Can I tell you how many times in the past we have worked on trying to teach Oliver to point to things? Our approaches have been many and varied. And pretty much pointless (pun intended). Oliver could gesture in the direction of something -- usually using his whole hand -- but the point was elusive and clearly had little meaning for him. And then? Well, we started working on our current RDI objective, the one where Oliver discovers that he can see something that I don't; that our perspectives are often different. And right from the beginning it was clear that something started to click for him. He is suddenly pointing all over the place. Within a week we went from no pointing at all to pointing for everything. Watching Oliver point emphatically at something is glorious. Another step in our communication journey.
I've been thinking about why the whole thing has been successful this time around. Part of it has to be that I've learned how to help him make this kind of discovery more easily. But part of it, I think, is that he is now developmentally ready. We are clearly working on the edge of his competency. And that is why this whole RDI thing feels like magic to me. All of the time and energy that we spent working on pointing in years past wasn't effective because Oliver didn't have the developmental underpinnings that made the gesture meaningful. Now he does and so he can be more competent at discovering that, oh, if I don't show this thing or that to my Mom she doesn't necessarily see or understand what I am thinking. And I see him working to make himself understood.
I knew it was clicking last week when we visited a friend and the kids were playing on the bridge leading to her property. Oliver accidentally dropped a stick (of licorice) that he had been playing with through the planks of the bridge. I didn't see him drop the stick but he came and got me, telling me to "Get it! Get it!" I had no idea what he was talking about so he had to really work to direct my attention to the piece of licorice. We worked together for about five minutes to locate the missing prize, the whole time Oliver pointing then looking at me to make sure I was following the line between the end of his finger and the licorice. At first, I didn't even know what I was looking for!! Then, when I put two and two together, I marveled at how he hard he was working to get me to see something from his perspective. He even sometimes moved my head so that I could see between the planks in the direction of the licorice!!! When I finally retrieved the licorice from the brackish water under the bridge I cringed at the thought that he might eventually want to eat the thing (he did not) but there was no way I was going to let him fail.
For the moment, Oliver is mostly pointing to things that he wants -- he has dropped something and can't get it or he can't reach something that he'd like to have. Ultimately I hope that he can use this discovery to point out things that he notices about the world around him that he would like to share with me. As in, "Hey, look at that bird!" We aren't there yet. But we're working on it.
When we first started working on this objective I said to my consultant that we were in it for the long haul. My previous attempts to teach pointing were so dismal that I couldn't imagine the day when he easily, readily, pointed out objects. Now he does it many times throughout the day. Just like that.
It seems like this is the way of things with Oliver. We go through periods of time when I think that I might have to reconcile myself that he won't ever be able to do this thing or that. And then suddenly he is doing that very thing and I'm reminding myself that I should never underestimate my little guy. He's got his own timetable, his own trajectory. And maybe Oliver and I are both making important discoveries about perspective along the way.