image from: http://www.lanzarotecaliente.com
There are some days, or weeks even that I think all of the kids got together behind my back to figure out ways to outsmart me. They are already two steps ahead of me even when I think I am being creative or fun. Those are the days that I have to remember that this is a kiddo that I am wanting to argue with to see who can have their way. Some times I remember that in time and then there are some times that I over push to get my way (how dare a kiddo get the upper hand). Luckily I can usually sit back at the end of the day (or the next morning) and look at when we went down the path that had no cheese (reference to ‘Who Moved My Cheese‘) and how we got stuck there rather than me recognizing where we were and quickly finding the next path.
When I take the time to let the day unfold and see what worked and what didn’t work I am usually amazed at the insights it brings me and I usually learn something valuable from it. Well this week has been one of those weeks for me and I also had one of those aha moments for a few of my kids.
I have a couple kids that are at the age where they realize things are a little harder for them and that it is a little harder to keep up with their peers at school. On top of that they go to therapy, where despite how fun I make it, I am still asking them to challenge themselves with some of the very same activities that they struggle with during their school day or while playing with friends. I have the fun of figuring out how to challenge and motivate them, while making it fun so they don’t have a melt down. Add to that the fact that each child needs a slightly different approach and the day/week gets really fun.
For some of the kids we see at our practice consistency is the key. They like a routine and they do very well with that routine. In fact, changing up the routine can cause a melt down so I usually start with the things that they are really familiar with and on the days that I want to introduce a new activity I save it for towards the end of the session. I also usually have a favorite activity ready to go immediately after so that the kiddo can regroup if they had a really challenging time with whatever new thing I added to their repertoire. However, there are days where I lose my head and I start the day off with something new and then I get to ‘save’ the rest of the session. I will say though that its fun now to realize that this kiddo is handling new things better and better. For the most part there is no longer a melt down but a show down where the word ‘no’ gets repeated a lot. And, on top of the kiddo handling it better I am usually quicker to recognize when the meltdown may occur so I only push to a certain extent and then switch to something familiar.
For other kiddos doing the same thing over and over and having a routine works in terms of activities but for motivation I need to come up with a new bag of tricks almost every session. Even when I find a motivator that works so well I think I’m golden for a while, I may only get one or two sessions out of it. The worst is when I don’t even get a full activity finished using a good motivator.
I also have to remember that kiddos have their comfort zone in terms of what they need in order to deal with the challenges of the world around them. For instance, one kiddo I work with does really well as long as she knows what the schedule is going to be. This includes what we are going to do first, second, third, etc as well as how many of each thing we are going to do. Throughout the session she will reconfirm how many repetitions are left as well as how many activities. I’m usually able to direct the question back when asked how many more (which allows counting practice) or say, I’ll let you know at this point. Sometimes I just lose my mind though and don’t set up how many we are going to do and try to leave it open ended. This will usually work for the very beginning and then rapidly progress into a meltdown. Usually this happens after we have had multiple productive sessions in a row and I forget how much the structure is the key to that so rather than remembering to wean it away little by little, I try to cut it out cold turkey. Luckily it can usually be restored with adding the structure back in as long as I recognize what the cause of the meltdown is and don’t try to stand my ground in the ‘path with no cheese.’
Luckily, these moments don’t happen regularly but when they do they are always a good reminder for stopping and reflecting on what the cause may have been (just like I do when I am trying to work on a skill and need to figure out what the pieces are that need to be worked on). Sometimes having a ‘bad’ session is highly educational if you take the time to analyze and reflect.