Rose came to GiGi’s to develop her communication skills. I was presented with a lovely young lady who was nonverbal, very shy, and heavily dependent on her tablet to assist her in connecting with the world. She even struggled with making eye contact early on. I decided the best way to help Rose was to picture us in the following scenario: if we were two people on the same island, who speak different languages, and she did not have the tablet to communicate, how would we bond? I knew I would have to think “outside of the box” in order to not only make her comfortable, but hopefully also grow her confidence and self-esteem.
I started by incorporating play with dolls that were provided, and using them as a bridge between us. The more I interacted with the dolls, the more interested Rose became in what I was doing. As I would create a narrative for what the dolls were doing or thinking, I could see in Rose’s eyes that she was creating her own narrative too. I felt strongly at that point that she did have the capacity for speech, and shortly thereafter I let her mother know that the tablet was no longer necessary during our tutoring sessions together.
Rose’s growth since those initial interactions has developed considerably. The shy person who struggled to make eye-contact was now meeting my eyes, giving hugs, and clearly ready to move past needing the dolls as a means for us to connect. While I have continued to utilize the resources provided by the Playhouse, I have also added some of my own “tools” to her learning toolbox such as an ID bracelet I made with her name and phone number to help with alpha-numeric recognition. The dolls still have their presence too, as Rose will often have the doll “help” with her letter-word matching. It is moments such as those when I am in awe in how far she has come, and I am honored to have had a role in her progress.
Of all our experiences together, the one I am most proud of was introducing her to her schoolmate, Kevin. Rose’s mother had mentioned in our initial conversation that Rose did not have many friends. When I discovered that Rose and Kevin attended the same school, I jumped at the opportunity to facilitate an introduction. After getting their parents’ permission, the three of us went for ice cream at McDonald’s. After they ordered for themselves, paid in cash, and counted their change, I got to watch Rose build a wonderful friendship. Facilitating a learning-rich environment for Rose has allowed us to develop her writing skills, improved her number/letter recognition, and helped her find her voice. As she can proudly tell you, “I can talk.”