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The Special Needs Connection: Scheduling & Cooperation, Pt. 1

Our spirited six-year-old

What a delight to introduce another series from guest blogger Amy Stout. This one explains how she and her husband prepare their six-year-old daughter for out-of-the-ordinary experiences. In Part 1 she describes how they prepared her for an x-ray of her abdomen.

The Special Needs Connection Between Scheduling and Cooperation, Part 1

A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
Annie Dillard

“No!” she screams defiantly. “I can’t!!”

We had expected to hear these phrases of protest at the age of 2, but were quite surprised when they didn’t emerge until around the age of 6. Such is the scenario with a child who experiences significant speech and/or communication delays.

You would think we had asked her to move a mountain, but what we really wanted her to do was something quite simple: sit on the potty, brush her teeth, step into the bath, brush her hair, etc.

Learning to Speak Kylie Language

We learned rather quickly that demanding things of her was not going to work. If we proceeded on that course we would be continually at odds with our daughter and was that really how we wanted our relationship with her to be? NO! So, we started to think back on our observations of her play, how she responded to various scenarios, and what were high motivators to her. We quickly realized that counting, numbers, and lining things up were the common denominators in all those situations. Kylie also loves anything Disney. Once we had all of those pieces of information, we just had to figure out how to speak Kylie Language.

Learning to speak our daughter’s language literally changed our lives! We saw a level of cooperation from Kylie that was simply amazing. An example of how we implemented these pieces of information occurred when we took Kylie to the hospital to have an x-ray for one of her doctors.

Kylie Language at the Hospital

On a piece of paper we made a list (or a schedule) of what was going to happen. (Kylie taught herself to read, so we were able to use words, but you could also use pictures). The list said:

  1. Put on a silly, heavy dress.
  2. Lay very still like Sleeping Beauty.
  3. Take a picture of my tummy.
  4. All done.

We shared the schedule/list with Kylie once we arrived at the hospital and were in the waiting room. (If you share the schedule too far in advance it will create more anxiety rather than lessen it.)

When the 2 female x-ray techs met us in the waiting room, we had Kylie show them her list and we quietly explained to them that our daughter experiences autism and that if they could play along, it would really help things go smoothly. We then had Kylie read each point to the techs. This was very empowering for Kylie and allowed her to feel somewhat in control, like a supervisor on the work floor.

Hooray for the X-Ray Techs!

The two x-ray techs were amazing. They helped “the princess” get dressed for “the silly ball” – even having her twirl in her silly, heavy dress. They gave her an “extra fluffy pillow” for her head and made a big deal of taking a picture of her tummy and having “the prince” (daddy) “wake her up” with a magic kiss.

Then at the end – to our delight, they awarded her with princess stickers! It was the most amazing experience and Kylie was calm and in control the entire time.

What Language Does Your Child Speak?

What a great idea! Using a child’s language to gain her cooperation. What language does your child speak? How do you use it to gain cooperation? Leave a comment to share what works for you. And come back tomorrow for a list of the benefits Amy’s discovered by using Kylie’s language.

You’re going to love them,
Jolene

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