Besides, we had rather an amazing session with Joy's Tuesday-afternoon barista, that I'd like to share.
This was a 3pm-5pm afternoon session; the House Blend sessions are two hours long, minus 15 minutes at the end for record-keeping.
We have a consistent routine to begin and end the sessions, something that started all the way back with one of Joy's first Birth-to-Three therapists in 2006. At the beginning of the session comes a song to the tune of "Goodnight, Ladies" that goes:
It's time for us to play!
At the end of the session comes a song with three verses (I don't know a name for the tune): one verse for clapping hands, one for stomping feet, one for waving bye-bye. We have tiny reminder-notes taped to the outside and inside of the front door to help make sure that the songs happen.
The timing of the afternoon sessions is such that it generally starts with snack.
Joy has become a pro at yanking and handing over the photo cards. In fact, there was one snack over the weekend where we wanted to serve her something that wasn't on the photos, so we didn't bring the book out, and she was mildly cranky at not having her useful tool available! (She wasn't upset enough to refuse the tortilla chips... But I digress).
So after a suitable run of repeated photo requests for small servings of bunny-cracker and apple and milk, it was over to the living room for some jumps and pillow-squishes. I think that's all they had time for before our playdate guests arrived!
Since I have to be at home for these afternoon sessions, I'm no longer available to pick Rose up from school. Instead she comes home with neighborhood friends, a lovely family with a Rose-aged daughter and a 3-year-old son. Wonder of wonders, the mom is an early-childhood therapist (ST) herself and "gets" our situation without all the effort of edu-ma-cating on my part.
Joy's playdate was with the son. We'll call him J-Cat, short for Jellicle Cat because he is currently fascinated with the musical Cats. I could totally see him as Mr. Mistoffelees in the 2030 Broadway-revival...
As soon as boots and snowpants were shed, Rose and her pal disappeared into a back room, and J-Cat and his mom came to join Joy in the livingroom. J-Cat gravitated to a bag full of soft-blocks, so that became the first game. The barista held Joy between her legs, J-Cat sat between his mom's legs, and they took turns trying to toss a soft-block to the other. We used short verbal cues for things like "Joy's turn!" "Catch!" "Ready, set..." (wait for Joy to maybe chime in...) "GO!" And lots of encouragement & cheering & praise. Joy took a lot of support to play the game, but tolerated it -- like all things, up to a point.
When Joy started protesting, we cajoled her into "one more turn" and then it was her turn to pick the next game. The barista whipped a couple of toy photos onto the notebook, and Joy picked the Farm See-n-Say. So then the See-n-Say passed back and forth, with each kid getting a turn to pick an animal and pull the lever.
"Duck... quack, quack."
"OK, J-Cat's turn!"
"Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!" (everybody claps along, Joy with support)
Joy didn't say much, but she made definite selections when offered choices, and took good turns with pulling or pushing or whatever the toy was. We played ring-stack, and blanket-pulls, and a train-toy, and another See-n-Say (an older bigger one with a stiffer lever, featuring baby zoo animals), and mini-trampoline jumping, and tunnel crawling. Joy needed some jump-breaks from time to time, while J-Cat needed some breaks to sing and dance for us.
After about an hour, both kids had hit their limit of such structured turn-taking. J-Cat wanted to play an imaginative game with his mom involving play-food, not one of Joy's strengths. So while they did that, somehow the very basic 3-hole shape-sorter came out as something for Joy & the barista to do.
What happened next was magical.
Joy pulled the lid off the shape-sorter, dumped the shapes, and started working to get the lid back on (accomplishing it with just a smidge of help.) The barista handed her one of the shapes, and Joy went right to work trying to get it in (again with just minimal help). Once she succeeded in getting the edges lined up correctly in the proper hole, she paused... and looked at the barista... and twinkled with anticipation.
The barista built the anticipation with a rising tone of "ahhh... ahhh..." (Imagine winding your way up to a theatrical sneeze.)
After teasing through several sounds of anticipation, Joy let the piece fall into the bucket, and began giggling like crazy, getting rewarded with praise and a tickle.
They did this again... and again... and again. They went through the entire bucketful two times, and then it was time for record keeping and the barista had to go fill in the binder. But Joy wasn't done. She went through another whole iteration of the bucket with me! And then I got up to go check on Rose, and Joy still wasn't ready to be done. She took the lid off once more all by herself, got out four pieces, got the lid back on, and ran the show all alone for two pieces' worth, looking all the way across the room to where I stood at the doorway, to make sure that I was watching and reacting appropriately.
After that we had to say goodbye to our guests, sing the ByeBye song after the report had been written so the barista could get out the door, and get ready for dinner.
There ya go. How's that for a House Blend session?
Right now we've got the playdate thing happening once a week. The rest of the sessions at our house are generally one-on-one, though Rose inserts herself into the action from time to time. Then twice a week we have sessions at Joy's daycare, with a very different dynamic among a roomful of peers (I'm never around to witness these since I'm always at work, but she's been able to do some neat things with support like join in on dress-up play.) At this point we've got 12 sessions on the schedule per week.
It's not always this awesome, by a long shot, but it's fun to share a good one!
By the way. J-Cat's mom is very pleased with these playdates too (besides being a phenomenal partner as the action is taking place). All this structured turn-taking practice is GREAT stuff for J-Cat as well as for Joy.