I feel my hand being pulled, and I look up to see Rhys. Rhys is three years old and non-verbal. His method of getting what he wants is by dragging me by my hand to the location. I always know what he wants.
A week ago we moved all his normal requests out of his reach. My top cupboard now contains plates and bowls alongside packets of ricecakes and crackers. But the point is that Rhys now has to ‘ask’ me for them. He can’t just help himself from the bottom cupboard whenever he wants.
I let him take me to the kitchen. He makes no eye contact or any sound, just leads me to the fridge and stands there waiting – his face turned away from me, just waiting.
I know he wants an apple. That is what is in the fridge. But instead of providing him his demand, I crouch down to his level.
“Rhys, apple or orange?” I ask, holding out each of my hands containing one of each of the imaginary fruits.
Rhys makes no acknowledgement of me, just stands still, face turned away, waiting for his apple.
I try again, “Rhys, apple or orange?”
I purposely use his name to signify that I am directing my question to him, and follow it with the minimum of words to remove any complexity or confusion.
There is still no response. Not even a movement or look in my direction.
“Rhys, apple or orange” I say again, remaining calm, making sure the words are clear and projected towards him. I then click my tongue to try trigger a reaction, he responds with his eyes flicking towards me for a split second.
That’s all I needed. A split second of eye contact. The beginings of engagement.
“Apple!” I announce excitedly, and take one from the fridge. I crouch back down to Rhys’ level, and he sees his request in my hand. I bring the apple up in line with my face and clearly state “apple” associating the spoken word with the object. Rhys gives me no eye contact, it is difficult and uncomfortable for him, but his eyes meet the apple and my facial movements can be seen out of the corner of his eye.
As the months and years go by, I continue to crouch in front of the fridge, and over time I get longer periods of eye contact, which finally mature into a vocalisation, a little scream for his requested item. Every time I say the word ‘apple’, and another year later Rhys says “aahh”.
Another six months, after continually emphasising each syllable of the word, Rhys strings together the word ‘apple’. Our first word which is something that is truly amazing!
However after all that hard work, Rhys had eaten so many apples that he stopped requesting them. So we started all over again, not giving up.
Oranges are now his fruit of choice!
He will forever keep me on my toes!
Follow the link below to get a step by step guide on using choices to engage with your child.
If you missed it, check out the strategy page on A&Me for all strategies. The page will be updated throughout the week as I talk about all the strategies we use.
What do you think of #strategyweek so far?
Let me know if you have given any a go, or if you have any questions.
Things take time, take one day at a time.
I have a list of strategies we have used and have worked for us – first/next, objects of reference, schedules, backward chaining, PECS, pictures, social stories, choice boards…
What do you want me to talk about next?
*The content which I have shared is all a result of my own experience. I am not a qualified speech theropist or OT, I am just a parent who wants to share what has worked for us, and hopefully help others with my knowledge and experience.