The major thing I have learned in 30 years with late-talking children is that they and their life partners experience strikingly distinct worlds. While this may seem obvious, we have found that adults often do not respond to the child's world but stay in their own when interacting with children. I have also learned that the key to helping children develop is genuinely to enter their world at a very personal level. Ryan and Mike tell their story.
Ryan, a four-year-old nonverbal child with autism, was playing with
a straw broom as if it were a sensory toy or an instrument with
strings. Clearly he was experiencing it very differently to his father,
Mike, who said: “Ryan, that's a broom. You sweep with a broom. You
can clean the floor. Look, watch me sweep the floor.” Ryan reacted
by going away and Mike lost a natural chance to interact.
Mike saw the situation from his world of thought and language
and so translated it into something that did not match what Ryan
was experiencing. When I brought the broom back to the boy, he
returned to the way he was playing. I joined him and played like
him. Then I removed two straws and we began poking each other so
he would attend to me. Once he attended, I began making sweeping
motions with the broom and silently waited. He took the broom and
imitated me. What I learned was that only when I entered his world
of sensation and action would he be open to joining my world.
In fact Ryan's father was somewhat taken back when I said:
“Remember when you said to Ryan 'that's a broom.' Please do not be