Writing Connection

One of my kids who does not like to write and feels particularly threatened by writing, really does like to have some kind of transition object to hold in the hallway while we walk from their class to my therapy gym.

We have experimented with lots of different options. A couple of months ago I started bringing them a boogie board with a little friendly message written on it. Sometimes I drew their name in bubble letters or other fancy letters. Sometimes I wrote “hi I missed you!” Sometimes I drew things related to their passionate special interests.

[image descriptions: a photo of my hand holding an LED board, sometimes called a boogie board. It has a drawing of a double-decker bus on it and says “you are double decker awesome” with a smiley face. End description.]

I did not do this with any kind of expectation. I really mostly did it as a means of connection. This child has soooooo many thoughts in their head that sometimes I spend most of my time being quiet and reflectively listening to them tell me their thoughts. For them, auditory listening to someone else talk is not a preferred way of connecting with people. But they’re a good reader (though dislike writing) so I thought if I wrote little kind messages then they’d at least absorb them at a glance before telling me whatever they thought of.

[image descriptions: a photo of my hand holding an LED board, sometimes called a boogie board. It has a drawing of an elephant with a word bubble saying “hi! I missed you!” End description.]

The first several times they used the pen to scribble on the message I wrote. They also told me about it, like, “you missed me? (Scribbles) well I scribble on it!” I had a hard time interpreting their tone and wondered whether my saying things was too direct or too embarrassing. I tried making small adjustments to what I wrote or drew. Then they started asking “can we go show [teacher] my board?” and indicating the scribbled board, so I adjusted my hypothesis, wondering if maybe scribbling was their way of participating rather than a way of crossing it out or expressing dislike.

[image descriptions: a photo of my hand holding an LED board, sometimes called a boogie board. Drawn on it is simply “hi!” with hearts for the dot on the I and the dot on the exclamation point, and little buses drawn around it. End description.]

Next, there was a period of time when they would meticulously color in the entire board and then show it to me. “You made my name and I colored it!” (Meaning the whole board.)

Then, out of nowhere, they fully wrote an entire response message one day. I was shocked and tried not to look or act like it! And then it continued for more weeks. They sometimes wrote a sentence, sometimes a question, sometimes something from a world of pretend that they and I have going back and forth.

Schools as whole systems make no space for slowing down, slowing way way down. Schools are conveyor belts to push students along. This took months, and most schools don’t have months. On the other hand, I say this took “months” but it was only a short fragment of time per week, so maybe in eight hours a day of play-based connection things would be different.

Either way, the combat to threat is safety, and kids who feel threatened by writing can’t be threatened or bribed into feeling safe with writing. Relationship is the way to give kids space to feel safe. And these boogie boards handed back and forth did exactly that.