Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Boy and His Swing

I have a young boy with whom I work for whom the world is a challenging place. He is 8 years old, nonverbal, adorable, and totally full of self-stimulation. He flaps his hands, bangs the table, touches the floor continuously, plays with his spit, tries to put his spit on my face, does not know letters or numbers, and communicates using a combination of a sign or two and PECS. It is as if his body is overtaken by his stims. He also tries to lean over and put his head below his waist. When left alone, he is happily entertained by stimming. He has limited food choices and typically does not approach an adult for assistance or hugs.

(This is a Google Image, not the boy in my playroom)

But he loves his swing.
He also has curly hair and a great smile!

He would swing for 45 minutes straight if I let him, but what would that accomplish? I am after getting connection with me, empowering him to use his signs and sounds to communicate with me. 

So when he asks for the swing, I sit in front of him, with a smile, and wait for him to look at me and sign 'swing'. I let him swing for about 10 seconds, then I stop the swing again and wait. He will pause as if to let it register that the swing has stopped, look at me, smile and sign 'more'. Sometimes I will count down from 3, and let him supply the word "Go" (an approximation). He is mostly quiet in the swing, with little stimming taking place. Sometimes when I stop the swing his eyes glaze over and he flaps his hands for a few seconds, then he looks up to see me, smiles, and either signs "Swing" or "more". We do this for about ten minutes, then I get him off the swing and we do something else. Balloons, play with a pom-pom, play with a basket of rubber ducks, taking turns, with me always smiling and waiting for him to indicate that he wants "More" of something. 

But he always comes back to the swing. I can get a lot of interaction on the swing, and he clearly loves it. I play with him for 45 minutes, and believe me, it can be taxing on me. First, it is repetitive. He has a limited repertoire of likes and interests, and there are times in the 45 minutes when I look at the clock and sigh (does that make me a bad person?). Second, it takes a lot of effort on my part. I do all the work.  Third, I sometimes find myself feeling a little bored! It would be easy for me to disconnect from him. If I do, there are no repercussions. He simply reverts to stimming. Even at the end of the 45 minutes, when I am constantly interacting with him and we are having fun, once he puts his shoes on, he is content to simply sit and stim. 

I wonder what good I am doing in one therapy session a week. It is better than none at all, correct?

But generally, it is a sweet session in my week. I try to remember to simply "be" in the moment with him, to recognize that this is an important time in his life, and that what I do does matter. To him, at this time, in this space. He probably won't ever travel through all the developmental levels, or be independent, or have a meaningful life. (At least not one that we neurotypicals can imagine). But I can give him this moment, this time, this love.

I worry that at home that's all that he does: sit and stim. It would be easy for a parent to decide that that is what he prefers to do, since he does not initiate interaction. 

But I see joy in his eyes when we are playing on the swing.....I wish I could do more!

1 comment:

  1. Does this comment section work? I've been told that it does not.