The stimulus belief response is a key tenet of the Son-Rise program (more info about Son-Rise here: https://autismtreatmentcenter.org/). When my son was about 5, I attended my first training to learn how to implement the Son-Rise program at home. (It is hard to believe it was 10 years ago now!) At the end of that week of training, I returned home with a new outlook on life. I looked at my son quite differently now. I spent the next five years running a full-time Son-Rise program in our home. Running this program made a huge impact on my son and my entire family.
While I no longer run a formal Son-Rise program for my son, I still use many things I learned from the experience. The most important thing I learned is understanding how powerfully my attitudes and beliefs shape my life. My attitude determines my level of happiness. What does that have to do with raising a child? Let me explain! Son-Rise teaches hands-on techniques for helping our children with social connection and communication. However, all of them are built on the foundational belief that our attitude while spending time with our kids is our most important tool.
For example, if we as parents (or professionals) are feeling scared, depressed, anxious, etc., while we are trying to help our kids learn new skills, we are not going to get nearly as far as if we are feeling calm, confident, happy, and hopeful. The general idea is that HOW we do something is just as important, if not more so, than WHAT we are doing. It’s about the journey, not just the destination. We have more control over what that journey looks like than we often think. We may not be able to control the curves life throws at us, but we can control how we respond to them. How? Stay tuned for my next post to find out more!
Last week, I shared a post about how my experiences with the Son-Rise Program have impacted my ability to choose how I respond to life’s circumstances and take control of my own attitudes, especially in relation to my son. Today, I want to share the specific concept from the Son-Rise program that has helped me do that: The Stimulus Belief Response model (SBR for short). SBR is basically a theory about how we respond to things happening around us. Before I delve into the specifics of SBR, however, I want to take a moment to explore the more common way that people tend to react to situations, which Son Rise calls the Stimulus-Response (SR) model.
In a Stimulus-Response mode of operation, we believe that the stimulus is in charge of our reactions. For example, if a tree falls on your house, most people will be devastated, angry, frustrated, etc. If you ask them why they feel that way, they will likely respond, “because a tree fell on my house.” They maybe even look at you like you’re a little puzzled for asking that question because they can’t imagine any other way someone would feel in this situation.
The problem with this approach is that it gives the power of one’s feelings and attitudes to a stimulus. In this case, the power is given to the tree. Believing that the tree can control your response leads to a lifetime feeling that you have no control. This is scary. This same idea can be applied to parenting a child because there is no end to surprising and challenging hurdles. If you approach each challenge or hurdle with the SR model, believing that the stimulus controls your happiness. It drains your strength. You get worn down like a soft rock on the beach, getting hit with waves. Eventually, you’ll feel like you have nothing left.
The Stimulus Belief Response
Alternatively, in a Stimulus-Belief-Response approach (SBR), you can have the same stimulus of a tree falling on your house. However, you stop and realize that your BELIEF about the tree leads to your response. This is much different than thinking that the tree is proof that the world is out to get you.
The idea with SBR is to realize that your belief about the tree situation will determine your response. One person might see the tree fall on their house and feel angry. However, another might feel grateful that no one was hurt. Another person might feel happy because they hated their house. Or that now the insurance company will pay for a new one.
People having different responses to the same challenging event shows us that a person’s response is not determined not by the event. Our beliefs determine what that stimulus means for them. From the SBR perspective, just like the tree, other stimuli, like a new diagnosis or an IEP meeting with your child’s school, cannot control your response either. Between the stimulus and the response lie your beliefs, where your power to choose comes into play.