Tick Tock.. Connecting, motivation & demystifying early childhood intervention
What drives you is probably different to me, and isn’t that a great thing? I like people that march to the beat of their own drum. So I guess I was destined to have a child on the Autism spectrum! One of the most exciting things about having kids for me was the anticipation. Waiting.. Some of us have to wait a little longer than others. We’re eager to see their independence & personality emerge from a dependent infant. Waiting for that first conversation...
I knew pretty early on my eldest was going to be his own little man. Slowly we were seeing his own ideas emerge. These were pretty different to the other baby’s we were socialising with at the time. Things like his fascination with doors and learning to walk by chasing a toy we would pass between couches, or place strategically to coax him into climbing. Then it wasn’t long before he discovered flipping over a table or pushing a chair makes for a stable walker & he was off! I’ll never forget picking him up from daycare & seeing him with a small group of kids all sliding the nursery chairs around the room at Ripples, creating havoc for his teachers already! It seemed that internal motivation to quickly learn new skills just wasn’t there. More often than not I felt he was indifferent to my praise, when other babies were responding consistently to their Mum’s attention with elation.
So how do you help a child who is so fixed on their own agenda & has little concept of the relevance of skills you’re being told by community nurses & GP’s they should be learning? This was troubling me constantly. It felt like I couldn’t teach him anything some days. I desperately wanted for him to be able to experience happiness from friendships & relationships. I was worried. Will he be lonely, isolated, depressed will he get married? The mind of a Mum goes crazy with ridiculous thoughts.
The most important thing I think you can do for any child, especially one who is causing you anxiety about their development or behaviour is to stay connected. In this era of smart phones, Ipads, TV & computers it’s so important to keep them in the loop or bring them back into family life. As a parent you have the most powerful relationship with your child & can increase their liking and wanting of social interaction. This will provide many natural opportunities to learn throughout daily routines and activities. Most Dad’s are naturally great at this stuff. Rough house play, swings, movement games, music & singing are the perfect opportunity to work on building a desire for social interaction. Here’s the key — use expectant pauses and wait for your child to make a response before continuing. Here’s some short clips of me using the expectant pause strategy with Iggy. As his familiarity with these routines quickly increases so does his social interaction, communication and imitation.
Such an easy strategy to do at home in this type of natural play and instantly reinforcing when the child is enjoying it. Think nappy changes, bath time, getting dressed, brushing teeth, bed times, car rides, walks, screen time! When ever you can add in a song or game routine that can become familiar to your child throughout the day. It’s important to keep modelling these and find ones that you and your child enjoy doing together. Once you have a few fun ones, introduce a new one every now and then. Build up the repertoire of social games you share as a family. The more you do them the more fun it becomes for everyone. And before you know it you’ll be considering entering auditions as the new Wiggle!!
This pause & wait strategy can be used during any communication opportunity. So slow your interactions down. As Mum’s we get use to responding quickly to meet our crying baby’s needs, but now we need to become their teachers. Stop filling your child’s cup by anticipating their needs, get face to face with them and wait a few seconds. Wait for a gesture, eye contact or vocalisation, before you respond and if you don’t get it prompt for it. Use the item they want access to, hold it close to your face and when they make that communication attempt, reinforce it instantly by giving with social praise, labeling the item. Now you’re working on joint attention, receptive & expressive language too. You’ll be your child’s best teacher in no time!