I sat on my lounge carpet, a lady from Portage kneeling down next to me.
“We need to work on engagement and reward” she said, as my son sat a few feet away, unaware of our existence. He had a big dumper truck on the carpet in front of him, it was turned upside down with the wheels upright, spinning in motion. As the wheels slowed down, he flicked them with his hand and set them back in rotation, then moving his arms into the air, he began flapping in excitement.
“We need to get Rhys to want something we have, that he cannot take away and has to engage with us for more” the lady said.
She leaned into her bag and brought out a small red plastic bottle. Unclasping the lid, she drew out the little plastic stick and announced, “Ready, steady, go” then bringing it to her lips she blew. Bubbles filled the room, and she edged closer to Rhys and blew them all over him, letting them fall down around him, popping as they made contact with the spinning wheels of the truck.
Rhys noticed them but choose to ignore their presence, still fixated with his toy.
As all the bubbles disintegrated, the stick was re-dipped into its contents, and bringing it to her lips, the lady again announced “Ready, steady” but then paused. I looked at her as she sat still. She had also shifted herself to be in Rhys’ line of sight.
“Go” she suddenly shouted and filled the room once again with bubbles.
I looked at her, “Why did you pause?” I asked.
“Watch Rhys next time” she said, and I did.
As the bubbles disintegrated once again, I looked at my son. To me he had not moved, still spinning the wheels of the vehicle, totally unaware of our exsistence.
The plastic stick was re-dipped for the third time, and brought to the lady’s lips. “Watch Rhys” she whispered. “Ready, steady” she announced once again, then waited. As silence flooded the room, I watched my son.
Then his eyes flicked in her direction. It was so quick that if I had not been looking, I would have missed it.
“Go” she shouted and filled the room once again. Rhys continued to spin his truck wheels.
From that day I blew bubbles all day long, waiting each time to get that split second flicker of eye contact. Eye contact that increased over time, until a few months later he was jumping around the room, popping each bubble and looking to me for more.
Over the years we kept using the Ready, Steady, Go strategy to develop his engagement and eventually his speech.
At the age of three I sat with the bubbles in my hand and with Rhys’ eyes meeting mine I said, “Ready, Steady” then I paused. I waited for what felt like an eternity. His eyes were locked with mine, but I wanted more, I wanted a sound. Not a word or anything with meaning, just any sound.
Then it came. A vocalisation.
I blew so many bubbles they filled the room for a full five minutes.
From then onwards the options were limitless. We would throw Rhys up in the air after his eye contact and shouts for “more”. Cars flew down ramps, but only after he had engaged and we ran across fields on the shouting of “Go”.
The vocalisation started to mould into the word Go, meaning I no longer had to wait for eye contact because he initiated it himself. Over the years he now chants the three words along with me, but they mean more than just engagement. They identify the commencement of something, the start of an action, a trigger for an activity together.
Sometimes the simplest of methods can reap the greatest of rewards.
Three small words changed our lives.
Three words that pulled my son out of his world and into ours.
Just three words and a bottle of bubbles.
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Let me know if you have tired it. What were your outcomes? What are your questions?