What follows is the continuation of a story of my work with a little boy with autism and his family. To learn more read the first post and please leave comments below!
The fourth lesson, this afternoon, was a pleasant one with Jay’s mother and a volunteer Amanda observing. I had wondered, entering Jay’s home, if he would be as boisterous as he had been yesterday or as calm as this morning. The answer is he was a variate of both. There were a few memorable periods where he slammed his doors repeatedly and many other episodes where he lay quietly on the floor and seemed completely intent on our work together.
A specific moment that I experienced that bears some discussion. There was one period where Jay was walking across his playroom and then retracing his steps he did this repeatedly. At each end – the closed door and the window – he would pound on the window (shielded), the door, or the wall and shout “No, Jay.” My first assumption was that he profoundly disliked where he was and wanted to leave the room. He force of movement and vocalization was so strong that it seemed to me to be a request to leave. Fortunately, I asked his mother what he was doing and she pointed out his smile, which was wide and enthusiastic throughout. It turns out that he has spent time in a building (I’m not clear on the context) where people were continuing to tell Jay “No, Jay! Restricted!” He found this funny and enjoyed continually running towards the restricted sections and being told no. It sounds to me that enjoyed the reactions his behaviors was eliciting. Reexamining his behavior in the playroom this afternoon, then, I can see that Jay was repeating the experiencing, and enjoying again his pushing the boundaries of his observers. Since a reaction to his pounding on the walls is likely only to reinforce his earlier memory of triggering other’s excitement, I did nothing until he slowed down a few minutes later. Then, I reengaged and continued our work together. This was yet another reminder to me to not assume I know what is going on, but to take a guess, and then test my hypothesis with other’s observations, knowledge of a child, and experience.