Updated: Dec 8, 2022
We have all done it in some form or another during our time on this earth and it’s completely natural and ingrained in us to keep us safe, but unfortunately, this once life saving adaptation has taken control of our subconscious and most of us now flinch at just the thought of doing anything uncomfortable.
I was first exposed to the concept of “the flinch” a fair while ago after reading a book, funnily enough, called “The Flinch” and after reading and digesting the information I started to take action in catching the flinch, and overriding it by choice.
This wasn’t always fun, but I did it to open myself up to new possibilities and opportunities that would otherwise never have happened.
“The concept is straightforward: your flinch mechanism has the potential to save your life. It bypasses the conscious mind, allowing you to back up and avoid danger faster than you can imagine it exists.
What if, on the other hand, danger is exactly what you require?
What if facing your fears is the only way to achieve your goals?” The Flinch book
Now that I work exclusively with children, one of my goals is to help them safely step out of their comfort zone and try new things they usually wouldn’t; things that make them flinch. Especially because with ASD kids in particular, they tend to be more ‘techy’ and indoors often, less physically capable than neuro-typical kids, experiencing sensory and textural sensitivities, with more anxiety and discomfort around getting in among natural environments outdoors.
Some of the activities in sessions and at camps have included walking barefoot through mud, climbing in a tree higher than before, jumping in cold water, playing in the rain, and even picking up hermit crabs.
To many these activities may seem insignificant, but to a child who isn’t used to being outside playing in nature they’re a big deal!
Helping children overcome the flinch is not always straightforward and easy and can often be a process that takes time. An example of this would be climbing trees. If a child has an obvious fear around this I don’t take them to the tallest tree and expect them to climb right up, we start off at the lowest level and get them comfortable with that. It might even be a really low branch, barely off the ground, if that’s where they need to start.
When they start I ask them questions about what they are feeling, how they are feeling and even where they are feeling it in their body. This is so they can express in as much detail as possible what emotions and sensations are going on at the time, to connect to those feelings and not try to push them down or ignore them. They also like being heard and interested in by their coach.
I then ask them if they’d like to go a little higher. Sometimes the answer is a flat-out “no”, other times the answer is a hesitant “yes”. If the answer is no, I invite them to take two or three more steps higher and again stop, then repeat the process over and over until it gets too much for them and we need to stop climbing.
One of the biggest things I’ve noticed while working with ASD children is they tend to overthink things and, in fact, I can often see them obviously processing the information as they climb, their brain working overtime, which can lead to anxiety and getting ‘the wobbles’. When this happens, I slow them down a little and remind them their brain is trying to keep them safe, that it’s currently over reacting, I then get them to verbally thank their brain for keeping them safe and “I’ve got this”.
If that doesn’t help them I take it to the next level and suggest they tell their brain to “shut up” or “be quiet” (if “shut up” is considered as swearing to them, which I’ve discovered is the case for some kids!). This little break in their thinking is usually enough to allow them to keep going.
Just after having successfully defeated the flinch is an important time to reinforce the belief I have in them and in their abilities as well as the belief they should have in themselves, and also to remind them that getting better at something they find challenging is possible and a little bit of discomfort and noise from our brain are often the only things getting in our way.
This is a little insight into one of the elements of Private Kids Coaching sessions, and the main reason I’m able to take the children through this process is due to the trust and bond we create during our time together each week. My unique and fun style of coaching really helps children feel safe and comfortable with me and be open to trying new and highly beneficial experiences. Beneficial to both their emotional and physical health – a role I’m privileged and grateful to have.
I hope this information and our perspectives and experiences help you and your family on your journey to better health and happiness! Please get in touch if you have any questions.
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