Star of the Show

Erik gave us a run for our money, quite literally.  He would run outside and inspect the sprinkler heads to make sure there was no dirt on them, not because he was really that fascinated with sprinkler heads, but because he enjoyed the thrill of running the show, being the center of attention, and essentially being in control of everything.  He was a super, strong-willed independent thinker, to put it mildly.  He had autism and down syndrome combined with very limited language.

We had set up visual behavior contracts and reinforcement plans with tons of fabulous reinforcers.  Erik seemed to hold out for us to up the ante and offer an even more exciting reinforcer, then he would smile and say “No!”  He got the biggest pleasure out of seeing us out there, with the principal, trying to figure out what to do next.  One day, at lunchtime, after an entire morning of psychologically draining and completely unsuccessful attempts at enticing him inside, he said to me, “No pennies.  No smiles.  Just go away!”  This was a lot of language coming out of him, but I wasn’t exactly pleased.  I went and got my video camera.  When I came back, I turned the LCD screen so he could see himself, and said, “Erik, Today I want to make a movie and I was hoping you could be the movie star.”

It was as if I had spoken a magic spell.  Immediately, the defiance and resistance melted away.  He raised his head, stood up, and stared at himself in the camera with a sideways, satisfied smile like that of a movie star.  He squared his shoulders and strutted with me to the classroom.  Then he sat in a chair and waited for my direction on what to do next.  So now we not only had him in the classroom, which was a miracle, but we also had him eagerly anticipating our directions.  We had found a way for the best of both worlds – he was still the star of the show and the center of attention, but I was the director of the movie.  He learned an enormous amount through the Video Story interventions, and also the side effect of realizing that following directions could be fun and rewarding, the classroom was a great place to be, and his interactions with his peers could be positive and mutually beneficial.  His mother said,

 “I think the Video Stories have been life-changing for my son, because it gave us a way to break through into his little world and communicate with him.  He loved being the movie star and it clicked with him.  The Video Stories have been a bridge to connect his world with our own.”

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