Friday, September 19, 2014

Celebrating Independent Play!

This morning Mason met a milestone that does my heart so much good!! He realized, for the first time, that "he can do it himself" when it comes to playing with toys. I really think he has believed that he "needs" someone to help him and today he discovered that's not so. He realized he is his own man and can play on his own :)

I am so, so thrilled for this simple accomplishment - Mason has had quite a bit of "learned helplessness" in the past because he has had so much assistance to do everything, and his own independent play is paving the way for him to understand he can have some control over his own circumstances.

It has only been in the last several weeks that Mason has shown any interest in toys at all - at least enough interest to want to figure out how to activate them. Slowly he has learned he can pick up small shakers - but even to pick up toys he requires someone to take his arm and move it so that his hand feels the toy on the floor to pick up. If the arm-holder lets go and moves away, he drops the toy. He really depends on that tactile input to cue him what to do and when to do it.

Enter Tigger. I mentioned him in Mason's top ten favorite toys that teach blog, and he has been a game-changer for Mason in the world of playtime and independence. From the minute he was out of his box, he bounced into Mason's heart. His voice is funny and he moves around a lot, and he's bright. A winning combo for grabbing Mason's attention. But in order to turn him on, his paw has to be squeezed pretty hard. I actually doubted when we got him that Mason would be able to play with him but I figured he might get a kick out of watching/hearing him. I even went so far as to order an adapted version with a switch connection to make it easier for him. But to my shock and delight, before the adapted Tigger even arrived Mason was so motivated to hear Tigger sing that he was learning to squeeze his paw with guidance from Grammy first on how to squeeze and then just on where to put his hands! So much for needing the switch toy ;)

The squeezing step was huge for Mason. But an obstacle to making progress past the guided play was that Mason felt incapable of doing it by himself. If Brian, me or Grammy stepped away from guiding his arm, he would put his hands out and cry for more, thinking he needed help to find the paw. And to get my attention, he would lay down. This constant laying down when he was upset was getting in the way of him learning that Tigger was right in front of him and he could find him by touch and activate him by himself.

We had to outsmart Mason's avoidance tendencies. So Brian and I made him a corner chair that keeps him from laying down when he is mad ;) It was pretty simple and inexpensive and all I did was to buy 3 pre-cut pieces of plywood from Michael's with a 20% off coupon ($23 total). I glued them together and reinforced with nails and used soft Styrofoam sheets for the back cushions and floor cushion. Then covered with duct tape to soften the edges. For straps I had some spares from an old high chair that can be screwed into the back and bottom of the chair. The whole thing - tape foam, wood and all, was around $45.
wooden corner chair for therapyback view corner chair homemade for special needscorner chair side view for supporting special needs children
DIY corner chair for special needs therapy

This morning I tested it with Tigger. At first Mason was distressed that I wasn't there to help guide his arm. I wanted him to learn on his own that he could do it and couldn't lay down to avoid it. I moved to the front instead of beside him and waved my fingers near Tigger's paw to show him where it was. I also put yellow tape on the paw to make it easier to target visually. Then I let him experiment. He really is depending a lot more on his sense of touch than sight, as he often grabs Tigger's arm or our dog's ear by mistake and keeps feeling until he finds the paw ;) But he is doing it successfully, without giving up and having a fit, and he is getting even better!! He is so proud of himself when he activates Tigger and he knows nobody helped him.

          child with low vision activating Tigger independently

John 8:32
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Mason's Mix

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