Frequently Asked Questions:
How Often Should I do The Social Diet?
As with any new habit you are trying to adopt I suggest starting out slowly but steadily. At first you just want to get your feet wet. Once you feel comfortable you will want to do more. You want to set yourself up for success so choose an amount of time that is doable initially. I recommend you only do 10 minutes a day for 5 days during your first two weeks. On week three try to build up to 20 minutes a day for 5 days. Try that on for size and see how you do. About week six try and go for 30 minutes a day for 5 days. Once you feel comfortable with that, build up to an hour or more a day five times a week. You are building your muscles here. One it becomes part of your routine, you will be doing it without even realizing it.
What if we miss a day or two or even a week?
Don’t worry about it. In life things get in the way and we can’t always get to everything we need to do. Just don’t give up. Pick it back up in a day or two. Just know that results do vary. Each family is different. However the more committed you are, the faster and better results you will have.
Can any child on the Autism Spectrum make progress when on The Social Diet?
Yes, for sure. Even if your child is considered to be low functioning you and your child will make gains from the diet. What I do know is that every child on the Spectrum is capable of having deeper connections with others. I’ve seen some families with low functioning children improve more in the social arena than some of their higher functioning counterparts. There are many factors to consider and like I mentioned before, I can not predict how far your child will go with The Social Diet. One thing I know for sure. If we do not embed the social piece into our children’s daily lives in a big way, they have little chance of ever being proficient at it. The more your child understands and participates in his social world, and the more you are a part of making this happen, the further your child will go.
What about if my child is non-verbal? Can The Social Diet still work for us?
Yes, definitely. In fact I have found that spoken language can actually hinder social connections. It may surprise you but only 15% of communication is verbal. The other 85% is non-verbal (body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, physical environment, the context) and the list goes on. What this means is that even the children who are strong verbally are lacking the other 85% of communication. Without a foundation in non-verbal behavior a child will not be able to partake in the natural flow of back and forth communication. So teaching those non-verbals is where we put a lot of our emphasis initially. I do a lot of initial work in The Social Diet teaching parents how to communicate with their children without using words. Words can act as a crutch. When we take the words away, it forces the child to have to pick up important contextual information that they will need to figure out if they are ever going to be an appropriate social partner. So, although it might seem counterintuitive, those children who are non-verbal may make more initial progress with The Social Diet than their verbal counterparts.
Do both parents need to participate?
No, they don’t. However, I believe our child will benefit more if both parents participate in The Social Diet. Remember, The Social Diet requires that you change the way you behave and communicate with your child. It is best if both parents learn to do that in a similar fashion so that your styles match one another. There is more opportunity for to consistency this way. Also if you both do it your child gets more exposure and practice doing the diet. If only the Mom participates then your child only gets to practice this way of communicating and behaving when she is present. Ideally we would want both parents to have the education your need to do The Social Diet. It would be the ideal situation if both parents, child care workers, grandparents and any other adult who spends time with your child learn how to do The Social Diet.
Again, this is situation above is ideal. But many of us are not privy to that kind of family support. So to answer the question, “Do both parents need to participate?” Ideally the answer is “Yes” but realistically the answer can be “No.” A lot of times it is only one parent or a single parent who is available to put the commitment and time into learning how to do The Social Diet. Rest assured that you and your child will still benefit. It is much better to be doing The Social Diet some of the time, then none of the time. So even if your child can only learn from one person, this still can make significant differences. A lion share of my cliental is only working with one parent. That is just the reality of family life these days.
Is The Social Diet Solely a Home-Based Approach?
No, I don’t believe it is. Practicing The Social Diet at home is easier because you don’t have the restraints of a classroom, but ideally The Social Diet can be taught in any setting. With the proper mindset and support I think anyone can provide a more socially-based learning environment including schools.
Is The Social Diet just for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
No it isn’t. I think of The Social Diet when I think of autism only because most everyone in this population struggles with social relationships in one way or another. There are however a number of other populations, with or without diagnosis that need help navigating and participating in the social world. I use The Social Diet with my 11 year old daughter or with any child in general. By practicing The Social Diet our neurotypical children can learn why we adults think and act like we do. It gives them a better understanding of empathy, perspective taking, and collaboration just to name a few.