A new book by Donna Laitinen, a Kingston behavior change specialist, recommends that families with a child on the autism spectrum shift their focus from the child’s behavior to the parents’ expectations and conduct.
“The parents are the ones who have the most influence on the child,” Laitinen said. In her work with families, she tries to influence the parents to form a better connection with their children. “Not to try to fix them,” she said, “as if they’re broken.”
Laitinen said her book, “The Highest Frequencies of Love,” based on her experience working with families as “a positivity mind-set coach,” was written to help parents “become their best selves” in their relationship with a family member on the autism spectrum.
She encourages families to ask, “How can these kids illuminate their gifts?”
The answer, said Laitinen, is to lead by example. Her book helps parents “to be the best version of themselves, so that their children have permission to be the best version of themselves.”
The problem with the conventional approaches to raising children on the autism spectrum, she said, is that they are generally focused on the child and not on the parent. “Since the parents are the most influential person in their child’s life, we need to focus more on them and their approach to their autistic child.”
To become that “best version of themselves,” Laitinen said, “they must become masters of their minds and emotions with forgiveness and self-love.”
For example, she said, a child on the spectrum may become anxious about meeting someone new or doing something that is out of their comfort zone. Employing behavior change techniques, Laitinen teaches parents how to reduce stress by visualizing things going smoothly. She urges them to create a mental picture “like a motion picture on the screen of your mind” of how they wish the change to go the next day.
“The thoughts and energy you go to bed with are the thoughts and energy you awake in,” Laitinen said. “If you go to bed worried, stressed, making up negative scenarios in your mind, you will wake up in that exhausted, depleted worried state. If you go to bed with positive thoughts and expecting things to go your way,” she said, parent and child will wake up better equipped mentally and emotionally for a successful day.
Laitinen said that she wrote her book in order to take its message “out into the world.”
“How do we love others more during a challenging time with people who are hard to love?” she asked. “It begins with ourselves.”
Laitinen grew up in Dedham and lives in Kingston with her husband and a blended family of eight children. After studying to become a paralegal, her life took a different direction. “I have been on this journey,” she said, “all the stepping stones to this place where I am now.” The steps include being a YMCA physical fitness trainer working with “special populations such as cancer survivors.”
Laitinen also works with clients to change their behavior in a more positive direction on a one-on-one basis through her own business, Evoke Change Center, for which she is seeking nonprofit status.
The author said the title “The Highest Frequencies of Love,” refers to the aspiration to “raise our vibration, our energy” to its most positive state.
“If someone is having a tough day, you can feel it in how they walk,” Laitinen said. “We’re on autopilot, not tuned into our own energy as much as we can be. The idea is helping people recognize that every thought becomes a feeling and is reacted to as anxiety and stress. We react as a direct result. Every word from people we speak to lifts us up or diminishes us.”
Recycling the negative energy “keeps us stuck,” she said. Having compassion for yourself “changes our habits of the way we’re thinking and acting to a higher level. So you have this freedom to choose, to think. … It’s literally bringing us to a place of higher frequency.”
Laitinen, who recently gave a presentation on her work at the Umphanda Foundation for Autism in South Africa, will be considerably closer to home when she appears at the fourth annual South Shore Conference for Women Oct. 27 at the Quincy Marriot. For tickets and more information, visit sheslocal.org/south-shore.
Robert Knox can be reached at email@example.com.