What I Learned From Our Daughter With Autism During COVID-19
While being at home with our 5-year old daughter with Autism has been incredibly challenging for the last few months, I can say with total conviction that she has taught me a few things that I am leveraging now more than ever in my work life:
1. Presence is Everything: People around you see what you are doing, they pick up on your emotions and it truly affects them. My daughter can tell when I am stressed when I am concerned when I am happy or excited. She points it out to me all the time (in her way). It's more clear to me now than ever before that my presence has a big impact on the people around me so I must be mindful at all times.
2. Don't Sweat the Little Things: Part of the struggle for our daughter is that very minor deviations from her "routine" can have a massive impact on her mood/behavior. I find myself constantly looking for ways to help her cope with "changes" to her routine and environment. In doing all this it's made me realize that I need to more consistently encourage our team members not to "sweat the small stuff."
3. Lack of Understanding Breeds Frustration: When our daughter can't do a task she is fixated on, she gets extremely upset. Watching her try to assemble a toy yesterday was really challenging and frankly, painful to watch. It made me think though...how frustrating must it be for a team member of ours to accomplish a goal they've been challenged to complete if they aren't properly trained? We need to step back from time to time and ask ourselves "have we truly set our people up for success?"
4. Praise is Important: I don't care if you are five or 75, praise is important. Seeing our daughter light up when I praise her time and time again brings me so much joy. You can never provide too much praise and encouragement to your team. Build "praise" into your daily schedule and be disciplined about providing it to your team. It means a lot more to them than money.
5. Show Up 100%: Our daughter loves to give me grief when I am not fully engaged in an activity we are doing together. Like many of you, I work extremely long hours each and every day. I'm not forced to do it, I do it because I love what I do and the people I do it with. That said, I am oftentimes exhausted when I am ready to shift my attention to our daughter. Guess what....she KNOWS IT! She can quickly sense when she is only getting 20% of me vs. the full 100%. If you aren't going to bring 100% of you to each and every activity you might as well not show up at all.
6. Keep Your Word: If I had a dollar for every time something was "promised" to me but didn't actually happen I would be set for life. Each time you give your word and you don't follow through you diminish your credibility and your personal brand. My daughter never fails to remember when I promise her something and she always holds me to it. Do you need someone to hold you accountable to your promises, or do you hold yourself accountable? I've learned that while I hold myself accountable 99% of the time, that 1% of the time that I don't can be really damaging.
By Jason Himber, June 2020 - Los Angeles, CA