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How To Connect With An Autistic Child

Armen Hareyan's picture

For fathers coming home from work and find it impossible to connect with their autistic child, it can typically be the straw that breaks the family's back. Now an autism expert and parent shares tips of how to develop affection in autistic children.

Where most children will greet Daddy with a hug or a smile, many autistic children aren’t capable of the normal affectionate interactions that keep a family intact. As Dad walks in, his son is busy lining up his toys or engrossed in the spinning wheels of an overturned toy truck. Dad calls his name over and over in hopes of those bright eyes and wide mouth to come running to him with open arms, but to no avail. He even gets down on his knees in a desperate attempt for some eye contact, but his son turns away and even pushes off his father's touch with disturbing grunts.

Emerson B. Donnell III lived that experience every day, decided to do something about it, and his research and experience has delivered results that no one could ever have thought possible. Specific strategies designed to elicit proper emotion have blossomed back into true affection. Today, Donnell’s son will greet him at the door with hugs, kisses and an engaging smile. The strategies to bring their world together has also helped his son's speech increase exponentially.

Donnell, author of Dads And Autism, Learn How To Stay In The Game from Altruist Publishing (www.dadsandautism.com) said that without the proper tools, developing a loving connection can be a monumental if not seemingly impossible task. But getting that toe hold is the seed towards healing not only the child, but the family as a whole.

“One of the greatest disappointments about children with autism is their inability to connect with other people,” Donnell said. “This is especially heartbreaking for the parent child relationship. Parents yearn to reach their child who is right in front of them, yet they have no idea how to go about it. Parents confronted with autism experience grief and loneliness at their inability to connect with their child and it can tear a marriage apart at frightening speed. As a matter of fact it's probably the greatest contributing factor to why dads leave and the widely accepted 80% divorce rate.”

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Donnell’s approach combines strategies and tactics from a variety of proven sources, meshed with his own personal experiences. The result is a systematic program that enables fathers (and mothers) to bond and develop affection in their autistic child with specific tactics and strategies that can be exercised in the comfort of their homes.

“The new therapy that I’ve applied is called Applied Affectionate Behavior Analysis (AABA),” he said. “I have also coined the term Discrete Affectionate Trials (DATs). These are specific exercises designed to elicit and develop proper emotion and affection in autistic children.”

The use of these therapies and understanding how to modify typical autistic behaviors opens up a whole new world for parents to connect with their autistic children. "These very things that can return a loving family dynamic and keep the marriage together." Donnell added.

“Imagine being given tools to help their children develop proper greetings, goodbye's, hugs, kisses and playful interaction? What if you could curb them of dangerous habits like bolting or the deaf run? Imagine being able to make your presence, your voice, and your face relevant to your child."

Autism need not be a prison sentence for your child, or for your family, Donnell added.

"I can say with all certainty that if it wasn't for the specific I use at home, my son would still be a distant eyed stranger in my house,” he said. “Developing these tactics have not only saved my son, but very possibly my marriage. As a result of this success and catharsis in my son's behavior, I am so compelled to share these strategies. They may salvage so many other marriages by helping break the dull shell of autism to bring their bright, loving and affectionate children out and into their parent's arms."

Written by Emerson Donnell who holds a BS in Business Management from Rutgers University. The 45-year-old father and husband is a banker by trade, and he has been married for 9 years to his wife Jennifer. His autistic son Emerson IV is now four years old.



Although I assume that Donnell is well-meaning, an undergraduate degree in buisness management simply does not equip sufficient scientific and statistical understanding to conduct real research. The "coining" of a term Discrete Affectionate Trials exemplifies to anybody with even basic psychological understanding that this man doesn't know how to conduct science. He doesn't understand what a trial is. Although they may be well-meaning, claims of "research", and development of therapeutic family intervention with absolutely no real empirical evidence is irresponsible. Unfortuantely, anybody can write a book, and be revered as an expert.
I too have to agree with this comment. Whilst reading this article I was under the impression that this man had some psychology or therapy based background and although the book may well be of help to people I was rather dismayed to fine out that he is not in fact qualified in any manner. Yes his approaches worked for his child but this article gives the impression to me that theories were practiced with several artistic children. So although yes this man's ideas and approaches have worked with his son I think it should be made clear from the word go that if is co unqualified parent who tried something with his particular artistic son that happen to work for them .
If this book has any potential to bring out affections in autistic children, then it should be shared publicly or at least a portion of it through FB or youtube. Otherwise it sounds like another book written simple to make money from parents trying to connect with their child. I have an 11 year old classically autistic son, speaks in unclear simple one to six word sentences. He pushed affection away as a small child but eventually accepted it and occasionally seeks it. This was achieved through love and never giving up and through his on inner needs for affection.