot of transactional support to help ease his movement through the day. You have to experiment with what will work.