I sometimes look at my son and wonder what he was thinking as he is wrapped up in his own little world. The only thing that grabs his attention in those moments is me placing a firm hand on his shoulder. Then, when he looks at me it is usually with a look of surprise. I can almost hear the phrase “Where did you come from?” coming from his lips, but they don’t. Sometimes he smiles at me, other times he growls. But, each time I wonder what has been playing through his head. If I ask I always get “I don’t know.” Maybe someday I will get another answer, maybe someday he will know how to express the wonders that are happening in his brain.
Those moments of self-introspection are just as likely to happen as the moments when he just observes the world around him. He is a people watcher. When he was younger and his playmates would get frustrated with him he would get right up into their faces and start to laugh as he watched their expressions. He LOVED it, the anger, frustration, sadness, happiness that these people around him were showing on their faces. Inevitably this made his friends more frustrated, I mean not only was he in their personal space but he was mocking them (that is what they thought). In actuality, he was learning. He tries to copy their emotions, their mannerisms. Perfect example is last Christmas.
My oldest does not really like to take pictures, and he was frustrated after about pose number 20. Chase watched his brothers expressions continue to morph and then began to copy them. A year later he uses that same expression to let us know “I am mad” It is over-exaggerated, and nine times out of ten makes me WANT to laugh. I know that he is serious though. He is letting me know that he is upset, and I love it. I love that he is learning how to self regulate. I love that he is learning to express himself, even though it is in the beginning stages of development.
Tonight I sat at my table cutting out my next sewing project. Chase walked over to me and said “Can I help you cut?” I shook my head and told him no, not right now. He cocked his head and said, “Let me rephrase that. Mom, give me some scissors so that I can help you cut.”
He blew me away with his statement. No doubt it was inappropriate of him to demand that I get him scissors, but at the same time I was so overwhelmed with pride, and astonishment that I got him a pair of scissors, and gave him some scraps of fleece for him to cut. He made a disaster on the floor with little colored squares, but I didn’t mind.
It showed me that he pays attention to how we communicate with him, what we say to him, and how we say it. It gave me some food for thought. It showed me just how much he is paying attention to how we approach him with requests. One ABA strategy that I practice on a daily basis includes giving directives vs. asking questions. It never dawned on me the importance of telling Chase what I wanted him to do instead of asking him to what I wanted him to do. I learned this strategy at an ABA workshop I attended a year ago. I found it interesting that they would tell us to be careful saying “Can you…” or “Do _____, okay?” what I got out of this workshop? Don’t ask it of Chase, tell him to do it in a neutral or positive manner. They also encouraged us that while it is important to teach proper manners we needed to be careful using words and phrases such as “please” and “thank you” as they could imply choice. Even though we aren’t saying please and thank you as often as we used to we still offer praise when Chase does what is being asked of him.
After today I might rethink how I approach him. Maybe it won’t be all bad to ask him to do things rather then tell him.