It’s nearly the school summer holidays here in the UK, which means that once again I’m snowed under with demand and I’m likely to receive dozens of emails requesting SSP throughout the school holidays.
When is the best time to do the Safe and Sound Protocol? You may have figured this out – when you have time and when you have a low-demand period.
I should have written this post about two months ago…
Before the school holidays, June and July are very useful to listen to the SSP Connect programme – a programme of unfiltered music, designed as a “dress rehearsal” for the SSP Core. This allows parents to work out how SSP Core is going to fit into their daily routine, whether listening with headphones suits a child as well as what activity the child likes to do while listening. The other point to spending plenty of time doing SSP Connect is that it allows a person to become acquainted with the SSP playlists – knowing what to expect helps us feel safe, which means that we are laying the foundations for success with the SSP.
So what is the best time for children to do SSP Core?
Summer holidays are fantastic – but ONLY if you have spent plenty of time on SSP Connect first. SSP Core cannot be rushed, and it should not be squeezed in – either with a stretched practitioner, or with a family who is busy rushing around during the holidays.
I would steer clear of the first half term of the school year, too – especially if your child has just started at a new school. If you are keen to get your child to do SSP at this point, perhaps consider SSP for yourself FIRST. For example, a client of mine insisted on her child doing SSP last October, and then complained that she (the mother) hadn’t noticed anything. Read this paragraph through again, and read the highlighted phrases, and feel free to read between the lines with your polyvagal theory hat on – by which I mean that we need to create a SAFE environment before we work with the Safe and Sound Protocol.
I also think it’s worth mentioning that I’ve recently had a flurry of enquiries from autism parents, who would like to “fix” their children and are also using ABA therapy to do so. When I’ve explained that ABA therapy is not compatible with SSP, first of all I notice that parents try to justify their choice, and then they disappear – presumably to work with someone less discriminate about who they work with – as in, those advertising the Safe and Sound Protocol as a treatment/therapy for autism – as opposed to the Safe and Sound Protocol as a trauma therapy for autistics who have been traumatised by being made to fit into a neurotypical world. ABA parents would be well advised to go through the Safe and Sound Protocol, because by choosing an ABA route to get their children to fit in, they are showing their own trauma.
Christmas holidays are an appalling time to engage with the Safe and Sound Protocol. Unless you and your family are planning to have a zero-demand Christmas with no parties, visits, visitors or special outings, Christmas (and similarly exciting cultural festivals at around the same time) place too many demands on a child.
Half term holidays can be a useful time, depending on the child, particularly if there is a two-week half term in autumn. Squeezing listening into a week simply is not advisable, though, particularly if your child tends towards the “fight” side of fight/flight.
My best advice is to plan ahead. Think in terms of when your child’s low demand periods are likely to be. Secure a practitioner a month or so before you intend to start SSP Core, because otherwise you’ll find that all the most experienced practitioners are too busy to take your child on.
We cannot take infinite clients at the same time – practitioners need knowledge and experience to guide you through the SSP, and we need to ensure we are keeping you safe by checking in every day and knowing exactly where you are on your journey in order to anticipate and mitigate any reactions. Additionally, we need to manage the dynamics of working with a number of different nervous systems remotely, which takes a lot of planning and understanding of how the programme works.
So please, if you are interested in the Safe and Sound Protocol, please try and plan – for your sake, your child’s sake and for the sake of finding a synergistic practitioner to work with.