Routines helped this lil guy make sense of an often nonsensical world around him. And especially on the first week of school, he needed some help making sense of everything.
“Change diaper” was a routine he knew. Pull down pants, take diaper off, put new diaper on, pull up pants. That would have worked wonderfully except that the pants he pulled back up were soaking wet. He needed new pants. But in his mind, the routine was already complete. All efforts to persuade him to the contrary were enthusiastically not paid attention to.
If he was my child I could have picked him up, but at school we aren’t supposed to do that. And the further problem was that this small gap in routine was inhibiting the larger routine. He was supposed to line up by the door to go to the therapy gym with me, but he couldn’t (because he was wet), and he was very certain that he didn’t need to go back in the bathroom (because he’d already done that), so he was stuck in limbo: hovering around near the door with all the adults trying to talk him into going to the bathroom and changing his pants.
Several adults said several things to him, overlapping and from adult height, and he looked in a mirror and clapped his hands together and appeared not to notice any of them.
I caught his eye in the mirror and clapped my hands like he was doing.
He grew very interested. He clapped his hands with bigger motions and said “Chomp!”
I copied him again. “Chomp! Chomp!”
He clapped his hands with a huge motion and said “rooooaaarrrrr!”
I clapped mine too, copying his motions. “Rooooaaarrrrr!” Then I added in what I thought he might be playing. “I’m a dinosaur!”
I picked up the pants that he was supposed to put on and made the legs of them go in a chomping motion. “Chomp chomp! I need to put on clean dinosaur pants!”
He looked at me in the mirror again and smiled, then turned and ran to the toy center of the room. I followed, and he started taking toys off the shelf to show me.
I wondered if he might be confused about what exactly the routine was now — since we were obviously in a holding pattern, but he didn’t understand what was expected of him (other than that everybody was really concerned about pants for some reason). “We want to go to the action room,” I said.
He perked up. He remembered and loved the action room. “We want to go to the action room,” he echoed.
“But oh no! The pants are wet! What about, first clean pants. Then action room?”
“We want to go to the action room,” he said again, standing by the mirror near the door again and looking at me in the mirror. A stroke of luck: he started fidgeting with his shoe and I realized the heel of it was all crunched up. He offered his foot to me to fix it.
Instead I took the shoe off and made it hop to the bathroom. “Hop, hop, hop! We need clean pants, fix shoes, then go to action room!”
“Then action room,” he agreed, then walked straight to the bathroom and let me help change his pants, put on his shoes, and we walked straight to action room!