My youngest son, Jake, used to be so unresponsive; I thought he might be deaf. As he approached two years of age I came to know it was autism. Jake would be considered on the severe end of the spectrum. As an early childhood special education. teacher, I felt I should know how to help him, but I didn’t know much about working with a child who didn’t play. Children learn through play. This child just paced, chewed, and stared at things seemingly oblivious to whatever was going on around him much of the time. This, heart-wrenchingly, included his mom. Fortunately I discovered the Son-Rise Program® which helped me learn gentle ways to connect with Jake. I learned how to enjoy him “as is” and play in the ways that made sense to him. I learned ways to motivate him to try to communicate with me.
My experience revealed some of the most powerful word-provokers to be images, photographs, and simple books. I learned to use these to expand social exchanges with Jake — a journey that continues to this day. Our book bond started with Jake’s love of staring at pictures in books. He often moved away from me when I tried to look with him, so I learned to give him his space while still joining him by looking at my own book from a short distance away. Powerful stuff! My silent participation in his beloved activity frequently prompted him to come steal my book! Gradually, Jake began to let me look alongside him as long as I let him control the page turning. I refrained from talking much, and the mutually-focused silence seemed to allow him to begin finding words for his thoughts.
One super special day, for instance, we were staring at a favorite clock picture of his. I’d often make brief comments such as “the clock tells the time,” or “I see numbers on the clock” etc. Then I’d pause as long as it took for Jake to take some sort of turn in our social exchange. Imagine my surprise when my son, whose language was extremely limited, clearly said “propeller.” “Propeller?” I echoed, quickly followed by eureka “OH!!! I SEE! The clock’s hands ARE like a propeller! They spin around!” From there I found some other propeller images to enforce and build this new connection as a way to celebrate and appreciate my son’s efforts to share his thoughts with me. Challenging as it was, he had made a breakthrough! I wanted more!!!
Jake’s gradual progress inspired the creation of www.BooksByTara.com. A simple book allows for repetition. Sometimes it helps to slow our fast-paced world down for children and for ourselves. Showing a favorite topic with real-life still images can be a powerful tool for connecting and sharing. Currently 10 titles are available at www.BooksByTara.com, and many more are in the works. Each consists of a simple, optional poem and series of 8×10 photographs that highlight specific aspects of enticing concepts. Subjects such as holes, tiny holes (inspired by Jake’s obsession with the salt shaker), the automatic car wash, water, birds, and more are visually presented with clear points of focus. They are simple to allow for a wide array of flexibility and fun.
For example, Jake sometimes initiates singing “Froggie Went a’Courtin” for the photo of the giant bull frog on the first page of the Green book, a popular title this time of year. I hope others who care for a child/children who are developing their voice find Books By Tara a fun and helpful resource.
About the Author
To learn more about Tara McClintick visit her website here.
*Tara & Jake