Slowing Down to Speed Up
By: Erin Roon, MA CCC-SLP
Why does it seem that everything has to be done at warp speed these days? Everyone is in a rush to get where they are going and to do what needs to be done. It seems the older a person gets, the faster the years fly by. Is it because we get so busy and are in such a hurry that we miss whole periods of time, caught up in meaningless tasks? Why, when we were children, did it seem like there was so much time and it went so slowly? Think back to when you were a child, and summer vacation seemed to stretch on forever. Was that because our lives weren’t packed with things to do from the time we got up until the time we went to bed? Was it because we had the whole day just to play, have fun, and be creative? No schedules, no responsibilities, no worries all seem to have played a part in the “time” we then had.
In a previous article I wrote about slowing down to assist in processing communication; but in this article I want to talk about the broader concept of slowing down our lives in general. I will admit right from the start I am guilty of being one of those fast paced people that needs to take some of my own advice, and slow down. I have been working on this very hard over the past few months, and feel like I have made some progress; but it has been difficult. When you find yourself thinking, “I can’t even sit and watch a 30 minute TV show without doing something else at the same time,” you need to stop and assess the pace of your life.
I know we are all busy, and there is so much to be done every day; but sometimes the key to speeding up and getting things done is to slow down. So many parents tell me that they find themselves running here, there, and everywhere transporting their children to any number of sporting events, therapies, hobbies and other outings that they feel like they live in their car. How can this be a healthy way to function; and what kind of relationships are we establishing by rushing around all the time?
In thinking about this e-zine article, I decided I would just take a minute and Google the concept of slowing down. Wow, was I amazed at all the things that I found! So if there is a movement out there to slow our lives down, why have I not heard of it? I actually found two websites where I spent a period of time looking at and reading the content. All of what was said made a lot of sense to me. One of the best things I found there was the idea that by slowing down we can actually improve our communication and relationships with other people. By taking the time to stop and actually listen, we can have such a deeper level of understanding with the other person, and possibly establish a great bond with that person. I know that when I am in a hurry or have many things on my mind, I don’t do a very good job of communicating with others or giving my all to the relationship. Usually what happens in these instances is that I listen just enough to answer when it is my turn; and when the conversation is over it is out of my head. I have noticed that when I slow down and give my full attention to the conversation, I have a much easier time recalling what was discussed and leave the interaction feeling like a true connection was made.
Many children with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with communication, social exchanges, and building relationships with others. They also struggle with the ability to appraise situations, and be flexible. When we think about this in relation to our fast paced world, is it any wonder people with autism spectrum disorders struggle with those areas? It’s like they were wired for optimal performance at a slower pace, but find themselves in the whirlwind that is our current society.
So, what if we tried slowing down to speed up? What if when we were engaging, or guiding our children with autism spectrum disorders, for example we slowed down and allowed for thinking time? Amazing things start to happen when the pace slows. I have had this experience time and again. The child who was disregulated and not connected suddenly begins to regulate and connect with you just by virtue of the fact that you slowed things down enough so that s/he could process what was happening. So if this can happen during planned activities, what would happen if we made a concerted effort to slow down the pace of our entire life?
I can tell you what I have seen happen with the families I work with who do make an effort to slow down their lives. Their children begin to establish meaningful bonded relationships with their parents and significant others in their world. They begin communicating to share experiences and make new discoveries. They discover new ways to see the world and become more flexible. The great thing is that this doesn’t only happen for children with an autism spectrum disorder; but we all expand our horizons and speed up new discoveries when we take time to slow down, and really process our world.