Sunday, February 27, 2011

Playroom Time

“Interesting, you use a mixture of not typical techniques. I would love for you to come again and see how your connection with my child develops.”

This week I was invited to play in New York with some fabulous children with autism. I was very excited about it, because I would be able to see other people in action and at the same time try my skills with children that are totally new for me.

Skills assessment

As many of you know, I have been trained to help people look at their beliefs and from that place make changes in their lives if that seems necessary to them. When I started volunteering to work in the playroom of children with autism in my area, this skill seemed to make me very useful in their playrooms. Nowadays my working life includes a lot of playtime with children and I totally love it. Not being trained in a specific way, I slowly have created my own style of things that work well with the children I see.

I believe there are limitations to my skills and so I was very excited to play in a totally new environment where I could test myself and see which techniques seemed solid and which need work. At the same time I was looking forward to learn lots of new things from the others there to bring back home to my friends.

It was a very exciting day and I played a lot. There was not a lot of time to observe or process, and most of my learning will start when I will be able to see all the footage of the day.


Driving home, I had very mixed feelings. Some of my techniques turned out very useful and helpful, in other areas I felt I really could use some more work. For example, if you work on sensory input with a tiny six year old by flying the child through the room, how do you translate that with a nine year old that is as tall as you and surely has some extra pounds on him?

I also realized that what I do is in a lot of ways not exactly what the others were doing, and it confused me. Why do I do what I do, instead of what they are doing? What do I do and why do I do that? What I see from the others seems “right”, so does that mean I am doing it “wrong”?

Beliefs, beliefs, beliefs!

OK, I realized that outside of training there is one other very important part that makes people act different in a same situation: Beliefs!

And thinking about beliefs related to the child of the mom who gave me the comment on top, I realized I do have a lot of beliefs that seem helpful. So, I thought to just share a couple with you. Maybe next week after observing the videos I then can share some after thoughts on this list.

Playroom beliefs:
Stage 1.

- I want to be your friend.
- You are my friend.

When I meet a new child, I clearly have the two beliefs above. I decide before going in that I want to become the child’s friend and I already decided that the child will be my friend.

It is interesting, but I do not decide that I the child’s already beliefs that I am his friend when I first meet him or her. I want the child to decide he or she is my friend, whenever he or she is ready. It is very important for the child to be able to say to me, “no, I don’t want to be your friend yet”.

Stage 2.

- I am your friend.
- You are my friend.

The moment the child first shows a sign of friendship, I change my beliefs to what I call Stage 2 above. From then on, stage one is gone forever. The child will be my friend, and I his or hers independent of what will happen.

A sign of friendship can be anything verbal or non-verbal that translates into something like “hey hello who are you”. I am not talking about a child looking directly in your eyes, but about something that the child does or says that expresses something they are thinking about you. It could be a smile or a giggle about something you did. It could be a facial expression that shows interest in you or a “who are you” or “what are you doing” face. It could be a word like ”let’s play” or a gesture that clearly indicates that you are the subject of the child’s attention.

Stage 3.

- Who is my friend?
- This is me!

“The dance of friendship”

What do you like? What do I like? How do we communicate these things? How do we show our affect, our enthusiasm, our irritation, our frustration, our wants? How do we respond to these expressions? How do we show we want a break, we want order, we want structure? Is what you show the same you tried to tell me before, or is what you tell me now different even though you use the same gesture or word?

I love this stage, and I always go back here. I don’t believe we every can ask enough “who is my friend?, What does he or she like? What does he or she dislike?” Because we are all constantly changing, we never know who is at the other end without interacting. And we all respond different at different times. There are different things we like and dislike at different times. On Tuesday we might love to be non-verbal and instead be active with lots of jumping and running, while on Wednesday we may talk our hearts out.

This part is for me all about not assuming anything and really enjoy the current moment and all the changes that may come with it.

More to follow...

Ok, there is many more where this came from, but I am very slow this morning with verbalizing my chaotic thoughts, so I will do some more organizing and share with you more next week!

Have a great week everyone!

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