FROM CAROLINA: This past weekend, I spent my time with a lovely family and worked with a gorgeous red-headed boy named Joshua. I absolutely fell in love with him from the moment we met – his soulful blue-green eyes, his beautiful smile and his life-changing laughter – he was absolutely enchanting.  He was one more reminder of just how lucky I am to help these incredible Son-Rise Program children.
   And wow – he has developed so much already – all areas of social interaction. Since his parents did the Son-Rise Program Start-Up, this little boy has gone from using only pictures to communicate and rarely interacting, to now using multiple-word phrases, singing songs, talking spontaneously, looking in our eyes consistently during interactions, and playing up to 20 minutes at one time.  It was just wonderful to see the progress he has made already.
   Our focus for the weekend was to help Joshua develop more spontaneous language – rather than repeating rote phrases.  To do this, we talked at length about how important it is to think of language as a symptom of Joshua’s connection. Language is not a “skill” we’re developing – language is something that children do much more naturally when they are motivated to connect to another person.  So, rather than repeating phrases to Joshua for him to repeat back, we focused on just creating more motivation – “just playing” – rather than trying to “work on something” in every game. Each game would consist of building a game that Joshua was motivated for (like swinging him around to the tune of Ring-Around-the-Rosy) and then leaving natural pauses for Joshua to speak. And – like magic – it worked! Each time they paused – Joshua came up with the words all by himself. And when the words were his own creation, his own spontaneous addition to the game, he tended to look a lot more, a sign that he was more connected to the person he was talking to – instead of just spouting words without connecting.
    Watching Joshua’s parents play with him on Sunday afternoon was a true highlight for me. I was perched on my stool, looking through the observation window into the playroom, feeling like I was peering in to a magical world where joyful connection is all that matters. They each created such joyful games with him – and instead of focusing on “the skill of language” – they put all of their focus into just enjoying the time they had to play with their beautiful son.  And his laughter – the kind of laughter that bubbles up from your soul, fills the whole body and spills out like rainbows – that is something that only comes from deep connection and joyful interaction. That is the most amazing gift that our Son-Rise Program playrooms have to offer.

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