Today morning, as I was getting Adith ready for school, I heard the garbage truck outside, picking up trash from the large bin just outside our building. I remembered how much Adith enjoyed watching the mighty garbage truck perform this spectacular routine when he was younger. It comes in roaring, halts in front of the bin and makes some warm-up sounds before lifting the heavy receptacle and finally dumping the trash in! It was one of our favorite things to do while we were in our old apartment. He could not hear it coming, so when I heard it, I would stop whatever we were doing and take him to the balcony so that we can watch this together, narrating all the while!
A typical narration would be ” Oh, here is the garbage truck! It has come to get the trash! Look! It is so big! Listen, it is getting ready. See those things coming out? They are used to lift the bin..Watch..he is going to lift it! Boy! it should be so heavy! He is lifting it up, up, up! And now he is going to dump it! DUMP!! So loud! Did you hear that Adith? It was so..oo loud!! Now, he is putting it back..There..the bin is empty now! All done! The garbage truck is leaving now. Bye bye garbage truck! Can you say bye, Adith?
The last question would elicit a response like “vai” with a hand wave after I modeled it. We never missed an opportunity to see this – both of us thoroughly enjoyed it!
A couple of years ago, Adith was receiving therapy at home from his speech therapist when I heard our friend roaring outside. I quickly explained that we never missed this and ran out to the balcony hauling Adith. My smart therapist also joined us, with her iPad and began taking pictures all the while. When the truck was gone, she opened an app called “Story Creator” and made an e-book with the different pictures she took and added subtitles. It was so cool! I was amazed by her thoughtfulness! Next week, she came with a color print out of the same! Adith poured over it and did not want to do anything else but flip through the pages of this exciting book! I thanked her for this wonderful gesture. It is really difficult to get kids interested in something that you want them to do and here she was – building vocabulary and language around his interest! It speaks volumes of how smart and intuitive she is! This is the book.
We also got a garbage truck toy that looked exactly the same and which could be remote controlled. Needless to say, it followed us wherever we went. I have used it in a myriad of activities at home, dumping blocks, alphabets, and foam magnets. Anything to do with the truck was exciting for him and I took advantage of it! I also took a video of the GT and he loved to watch it over and over.
However it bothered me that, he was not expressive about it. I spoke about this to the therapist at school and she mentioned to speak in small, simpler phrases like Up, Up, Up, Dump and slowly build on it. So I tried “Up, Up, Up” with 3 short movements of the hands moving up and finally hands moving over the shoulders while saying “Dump”. It worked. He imitated me, saying Ah, Ah, Ah, Aaah. With “p”, “d” and “m” not in his speech yet, this was the closest he could approximate. I was amazed by the response this simple strategy brought about! It reminded me how often we should be asking for help. Sometimes we are so glued to doing things one way that we cannot think of alternate methods:). He could probably understand my narration but it was far too long and complicated for him to imitate, certainly.
I extended this “build upon interest” principle to other things as well – relating our daily life happenings to scenes in Caillou, getting books about Curious George etc. but the greatest hit so far has been the garbage truck. Once I asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up and he promptly replied, ” I want to drive the Garbage truck”. My jaw dropped. Not that it is a bad thing but you couldn’t exactly wish for your son to “desire” to be a truck driver! I probably took it a bit too far!