Our session, as usual, began with an update on Sammie's progress. This was a particularly interesting session as it had been several months since Bev had last seen Sammie and the progress he has made during this time has been notable, particularly in areas of social interaction with adults and his peer group. Recently, Sammie has begun using 'touch' to connect with children around him and has begun to show an interest in playing 'with' others as opposed to alone. Sammie has developed a preference for specific people (particularly girls either a little bit younger or a little bit older than he is), and has begun exploring his personality in many different ways.
In terms of new skills, Sammie has recently developed a mild interest in arts and crafts, particularly colouring with markers. He is getting better at working with crayons as well. He is still very "gross motor" focused, but seems to enjoy quiet activities and play a lot more than he did in the past. His interests have evolved beyond just 'trains', and now include puzzles, other toys like cars/trucks, and even his two dolls (Iggle Piggle and Upsydaisy). He has started sitting still for longer periods of time, including during most of his meals, and is able to focus his attention long enough to watch an entire IMAX movie (Rocky Mountain Express).
The first section of Responsive Teaching is always focused on "social play" which "refers to the children's ability to play with their parents and other adults across many situations". It is characterized by a "give and take in which children contribute as much to the play activity as their adult partners." In our discussions and assessments, we determined that Sammie's current level of social play sits about about a "moderate" (4 or 5 out of 10). Ideally, we would like to see him operating at a 6 or above. As such, Bev outlined certain goals and strategies for us to focus on to help improve our social play together.
(The following is taken from the Responsive Teaching Manual handouts)
Facts to remember about social play:
- Social play with parents is critical for promoting children's developmental growth.
- Cognitive learning is a two-person process, in which the impact parents have is related to how much they respond to their child.
- Cognitive learning occurs whenever children are active and alert.
- By themselves, children can only learn information they discover accidentally.
The most important strategy that promotes social play involves "getting into the child's world". This involves three components:
- Establish a mutual physical relationship with your child (using eye contact and by interacting on the same level)
- Interact by playing or communicating like your child by mimicking behaviours.
- Consciously strive to understand the world as your child does.
As each child is different, very specific strategies were outlined to help Sammie develop his social play skills. These involve:
- Playing face to face as often as possible.
- Establishing and encouraging eye contact.
- Consider how to "make sense" of his world by observing and reflecting on his behaviours, all the while remembering that- as Sammie develops- the way the world looks while change on an ongoing basis.
- Playing the "same way" by offering more opportunities for play together, tuning into his interests an encouraging turn-taking and variations in his games.
Jason and I will continue to log Sammie's progress on our second blog, http://findingsammiesvoice.blogspot.ca, for those who are interested in following along.