I visited Pookie’s preschool class last week for Halloween. Right off the bat, I played with Pookie for a while but then he wandered off to do his own thing. I decided to watch him from afar for a bit.
Another kid from the class came over and started talking to me. He can not communicate as well as Pookie but he really wanted to show me things and tell me what was going on. So I talked to him. Later the speech teacher came in and was just amazed at how much this kid was talking. She said it was probably the most they had heard him talk.
So what kind of magic voodoo did I use to get this kid talking? I’m not nearly good enough to have magic voodoo but there are a few things I do when meeting kids that seems to make them like me.
Get low. I was sitting on the ground when he came to visit me the first time. That put us at about eye level when he walked up. Kids seem to enjoy adults more when the adults take the time to get down to their level. Lay down around a toddler to preschooler sometime and see how long until you pounced.
Don’t be embarrassed. I see this one pretty frequently when people that don’t know Pookie try to talk to him. They will say something and he won’t answer and then they get embarrassed. Or Pookie will say something that seems very out of context and the adult gets embarrassed. I think a lot of us are scarred from our childhoods and when kids confuse us we figure they are probably trying to pull a fast one on us. I don’t think that happens with special education kids very often. If they are talking to you they have something they want you to hear. If you get embarrassed you will panic and have even more trouble figuring out what they are talking about. I know. It used to happen to me all the time before I had kids.
Pay attention to the surroundings and body language. He kept telling me strange things. Like one time he was talking about what sounded like a bus right in the middle of the class period. I happened to look out the window and there was a bus sitting right outside the window. So we talked about buses for a minute. At another time he put his arms straight out and wobbled a little side to side saying, “Whoooo.” It was in the middle of the speech teacher’s session and she was using wind up toys as part of a little skit. The wind up toy at the time was a little ghost who wobbled side to side. And ghosts do say, “whooo.” So we talked about ghosts and Halloween for a minute.
Go where they ask you to go. He asked me to sit on the little tiny chair next to him during snack time, so I did. He asked me to come see the pumpkins with him during recess, so I did. He asked me to sit next to him at story time, so I did. And he talked to me every time I followed him.
Say a lot of, “Uh huh.” He frequently would say something that I couldn’t understand and I would just look at him and say, “Uh huh” or “Really?” Sometimes that was enough and he would continue on his way. Sometimes it was not enough and he would point to something to help provide context.
Wait for them to come to you. This kid approached me while I was just sitting in the middle of the room. A lot of kids come up and talk to me when I am just sitting quietly. Kids are often intimidated by grownups. Loud ones are even more intimidating.
I’ll have to try to get back into Pookie’s class someday to see if this was a one day thing or if the kid really does like to talk to me. The teachers thought that it was because I am male and maybe the boy is more comfortable talking to men the women. Could be. But I like to think that it is the things mentioned above?