Dr. Gil Tippy answers a question about Not controlling contingencies in Autism interventions

6 Feb

This post is a video of me at a training this week. We showed a video with a kid who was not yet fully able to think abstractly, who was trying to touch the Floortimer in a place where she did not wish to be touched. She set a clear boundary, and did not let the kid touch her in the inappropriate place, but did allow him to play a patty-cake kind of game with her. She stayed in the interaction with the kid, setting clear boundaries, and inviting him to play. You could see him thinking, and it was a great back and forth. Some of the people in the training wanted to know it it wouldn’t be easier for the kid if he had less complex situation to negotiate. I answered with what I take to be one brief explanation as to why you would want kids to have to think, rather than make all decisions for them. I think this is true for the kids on the spectrum, I think it is true for kids who are not on the spectrum. We hurt kids with our sincere desire to protect them from all difficult situations, and while I believe we do it from a loving place, it hurts their development. They do not develop the ability to think in this complex world, and so always stay dependent on others to make their decisions for them. No one wants this for their child!

4 Responses to “Dr. Gil Tippy answers a question about Not controlling contingencies in Autism interventions”

  1. Brian Abrams February 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    Fantastic. I hate to invoke that awful phrase, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” but that’s what happens when one entire aspect of being (such as vigorous physical expression) is rejected simply because there are healthy limits and boundaries within the context of a human relationship. Limiting too many contingencies is antithetical to the whole developmental experience of play, and is far too restrictive with respect to the child’s response vocabulary.

    (By the way, as a viewer, I didn’t take your use of “only” as diminutive with respect to Piaget’s theory, but as specific, as in one “solely” adopting a Piagetian perspective within the work.)

    Well done.

    • Gil Tippy February 7, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

      Thanks Brian,

      You are always so much more eloquent than I in these circumstances. I think the whole range of human emotions is very often ignored by us as we often pull of happy affect, or “good” behavior. The separation and individuation people understood this, that walking away from mom is exciting but also scary, and that freedom and separation brings with it the need to be able to take care of yourself even when you are hurt or sad. I have heard Dr. Greenspan say often that it is our fear of the child’s reaction that keeps us from pushing the children, whether it is our own children or the children with whose care we have been entrusted by their parents. I learned, at least partially from you, that to be fully human you need the full range of human emotion and expression.

      • Brian Abrams February 7, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

        Sounds mighty eloquent to me. And thanks for the kind comments.

        I agree wholeheartedly–and, as a therapist, I don’t feel right accepting payment for services when I’m not being my fully human self with my clients, who are also fully human. Were our clients robots, and their developmental processes robotic, it would fine to provide automaton-like therapeutic facilitation. But our clients need us to work with them as people, and as who we uniquely are, to hang in there with them and do the hard work with them. No prescriptive formula–not even the most complex “decision tree” can compare with the depth and power of the human being-with. This is not to say that therapeutic research, theory, models, and techniques don’t serve our endeavors. Quite the opposite–if these constructs live through our total humanity with our clients, they empower our work. But when they don’t, they are reductionistic, artificial, and obstructive, and sell our clients (and ourselves) short.

        Again, thank you for this post and this important blog.


  1. 50 Best Child Psychology Blogs - August 10, 2010

    […] Dr. Gil Tippy’s Child Development Blog: Dr. Tippy blogs about autism, ASD, DIR, floortime and relationships. Recommended Posts: Gil Tippy Speaks About Individual Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Dr. Gil Tippy Answers a Question About Not Controlling Contingencies in Autism Interventions […]

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