During dinner tonight, Cameron (my 6 yr old with Autism) began to explain that he did bad things yesterday because his brain told him too. His brain gave him the bad ideas and he had to listen to his brain and so that is why he did those things.
It was at this point that I decided to introduce Cameron to his heart.
Thought vs Feeling
I explained to Cameron that his brain will always want to do things… some things that are good, some things that are bad. That’s because the brain doesn’t know what is right or wrong. The brain just gives you thoughts and ideas.
I told him that there’s another voice inside him that makes him feel if something is right or wrong. It doesn’t make him want to do anything but it does tell him if what he’s doing is good or bad… right or wrong.
Cameron: “How do you listen to your heart?”
Me: “Well, it doesn’t really speak to you… it makes you feel.”
Cameron: “Feel what?”
Me: “If your brain tells you to go and play instead of eating your supper… your heart makes you feel good or bad about that. Your heart is what makes you feel if something is a good thing to do or a bad thing to do.”
Me: “Does your heart tell you it’s good or bad if you don’t eat supper?”
Me: “So even though your brain wants to go and play, your heart knows that you should stay and eat, right?”
Cameron: “I should stay and eat! I should listen to my heart!”
Cameron: “So I have to make my heart tell my brain?”
Me: “No. Your brain tells you what it wants to do and your heart tells you if it’s a good thing or bad thing. Then it’s up to you to decide if you want to do it.”
Cameron: “I decide?”
Me: “Yes. Do you remember when mom would give you two shirts to choose from when you got dressed in the morning? She’d ask you ‘Do you want this shirt, or this shirt?’ and you got to pick which one you wanted?”
Me: “Well, your brain will want to do things and your heart will make you feel good or bad about it… then you get to decide ‘Do I do it or do I not do it?’”
Cameron: “I get to decide?”
Me: “Yes. That’s why you should always listen to your heart.”
I finished eating first but a short time later, Cameron left the kitchen table with a huge smile, went straight to his mom and said “Mom, guess what!? I finished all of my supper because I listened to my heart!”
He was so proud.
A little while later his little brother was getting into a little bit of trouble, so Cameron pulled him aside and said “Tyler, you have to listen to your heart! Then you won’t get in trouble!”
This isn’t the first time that he’s explained to us how his brain thinks up the bad things and he just has to do them. But until now, I really had no way to handle that sort of thing. A 5 year old with obvious language/understanding deficits can only be reasoned with so much.
But now…. he’s such a proud 6 year old. Still with deficits, yet wise beyond his years… and so very bright.
I have complete faith that, even though he’ll still get into trouble like any boy should…. he’ll never forget how important it is to listen to his heart.