Thanks to Mrs. H, we've had a pretty amazing "a ha!" regarding Bud's recent behavior.
Several months ago, there was a staffing change in Bud's classroom. The classroom aide who'd been there during the fall left, and was replaced by Miss Josephs, a warm, soft-spoken, child-focused assistant. She is precisely the sort of person to whom Bud is usually drawn. To my surprise, though Bud has clearly had warm regard for her, he's kept an invisible wall between himself and Miss Josephs. She has respected his need for some distance, but has spent time and energy trying to make connections with him.
This week, everything changed. Bud has been tripping over himself in his effusive proclamations of love for Miss Josephs. At school he has been her constant (and adoring) companion. At home, he talks about what he's done with her and what they'll do together next. Tonight he told me, "I go for a walk with Mom and say 'Surprise, Miss Josephs!' and that will cheer Miss Josephs up!"
We've all been scratching our heads wondering what has prompted this rapid change of heart. Then yesterday, Mrs. H read my recent post about Bud's fascination with the new Sesame Beginnings DVD, and wrote me this e-mail:
Hi there - I've been thinking about the New Beginnings post. Miss Josephs has been asking me "why now" questions in regard to the undying show of affection Bud has showered upon her the past two days. She insists that she has done nothing new, or changed her behavior towards him lately. (Although she has always been sweet and quiet spoken.) These behaviors do seem like they had come out of the blue, and there seemed to be "something" to it there that I couldn't name; so my response was - "Enjoy it, you two have a great connection now."
However, as I read the blog about the Sesame Street DVDs, I can't help but replay the scripts, voices, actions, and mannerisms he uses toward Miss Josephs. For lack of any other analogy - it's almost... Mothering? Nurturing? I can't find the expression. It does feel like that "love affair" stage that a younger child might establish with a caregiver. You should see the facial interplay...it's not the same kind of coy "flirting" that he had done with me at first, and then with others. This is an "open face", "eye to eye" exchange. With all the RDI work that you have been doing at home, and the bit that we try here - it does feel like a passage into some new territory.
It seems that Sesame Beginnings is doing more for Bud than I first thought. Yes, he enjoys watching the interactions between babies and caregivers. But somehow, it seems that he recognizes it so much - it resonates so well with him - that it has given him the confidence to strike out on his own into previously unexplored terrain. For the first time, he is establishing a relationship not simply by responding to cues, but also by sending them. He is initiating relationship, inviting it, nurturing it. And he's in love with the feeling it has inspired.
In his book Solving the Relationship Puzzle, Steve Gutstein introduces the RDI model and talks about the need for children to be able to move past the skills they learn in the "lab" to be able to apply them in real-life situations. He writes,
Generalization, the desire and ability to use relational skills outside of treatment settings, is a critical step, akin to taking a product from the lab and "field testing" it. In our model, it involves gradually expanding the complexity of the relational field, by having the child work with different partners, increasing numbers of people, adding peers, increasing flexibility and teaching the child to be a co-creator of new activities.
It seems that Bud is in the midst of his very first field test - and the early results are extraordinarily promising.