Sunday, November 15, 2015

Behind the Wizard's Curtain: Mutual Touch and Shared Experiences

Recently, I was able to remember to take a video of a modest Orion during bath time to show an example of a shared experience.  There are so many opportunities for shared experiences out there!  The root of my understanding came from reading an article that discussed mutual touch.  This is very important to me as a parent that mutual touch and shared experiences lead to communication opportunities and language development.  It all starts small but the opportunities are endless... read on.

Mutual Touch

Did you ever think you could interact with your kid like this, "Hey, did you notice a whole lot of bumps, shapes, valleys and ridges on that lumpy kiddie slide?" Yes! You can have a conversation with your kid about this stuff. It even counts when your kid knows you explored WITH him.

A review of a sighted child and mother's interaction is mentioned in "Talking the Language of the Hands to the Hands", by Barbara Miles: "Perhaps the most important gesture in language development is the pointing gesture. A mother pointing at an object as she names it (“Look! Doggie!”) is establishing a mutual topic and ensuring that she and her child are focused on the same thing. The word that names the thing can then acquire meaning for the child."

And that brings in the blind or DeafBlind child's perspective in the same article. 
"Mutual touch is the most direct equivalent of the pointing gesture for a child who is blind since it lets him know most surely that there is a mutual referent, that the object named is the mutual topic that he shares..." (Miles, continued.)
If you have not read this particular article, I strongly recommend you read it from beginning to end and chew on the ideas and revel in your newfound empowerment.  (At least that was what it felt like for me, that's what hope feels like!)

It sure takes a lot of brainpower for me to remember to label things through tactile sign language that Orion and I touch or explore together. Sometimes he's still exploring the same thing or busy exploring the next thing he'd just found, which I don't want to interrupt.  (Let his fingers have all the time in touch possible.)  Or he's had enough signing input and I can't get a word in (he withdraws his hands or pushes mine away).  Or he has a "little" meltdown. It's OK, we all try the best we can.  Give him 5 minutes to rest and process his thoughts, try another time or even ask yourself whether he really dislikes that thing.

The Benefits of Shared Experiences

This leads me to a very short video (under a minute) I made of just one of Orion's millions of baths.  It's just one little twinkle of an example of shared experiences you can have with your child.

(Video description:
There are two shots in the video, the first is of Orion laying in a tub with a few inches of water, splashing the water with his arms.  The following shot is the same view but with an adult's hand splashing the water in between Orion's chest and left arm.

After the title, "An Orion Favorite: Bathtime", subtitles read:
"He loves to splash the water.
He loves to splash with Mom and Dad, too.
Splashing together makes it a "shared experience".
Solo and shared experiences are fun!
Shared experiences can lead to mutual joy, trust, movement conversations, and meaningful memories!)

Mutual joy: Did you see that contagious smile?
Trust: I am here with you.
Movement Conversation: I'll watch for signs, anywhere else that isn't the bathtub, that you might be remembering what you were doing in the tub and I can respond by joining you and acknowledging your self-initiated movement and even add some signs to the mix.
Meaningful Memories: There's nothing sweeter than knowing someone else shares this very moment with you.

A Mom's Musings

Mutual touch and shared experiences have many parallel benefits for language opportunities.  Shared experiences have dynamic movements that have better chances of being identified later on in a different context.  The movements initiated by a child can actually be used as a sign since it already makes sense to him.  The biggest thing of all that I love is that I can "look at things" with my son and he'll know it, too!

What a relief it is as a parent to know I can do this with my DeafBlind son.  When Orion was an infant, his dad and I wondered how do we get him from the point of a congenitally DeafBlind infant to a tactile-signing DeafBlind adult?  Mutual touch was one of the first inklings of opportunities we learned about however Orion wasn't exploring with his hands just yet and now five years later he's much more active with his hands and the opportunities are opening up.

(Hand development doesn't happen overnight, that's a whole 'nother topic.)

Orion was being cared for by his dad, in school or was sleeping during the typing of this blog.  That kind of time is very rare these days as he's more active! Blogging time is stop-n-go for me.  That's a nice problem for us... 


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