Working with Pamela feels like peeling back the layers of an onion sometimes. Last month, we agreed with our consultant to continue working on expressive gestures as a long-term project and to start working on a short-term objective like calling joint attention. Initially, I summarized this short-term objective in this way:
Simply put, when Pamela wants to point something out to me like a toy at the store or the truck that went off the side of the road, she needs to make sure that I am looking in the right direction! She needs to stay calm and help me redirect my focus until I am turning my attention to the same thing as her.The Second Layer
In working on this objective, we discovered that Pamela's ability to have joint attention was not always consistent. So, I peeled back the layer from calling joint attention to sharing joint attention and altered the goal somewhat:
My objective was to focus on experience sharing by focusing on being together more than the activity itself. We are solidifying experience sharing before transferring more responsibility to Pamela in calling joint attention.Pamela can share experiences beautifully on her terms. Tuesday, she came up to me with a crocheted scarf that a friend gave to her and asked, "What's this?" I said, "A warm scarf." She said, "No, it's a long tail." I looked and she had the other end sticking out of the back of her pants. I spotlighted my delight nonverbally and through comments about her pretty tail.
A little bit later, she came up to me and talked about her bee sting on her finger from last spring. I buzzed and pretended to sting her with my pincer grasp. She laughed. Then, I kissed it to make it better.
The Third Layer
Sometimes, Pamela becomes very static or verbally stims. In Monday's cookie video, Pamela went back to thoughts of salad several times. It might have been because I have not fed her in this manner in years, making it a very uncertain situation for her. Uncertainty may be the reason why she falls back on static conversations or verbal stimming. Our consultant remembered another child who struggled with uncertainty in the same way. She suggested I figure out what situations cause Pamela to go static and then work on helping her discover that uncertainty is not a bad thing. We are not even sure this is a formal objective, but we still need to address it!
Pamela does not mind living in an unknown state of mind when it comes to do with the plan of the day. Years ago we used to have "I don't know" days to help reduce her dependence on a routine or schedule. Today, she will say, "It's to be announced," when I tell her I don't know exactly when something will happen.
New Way of Doing Things?
Pamela has a hard time when we are doing something deviating from what she generally expects. It is not that I have to be rigid, but, when something catches her by surprise, I see more static responses. The day she struggled to speak because of skeeter bites, I threw her off because I was sitting on the bed and talking to her. I hardly ever do that. When I followed her in the yard on Tuesday, simply to find opportunities for experience sharing, she got very mad at me. Wednesday, at Walmart, we explored some very cute Christmas shirts with lights. The problem is that I am not a shopper, so this was very unexpected behavior to her! She went back to her static statements ("I want Coke!"), much like she went back to her static, "I want salad!" when we ate cookies on Monday. Sharing experience lasts about forty-five seconds before her brain cannot handle the uncertainty any longer. It feels like an annoying pop-up ad that you can click off, but mysteriously appears a minute later.
Pamela is getting used to the shopping forays. Yesterday, Pamela completely adjusted to the idea of me and her exploring a section of Walmart. She had a moment or two of frustration and then went with the flow the moment she spotted Hannah Montana accessories. We flitted from Hannah to Christmas jewelry to generic jewelry: her "I want chips" popup add only happened once or twice.
Pamela has no problems with not knowing what a hidden object is. I tested it out twice. I put a toy spider in my pocket and said mysteriously, "I have something in my pocket." Pamela asked a couple of questions and I gave her a few blank "I don't know" answers. She went right back to her school work. We received a book for her in the mail, and she had no problem waiting to find out what it was. She had only three book popup ads with a lot of time in between.
Pamela MUST know who is on the phone when they call. If I ignore her, she will bug me with, "Answer me." I do not get many phone calls, so I have not been able to assess if she goes static. I hope you can live with the uncertainty!
Where Are We Going?
I am fairly certain this is an area where she needs certainty. Pamela's sense of direction is so keen that her "Where are we going?" popup ad happens as sooon as I make a wrong turn. One of the things I will have to work into our periods of uncertainty is finding ways to drive somewhere without telling her exactly where. I anticipate lots of popup ads! LOL!
The Fourth Layer
Friday, I reflected on what a fellow RDI mom has written on trust. Now, Pamela trusts me in most situations. Perhaps, that trust is shaken when I behave in unpredictable ways. Maybe, I compensate too much and, when I don't, she goes static. This friend discussed how when she first started RDI her goal was to coexist in the same room without making any demands. So, I borrowed her idea and applied it to the yard since Pamela got riled up at me the other day.
As predicted, Pamela grew very angry and obnoxious. She was furious when I announced we were going to go out because it was "after school hours"--an unpredictable time. I decided to push this, but then, once we hit the yard, I LEFT HER ALONE. I figured I needed to win her trust, so I did my own exploration and she did hers. After about five minutes, she was near me doing her own thing. I saw a dead vine branch hanging from the tree top, and I grabbed it because I know she has a thing for sticks. I began pulling it. She was very interested and joined me. First I pulled, then she pulled, and we pulled together. We moved to different locations to test the best direction for bringing it down. Her face flushed with joy at our success. I left her alone to play with the very long branch because I wanted to end on a positive note.
In this video, I strung together pictures to give you an idea of how our explorations went on this beautiful fall day.