Autism. Skipping miracles
Back in the day when all our therapy began in earnest, and I used to spend a torturous half hour per day in an empty room doing RDI with Bright Eyes, we spent a whole lot of time rocking back and forth together.
We did it because it provides the basic building blocks for co-ordination in relationships. If you have a small child, spend a little bit of time rocking with them. Most of them LOVE it. Make a pattern and rock one way with them, and feel their little bodies attuning to yours. Then adjust the pattern slightly or add a surprise, and watch the joy come over their faces. It's one of the first steps in learning to coordinate with someone else and finding ways to be flexible about changes or challenges that occur.
Let me tell you that even simple rocking took a whole lot of doing for my child. Bright Eyes did NOT like to rock with me. He often got extremely upset and resisted by crying, stiffening or running away. Co-ordinating with anyone else - even physically by rocking - was too much for his brain at that time.
However, we persisted. I think I must have spent over 100 hours in the first year simply rocking with my child, starting a pattern, adjusting it and carefully and gently adding in flexibility and change, so that he could learn to coordinate with other people.
Why am I bothering to tell you all of this?
Well, Bright Eyes came home from school yesterday in a very grumpy mood. When I asked him, "So what happened today," he barked, "Nothing." I tried another tack and decided to ask specific questions.
"Hmmm... did you do skipping* today?"
"Yes," he said. "Hey, where's my skipping rope? I 'get' skipping now."
He ran off to find his skipping rope with a big grin on his face. I wanted to see what happened next, so I stuck around. His big sister then got in on the act.
"Can I have a turn?" she asked. "We could skip together."
"Great idea!" said Bright Eyes.
The two of them then spent the next 20 to 30 minutes skipping and coordinating together. They took turns holding the rope. They skipped facing each other in the same rope, and then facing away from each other. They did big jumps and backwards jumps. They made a plan and then executed it. They negotiated their next moves and both had a part in deciding what they would do. Right at the end, I even saw Bright Eyes run in (skipping terminology for going into an already turning rope) and skip for at least four jumps with his sister.
At the end, he came to me with a shining face that said, "Did you see what I can do?" absolutely full of pride for his accomplishments.
It was truly incredible. As a three year old - and even at four - he could not physically coordinate with another person. Now he can skip with his sister.
RDI, school skipping and big sisters: I love you.
*The whole school spends 15-20 minutes doing skipping at the beginning of the day for their health and fitness - boys, girls, littlies and bigs.