When I arrived at Joey’s house a few Fridays ago, I was thrilled to find his seven year old cousin there with him. She could only stay for about ten minutes of our session, but it was one of the best, most targeted ten minutes I’ve seen from Joey.
Typically, when I first begin to work with Joey each session, he fills me in on random parts of his week. Sometimes I introduce a topic and he changes the subject to a preferred topic, or if he is really bored with me, he might begin exploring his words. I live with a five year old at my house, so while these behaviors are frustrating, I’m also 100% sure they are age appropriate. I find myself giving Joey reminders to stay on topic like I would with any five year old, or reminders that we can talk more after we do our work first.
On this Friday however, in the presence of his cousin, Joey needed no reminders. He was alert, engaged, and on topic. I asked “wh” questions like “who is in the story?” “where does the bear live?” “when does this take place?” and Joey quickly gave me answers. He had a few mis-hits in trying to find the correct word, but he stuck with it to show his cousin what he knew. Changing the subject suddenly did not seem as interesting as sharing his ideas with the two of us.
Even after his cousin left, Joey remained on point. He was quick to share jokes about books we read, and to add “funny” or “silly” after he told me a joke. I think he throws those words in to make sure I know he’s joking and not just clicking on the wrong buttons.
It was wonderful to see Joey so motivated to participate and talk with his cousin. I was also happy to be able to share Joey’s insights and ideas with her. For many kids (let’s be honest – and adults), it can be hard to understand that a child who does not speak has something to say. We can be quick to make assumptions. I watched Joey answer my “wh” questions through her eyes – and hoped that she was impressed as I was with his ability to navigate his words and talk about the story in a way I’d expect any five year old to do. His answers might not have been as robust as a talkative five year old, but my questions are the same.
I need to find more opportunities to include other children in my work with Joey to encourage his motivation and give him the experience of interacting with children his own age. Talking and playing with a peer is far more interesting than having one on one conversations with a boring adult.