FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Kid Concepts, U.S.A.

Written By: Scot Butwell - Mar• 03•13

One mid-July 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 daily therapy routine.

I am concerned D is missing out on being a kid by doing 20 to 25 hours of therapy per week, although the activities are supposed to “rewire” his sensory-craving impulses like stimming into typical behaviors.

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

D is becoming less inclined to follow the demands of his ABA instructors five hours a day–two months into his ABA program-so we are considering replacing it with the Cub Scouts or children’s choir at our church.

This is how we ended up at Kid Concepts, U.S.A. at nine in the morning, and I  crawled inside the five-level, maze-like play structure, trying to keep pace with D.

D had a huge advantage. At three and a half feet tall, he could run through most of the play structure; at six-foot-three, this was impossible for me. He also had an sizeble energy advantage.

S, D’s ABA therapist, stood outside the play structure with a clipboard and pencil in his hand, keeping data of some kind on D. I thought he whiffed on an opportunity to connect with D.

Stopping to catch my breath inside the play structure, I felt like I had been transplanted to a foreign country where the language and customs are vastly different from my culture.

And a poem came to my mind. It was from the preface to psychologist James MacDonald’s book Communication Partners; and it described how kids with communication delays often feel in relationships with their parents.

However, the poem expressed 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 sensed the gap between D’s world of actions and sensations and my world of thoughts and words, and I felt like the one standing at the bottom of the staircase.

I could hear 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. 

D wasn’t speaking audibly to me; it was just an impression I felt thinking about our two worlds–his actions and sensation, mine words and thoughts.

I thought his difficulty with social language related to a speech issue, but as I thought about the poem in the play structure, I had this epiphany: D speaks an entirely different language.

So I mentally bookmarked this fact: if I want to meaningfully connect with him, I must learn to speak his language—actions and sensations—rather than make him talk in mine.

So this means I need to become action and sensation-orientated; basically, I need to be more like a kid.

D waited for me at the end of play structure, so we could go down the steep slide together: a father and son’s worlds converging in a fast descent. 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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