Saturday 21 January 2017

'Hanging out' and using non-verbal communication to facilitate emotional connection

I wrote my first blogpost about working with Saoirse at Bright Futures School here.

In this current blogpost, I'm sharing some footage of a session that Alex did with Saoirse.  On the day this was filmed, Saoirse came into school already dysregulated, and was quite difficult to engage in her earlier sessions.

Alex nails it here by taking all demands off Saoirse and just 'hanging out' with her in a guiding-friendly way.  She lets Saoirse choose her activity and finds a way to introduce co-regulation into the activity.

In the footage analysis below, Alex is in black and Sharon (our external RDI Consultant, who moderates and guides our practice) is in blue.

0.02 – prosody used to try to gain attention 

0.09 – “says flap” – something that S and I have done in the past when I tickle her (the tickly bird is coming)

0.11 – very brief glance as S takes the toy off me 

0.18 – looks to me and makes a “eee” sound – I don’t know whether S has remembered our tickle game or if she is just making noises

0.22 – emotion sharing with me? or simply inviting interaction from you because you are so quiet??

0.27 – S makes a verbal rhythm

0.29 – I repeat

0.30 – another glance in my direction

0.31 – S puts the toy down and it is quite loud and she references me

0.32 – I respond with facial expression

0.33 – S (I think) acknowledges this and says “ooo” which I repeat this looks really good, inviting the co-reg of 'you & me'

0.34 – S repeats pattern and looks to me again as it makes a noise

0.35 – as it’s the dragonfly again I say “flap”

0.37 – S moves the cat and I say “meow” – still trying to see if I’m allowed to join in

S then moves each toy again and I make the noise of each animal that is moved – S smiles at this but no referencing or emotion-sharing with me 

0.46 – S places a penguin – I have no idea what noise penguins make?

0.49 – S moves the penguin again

0.50 – more animal moves again so I repeat the noises this is a co-reg pattern with each of you having a role to play

0.56 – the penguin again – so I say “penguin”

0.57 – I get a reference – which makes me laugh as it’s as if S is saying – “come on”

1.01 – it did look for a moment that this amused? agree.

Alex what is great here is you are comfortable doing what seems like nothing with Saoirse, when in actual fact you are both interacting loads!  Just being happy in one another's company without a specific goal of getting something completed/done by the child is very hard for a lot of people to do.

About 5 minutes later, Saoirse copied what Alex started above, clearly seeking to initiate further experience- and emotion-sharing:

0.04 – S makes the noise “flap” as she puts the dragonfly into the house – I didn’t know if she was inviting me to do what I did previously? maybe

0.05 – I repeat and add gesture

0.08 – attempting engagement through prosody again

0.12 – my new ‘penguin’ noise

0.15 – “meow” – I am going somewhere with this – in my head – I was wondering if S would reference me if she later moved the animals and I didn’t say anything – to see if she was listening and enjoying the ‘involvement’ 

As S starts to remove the animals I again make the noises

0.22 – S emotion shares with me around the “flap” – again I think this is due to the tickly game we play 

0.23 – I add the tickle game gesture 

0.24 – really smiling – I think it is again about the tickle 

0.27 – this time as S places her animal she does look to me   Isn't that lovely... a real connection of 'if I do this, then you will do that'

0.29 – S doesn’t place an animal but references me and touches another one – I did not realise this initially - it's a JND!! (small variation) to the pattern.

0.31 – I catch on… “flap”

0.35 – S touches another animal and I make the noise – I do this for each animal in turn – no emotion sharing or referencing it all speeds up here & becomes a little more task focused from Saoirse which probably explains the lack of emotion-sharing and referencing.  

0.40 – I stop the noise as S touches to see if I do get the reference… no! that's exactly what I would do.... interesting, I wonder if that would still be the case on a good day??

0.45 – S slumps back in her chair – I do not know if this is because I didn’t ‘play’??? S then leaves the game herself, sits for a while before moving away  

Okay so this sounds like Saoirse simply doesn't know how to fix the co-reg breakdown so retreats.  If doing this again it might be worth playing with it a little more.... so instead of not giving a sound for any of the animals maybe add the silence for some & noise for others, so there is still a level of unpredictability re how you will respond, but not total withdrawal on your part because you aren't getting the social referencing

And Sharon's final comments:

I believe this is exactly the type of interaction that Saoirse needs, tiny baby steps - literally - to encourage her to be motivated to interact with another.  She needs to learn to trust in herself & in others before she will be able to develop her emotional interaction further. 
Keep on doing what you are doing would be my advice.  And do show these clips to others.  I did a similar thing with animals & sounds when I was at BF & started to get a reaction, nothing like what you got here.  But it was a way in, a way of making me be there not just the toys.
At the moment, Saoirse hasn't got the 'why bother' of interaction.  It hasn't clicked for her that other people can be fun and exciting, or that the things we can do together can make us feel good about ourselves.  It's early days and we are still building up trust with her.

Given that, I think you'll agree that the above engagement that Alex facilitated is excellent work :)  

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