Wednesday, March 28, 2007

An Old Dog Learning New Tricks

Note: Put rhymes with foot, so putter does NOT rhyme with shutter.

You can teach old dogs new tricks, and I am living proof!

On Saturday, I decided to invite Pamela to help me assemble Guess Who?, a game that she received on her birthday. I had a hard time weaving the cards into the slots myself, so I did all that on my own. I invited Pamela to join me at the table. I handed her one piece with the card already inserted, and she snapped it into place. The key to giver-putter is to practice skills you are targeting, so I worked on referencing:

* I waited for her to reference me before I released the piece into her hand.
* If it took too long for her to reference me, I cleared my throat.
* I nodded, smiled, high-fived, etc. after she snapped in several pieces.
* I made declarative comments as she worked like, "That piece snapped right away. This one is hard. I can help you with it."

Then, I read on my email list (Aut-2B-Home) that this is a giver-putter activity. I may be an old dog, but I can recognize a useful trick when I see it. I recalled how beautifully this worked when decorating her cake on Friday: I peeled off the Cake Mate letters, and she put them on her cake.

Yesterday, we unloaded the dishwasher in full giver-putter mode. I pulled grouped objects out of the dishwasher and handed them to Pamela after she referenced me. I find this way of doing chores more rewarding than simply teaching her to do chores for her to fly solo some day. We are able to bond and relate to each other when the goal is emotion sharing, not teaching her how to do manual labor.

When we did one of the RDI "lab time" activities that involved putting together a puzzle, I assumed the role of giver and she of putter. I read that it can help to introduce variation by handing objects from different positions. That was no problem for Pamela, and she easily repaired the situation. Then, I physically turned my back on her to see what she would do. Pamela tried to get my attention verbally, and I ignored her. I reached back and grabbed her hand to demonstrate how to tap someone on the shoulder. I turned my back several times in a row, and she tapped me on the shoulder each time! After that, I randomly turned my back, and she continued to tap whenever I ignored her. On the last piece, I pretended to fall asleep at the table and tapping did not work. Pamela said, "Hey! Wake up! Wake up!" and tapped very insistently. She was awesome!

Pamela is going a bit overboard with this referencing thing. In our pre-RDI days, if a certain person (name omitted to protect the guilty) ignored Pamela because the said person was distracted by the computer, she would repeat herself, growing louder and louder, and say loudly, "Answer me!" Thanks to RDI, she now pops her head between the computer screen and the distracted person to make her comment.

That is what I call referencing!