Thursday, April 28, 2011

Seeing Things Anew

It’s amazing what you can learn about your child by watching a videotape with a professional who points out things that you see with own eyes every day.

We had a meeting with our son’s psychotherapist the other day and she showed us video from a recent therapy session with Kai.

The session that we watched was one where the therapist and my son were doing a science experiment together. As the video started playing, the therapist was trying to get my son’s attention. She was reading him the instructions for the project and he paid no attention to her. He was goofing around and not listening. I know the feeling well.

After a little while, however, he became focused and ended up happily working on the project. How did that happen?

We watched a second time, but this time, instead of viewing it uninterrupted, the therapist paused it at several points along the way so that she could explain what she observed.

During the beginning of the session, when Kai did not appear to be following along, the therapist had given only verbal instructions. But, as soon as she began gesturing with her hands, he became clued in to her. She explained that Kai is a visual learner and that it is helpful to give visual cues in addition to the verbal ones.

As they began the science experiment, my son again appeared to lose focus. The therapist reached out her arm and lightly touched her hand to my son’s shoulder. She also brought her face into his line of sight as she spoke with him. He got back on task right away. He had needed a little visual reminder that she was talking and that he needed to listen to her.

Another time, she read his body language and could tell that he did not understand what he needed to do. She pointed at a particular object and he immediately caught on to what he needed to do.

It was illuminating to see all this.

There are many times when I am working with Kai on his homework, just to name one example, when he seems to lose focus. I get frustrated and may raise my voice. I realize now that, since he is such a visual learner, I need to give my son more visual cues, and that increasingly loud audio cues do not help the situation.

Seeing this also helped me better understand why my son had so much trouble learning in a regular classroom even though he is a bright kid.

The therapist went on to explain other situations where, by looking at Kai’s expressions and behaviors, we can see the cues he is giving off. Oftentimes, he will be communicating to us non-verbally because he does not yet know how to express what he is feeling.

For example, when he becomes disregulated when asked to do a more complex problem, he may be saying that the situation is too much for him and that he cannot take in all of the information.

We see things like this every day but until someone points it out, you sometimes don’t notice it.

We appreciated the feedback and will practice reading our son’s non-verbal cues and trying to be more visual with him.

Now if only we could record all of our interactions at home and have a professional analyze what else we can do.


  1. I've read some of your articles. Kai sounds so much like my son Alex ( A 2E Child). My wife told me about your blog when your wife visited her blog. My son is 10 yrs. old. Alex is 3/4 Japanese (my wife is from Japan...I am 1/2 Japanese) and he also has a fascination with numbers in particular.

    I also started my blog on my son last year (May). Mine is designed to let other parents (without services available) to home school their children using the ABA techniques we learned through our observation of his initial therapy...and by what we have found to be particularly effective with our son.

    My wife's blog covers detailed explanations in Japanese. Mine covers concepts and is in English.

    I will be stopping in from time to time to read more of your articles. I will write more comments at that time...till then...

  2. I am looking forward to reading more of your blog. Your son sounds similar to mine. And we are curious to learn more about home schooling so I will definitely be reading your blog to find out how you do it.


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