By Christina Hovatter
At Urban Autism Solutions, our clients begin the week with what we call "soft-start." This is when our staff and residents gather at the kitchen table for self-reflection. For us, it allows everyone to get in touch with their feelings and communicate what they're struggling with or what they're celebrating. We find that when we have a better understanding of what everyone is going through, we generally work better together.
Many people are experiencing a dramatic shift in their routine, but a soft-start "meeting" can help you and your family, maybe even your roommates, build a harmonious shared living space. I want to pass on a guide, which can be altered based on your needs and those around you, and some helpful tips I've learned along the way. In doing so, I hope our normal will help you adjust to your new normal.
Here's how to conduct your own soft-start meeting with five easy steps:
#1 Listen to a guided meditation
When listening to a guided meditation, no one in the room is reposnsible for leading others, and that's important. The purpose of the guided meditation is to put everyone at ease, everyone is equal, and everyone is here to relax and reflect. Our residents thrive off of consistency, so we listen to Jade Alexis on Aaptiv each week. The episode is called "Peace and Ease."
#2 Recap the weekend
After meditation, everyone has a sense of openness, and from what I've seen, a deep sense of empathy. At this time, we go around one by one and talk about any challenges we experienced over the weekend (sometimes there aren't any, and that's fine too.) Normally, however, there's usually something to say. Utilize this time to be open and honest and to empathize with others.
#3 Review plans for the week ahead
This is the time everyone goes around the table to discuss their to-do's for the week. For us, this is when we decide what arrangements we need to make as a team to accomodate someone else's schedule or set resonable expecatations.
#4 Health check-in
We go around the table and allow everyone the opportunity to express how they are feeling emotionally or physically. From there, we take neccssary steps to ensure everyone feels healthy and safe.
#5 Family and friends check-in
Family and friends are an intergral part of our daily lives. During a time where contact is limited with these people, it's important to talk about it.
There are a few things to consider for a successful soft-start meeting. The first is to pick a day and time that your group can meet each week. Consistency is key. The second is that only one person should be talking. However, it's okay to step in to calm someone down if necessary. The third element to a successful soft-start is empathy. The way someone else defines a problem may not be the way you define a problem. Your job here is to listen, not to judge.
Use this guide and these tips to generate a living space of harmony and empathy during this rapidly-changing time.