Brooke and I were playing with her Dora the Explorer Colorforms the other night. She put a Colorform glass of water on top of the Colorform Benny the Bull. Ooh! The perfect naturalistic opportunity to give a shot at the “WHY/ BECAUSE” that we’ve been working so hard to cultivate.
Oh, by the way, pardon the interruption, but I wanted to let you know – this is life at home with autism. We are all (parents, siblings, babysitters) amateur floortime practitioners, behavior analysts, speech therapists, neurologists, psychologists, OTs, PT’s. Name it; we do it.
I watched a movie not long ago called Including Samuel. If you haven’t seen it, do. It’s a wonderful story of one family’s efforts to include their disabled son in their daily lives. It is human and real. It does a fabulous job of reminding us why educational and social inclusion are so important if we expect to live in a world that respects and values the full spectrum (pun not intended but awfully convenient) of the human experience. In the movie, Samuel’s mother, Betsy Habib says that at one point she spent nearly all her time with Samuel working on his various therapies. She began to feel like she was essentially just another one of his therapists. ”I just want to be his mom,” she said.
It can be a tough balance for any parent. We all have to find time to teach and mold and guide our children while also trying to just be their moms and dads. But autism never takes a break. Generalizing skills does not come naturally to our kids. If we don’t reinforce what they’re learning at school or speech therapy or OT or ABA, it’s not going to make it out of the setting in which it’s taught. So I hear ya, Mrs Habib, but so far the ‘just mom’ moments are pretty hard won.
So, back to the latest and greatest. We’ve been working on cultivating “WHY” and “BECAUSE”. If it were a college class it would be called “Advanced W Questions” * * please be sure to have completed prerequisites: What, Who and Where 101 * *
A year and a half ago, Brooke still had not used a W question. She just didn’t have them in her arsenal. I was armed and ready for the barrage of typical three and a half year old questions. Why is the sky blue? What are you doing? Where are we going? Are we there yet? Who is that lady? Why is she sitting like that? What’s your favorite color?
The questions never came.
So we went after them. We found the people who knew how to teach Brooke to use them. C and company, J, M .. the Oracles of Language Delopment. They introduced her to the power of What, Where and Who.
We reinforced them at home. We pushed and we prodded and we celebrated small victories. And they came. Oh, they came. Brooke can ask us about her world. What are you eating? What are you doing? Where do you live? Who are you talking to? What’s your name?
She got so good at using them that we decided it was time to tackle “WHY.”
So we went back to the well. Our kick-ass ABA team dug deep into their bag of tricks and came out with (drum roll please …) Brooke’s book of Why. Here’s how it works …
We took photos of Miss Katie (always an eager model) in various situations around the house. We have one of her opening the refrigerator door, one of her washing her hands, one of her lying in bed. Under each one is a question. WHY is Katie opening the door? WHY is she washing her hands? WHY is she lying in bed?
We read it every day. We started by modeling the answers. BECAUSE she is hungry. BECAUSE her hands are dirty. BECAUSE she is sleepy. Brooke quickly memorized the book and began to recite it by rote.
And then one day last week we were playing with the Colorforms and I asked the question.
“Brooke, WHY is Benny the bull drinking water?”
“BECAUSE he’s thirsty.”
“Oh My Gosh! Oh My Gosh! Oh My Gosh!” (I can’t say Holy Sh!t at home)
“BROOKE, YOU DID IT!!!”
Katie came running in to see what all the fuss was about. I told her to ask her sister.
“Brooke, WHY is Mommy so proud of you?”
“BECAUSE Benny drinked-ed the water.”
That’s two! (Two for two if we start counting right now.)
WHY do we keep plugging away? WHY do we keep searching for more keys to unlock the world for Brooke?
BECAUSE Benny the bull drinked-ed water. Oh, and BECAUSE there’s not a darn thing that my little punk can’t do with the right tools.