Monday, November 23, 2009

Life is Therapy--How to Get Started

New to the Life is Therapy series? Here's a quick blurb to tell you what it's about:

Sometimes we parents can get bogged down in the notion that the teaching of our children must be done by professionals. Parents of children with special needs are particularly vulnerable to this idea since children with special needs often have to learn and develop quite differently than children with typical needs. This series centers around the idea that learning can and does occur most effectively through everyday life experiences at home and out in the community--for children with both typical and special needs.

It occurred to me that there may be some people reading this series that may be very much like me and have difficulty with spontaneity and just plain old playing. You can see from my examples how the different things we do work on specific goals that a child needs to accomplish but you don't really know how to apply it to your situation or the things your child needs to work on. You need to be told exactly what to do and exactly how to get started. Don't worry! I get you. I AM you.

The very reason I created this series was to get some interaction and sharing of ideas going. If you have a specific situation or question that you'd like to see addressed, leave a comment with your question. I will answer--maybe even do a whole post about it--and others can see your question and answer too. You will be amazed at how other people's ideas and similiar situations will light a spark in your brain.

First things first. How do you get your kiddo to play the way you want them to so you can work on those goals that you and/or kiddo's teacher or therapists have set for said kiddo?

I have mentioned before the work of Dr. James D. MacDonald. He teaches you how to become your child's Communicating Partner. One of the most basic yet powerful things that I have learned from Dr. MacDonald is that you must first enter your child's world before you can expect him to engage you in yours. The world of children is fun and playful and imaginative not full of rules and set ways of behaving like the world of adults.

So, the very first thing you must do to get your child working on your agenda is to put your agenda aside for a moment. I know that seems counterproductive but I promise you that if you do it, you will wonder why you never tried it before.

Pay close attention to your child and how he/she plays. What is he/she interested in? What is he/she doing? Don't worry about whether he/she is doing whatever it is right. Whatever he/she is doing (that is socially acceptable behavior) is right. That's where you start.

Here's a short video that illustrates the difference between putting forth your agenda and joining your child in his chosen activity.

My agenda here was a pretty simple one. Jack needs to work on interacting with others more and doing more of a give and take kind of thing. I wanted him to splash with me.

Did you notice how I started out not paying attention to what Jack was doing and trying to get him to do what I wanted? It did not matter how many things I threw in that tub or how animated I was in saying "Splash!" Jack did not care what I was doing. If you think about it, he was actually copying my behavior. I did not seem to care what he was doing so he did not care what I was doing.

Jack was spinning Irish in the tub. Once I started singing about spinning, I had Jack's attention. Notice how he perked up? He then told me what to sing and then sang along with me.

Once I had his attention and said, "Splash!" he enjoyed splashing for a brief period*.

*Now let me say that I would have been able to hold Jack's attention a lot longer if I had been physically interactive as well as verbally interactive but I knew the camera was rolling and I was feeling like a bloated whale with stringy hair having a bad body image day and did not wish to be on camera.  

I entered Jack's world of spinning Irish and then showed him a next step of singing about it. He followed right along with me.

Other Life is Therapy Posts can be found at:
Introductory Post
Prepositions at the Park
Rainy Days

Now it's your turn to participate. This is where we share our ideas and stories with one another. We're all in this together. Let's laugh together, motivate one another, and stimulate each others ideas. If you have a blog, create your own "life is therapy" post and link to the specific post in the Mr. Linky below. If you don't have a blog just leave a comment with your life is therapy story.


Melissa aka Equidae said...

mine loves going up stairs whenevr he goes we count tthem :)

mommytoalot said...

Fantastic. Love the way you got him to splash by singing his song.

Momisodes said...

It's amazing how attuned you are. I often forget to look through the eyes of my toddler at times.

Marie said...

Melissa--great idea. That's a great way to work in a little learning fun during an everyday activity.
Mommytoalot and Momisodes--Oh thank you so much but I’m pretty clueless a lot of the time.
Life is a lot more fun though when I try to join him right where he is.
Watching videos of us interacting really makes me see what I missed. I watched a video the other day of him when he was completely non-verbal and had just started to take off with his walking. It completely broke my heart. In the video he was very obviously (to me now) saying up up up. He wanted to reach up and look in the window. He wanted up on the swing. He wanted to stand up on the swing and reach the canopy. Back then I was so focused on what he wasn’t doing yet and so worried about when and if he would ever catch up that I completely missed what he was doing. If I’d known then what I do now there’s no telling how much faster he would have begun reciprocally communicating. Makes me sad for the little guy that was and I’m trying really hard to make it up to the quickly growing little guy that is. :)

Rachel said...

Great post! It's really interesting to watch kids go from not interacting while playing to interacting while playing. It's almost like they are born completely in their own world, and slowly but surely see that others are worth interacting with too.

I linked in a post that doesn't really talk about the therapy side of it, so I will explain how it applies:

Trying to get kids to trust you in new situations is really hard - especially with Ali, because she is so timid to new things. My post is about one that went bad, and one that went good. I think one of the main reasons the second one went well was because she got to watch me do all of the same things first. I'm not sure that would have worked in the first situation, but I'll definitely try it next time!

Marie said...

Rachel, I'm glad you linked that post. Modeling is an excellent way to help our kiddos to be willing to try things. They see that we do it and they trust us. It's the reason kids learn so much (good and bad) from each other.

Run DMT said...

This is a wonderful series! Good for you for encouraging others to think creatively to meet your child's needs!