FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Kid Concepts, U.S.A.

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 03•13

One summer morning, when D is almost five years old, I suggest to D’s ABA therapist (which I pre-approved with his supervisor) that we go to an indoor playground to break up his normal therapy routine.

I am concerned D is missing out on being a kid by doing 20 to 25 hours of ABA per week, although the activities in his therapy are supposed to “rewire” his “atypical” impulses like stimming.

The Wife and I have been discussing what’s best for our son–everything we’ve read says 20 to 25  hours of ABA is the gold standard of treatment–but all I know today is I want D to enjoy being a regular kid.

D is becoming less inclined to follow the repetitive demands of his ABA instructors, so we are considering replacing ABA with more typical activities like the Cub Scouts or the children’s choir at church.

So this is how D and I ended up at Kid Concepts, U.S.A at nine a.m. and I found myself crawling on my knees inside the five-level, maze-like play structure (think McDonald’s on steroids) before really waking up.

D had a clear advantage. At three and half feet tall, he could run through most parts of the play structure. He also had no lack in energy. However, at six-foot-three, this was impossible for me, and I lost track of D many times.

S, D’s ABA therapist, stood outside the play structure. He held a clipboard and pencil in his hand and was busy keeping data on D rather than taking the opportunity to connect with him.

Stopping to catch my breath in the play structure, I felt like I had been transported to Bulgaria or Venezuela where the language and customs are different from what I am used to.

I had just managed to squeeze my body through two padded rollers and crawled through hard plastic tunnels in a futile effort to keep up with D. So I took a moment to rest and recoup.

And I thought of a poem I read in psychologist James MacDonald’s book Communication Partners. It described how kids with communication delays often feel in relationships with their parents, except the words described how I felt inside the play structure:

My world is one of actions and sensations.

Your world is one of thoughts and words.

Only when you enter my world can I get into yours.

Mom and dad, it’s like we live on a staircase.

You are way up there and I am way down here.

Please come down and do the things I can do.

Inside the play structure, I felt the communication gap between D and me, in particular, between his world of actions and sensations and my world of thoughts and words.

I heard D saying to me, only when you enter my world can I get into yours. 

Please come down and do the things I can do. 

I mentally bookmarked this fact: his world is one of actions and sensations, and if I want to connect meaningfully with my son, then I must enter into his world of action and sensations–only then will he want to enter into my world of thoughts and words.

First, I have to to learn the ways of being and thinking in his world if I want to bridge the gap between our worlds to influence him to be interested in joining me in a different way of being in my world.

I had believed D’s difficulty with expressive language had made communication a challenge between us. However, inside the play structure, I realized the bigger barrier is: D and I have different styles or forms of communication.

So, if I want improve our communication and our relationship to grow, I need to be more action and sensation orientated. That’s the epiphany I had inside the play structure at Kid Concepts, U. S.A.

Basically, I need to be like a kid.

D waited for me for at the end of the maze, so we could go down the slide together: a father and son’s worlds converging down a steep, fast tunnel. He apparently didn’t want us to be at opposite ends of the staircase, either.

For more info on Kid Concepts: http://www.kidconceptsusa.com/.

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