From Amanda: When the Start Up Program is taught here at the Autism Treatment Center of America, one of the key principles taught is “The child is your teacher”. This was proven true in a beautiful playroom session I had with an 11 year old boy who was here for his week long Intensive. I was taught an amazing lesson in joining.
One of the techniques we use to be with a child in the playroom is joining as exactly as possible. For example, if a child is laying on their belly with one foot in the air making faces in the mirror, we too, will lay on our belly with one foot in the air while making faces in the mirror. As we join we aren’t simply copying the child; We are exploring and investigating why this is useful to the child. Is the pressure on his belly feeling good? Does his foot in the air help balance his body? Are the faces in the mirror a way help him get to know who he is? We don’t know the answers to these questions, so joining is a way to get to know the child in his world.
This week in the playroom, I joined a little boy who was isming in a fascinating way. He sat at a table while holding two drum sticks and plastic tea saucer his left hand, and a shiny ball with a picture of Elmo on the front held in his right hand. As he held these objects, he tapped the drum sticks lightly on the ball in a beautiful rhythmical tone. He would sometimes stop tapping on the ball and then tap on the table in the same way. To join him, I grabbed a small soccer ball(because it was the same size as his), two markers (because there were no drum sticks), and a tea cup and saucer. I sat on the floor across from him so he could see me if he wanted to but I moved close to the thresh hold of the door so I could bang the wood at the bottom to make the noises he was hearing. I joined him for about two minutes and then, he gave me an awesome look. I threw my hands in the air and celebrated.” Wow! I love those amazing eyes! Thank you for looking at me!” He then looked to the shelf so I celebrated again and responded by running to the shelf to offer him something he may be wanting. Little did I know he was going to offer me something from the shelf.
My friend took the small soccer ball from my hand and put it back on the shelf. He then grabbed a small, shiny ball with a picture of Sponge Bob on it and handed it to me with a smile. I thanked him warmly and watched him sit back in his chair to resume his tapping on the ball. As I sat down to join him, this time I began to look at the ball he gave me more closely. I noticed that as I tapped I could see my reflection in the ball as if it was a mirror. There were also shadows I hadn’t seen with the soccer ball. The ball was also smooth and had amazing colors. When I was using the soccer ball, I was missing the key aspects of why this child may have been using the shiny ball.
I don’t know why this child ismed with a shiny ball versus a dull ball but I do know that he noticed my ball was different than his. I am guessing that he gave me the shiny ball so I could fully experience what he was experiencing in one way or another. He warmly invited me into his world and helped me perfect the ism.
The child truly is our teacher!