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Whenever people tried to get Mario into their heads, he disappeared. We had to learn how to get into his "head" and we learned that his 'head' wasn't ideas and words like ours, but his 'head' was his actions and sounds. Once we acted more like him and with him, he gradually interacted more and slowly began to act more in ways we did.
When Nick was four and not talking or playing with people, I thought my job was to teach him what he needed for school. I drilled him with numbers, colors and picture cards, but he still stayed in his own world. Then you showed me how much more he did and happier he was when we joined him and took turns following his lead.
Then I realized that the things I thought were important -- reading, counting, swimming, talking like me---were not what he needed. In fact, focusing on school related skills drove him away. Even when he learned those school skills, I still saw that he was "incomplete" he still wasn't a person who enjoyed people. Once we changed to fit him, he became a much happier boy and to this day at 18, he is a friendly and considerate young man with friends.
I always thought learning to communicate for Jon had to be serious work. Then I learned that the more fun I was, the more he stayed with me. One important thing I did was to be more interesting than his distractions. And for Jon that was challenging, especially since junk mail or a doorknob or any crazy thing could distract him. I found that imitating him got his attention as well as just acting silly. The trick was to convince him that people were more interesting than things.
When I was told to imitate Jonathon's sounds, I thought it was silly, but I did it. I imitated him at home, in the car, anywhere. I know people thought I was crazy. I didn't care because it took only one almost never happened, and the look on his face was like: "Hey, she does hear me. She does get that I'm saying something!" That was the best feeling in the world, to see I could get his attention by just doing his sounds back.
I remember when Elizabeth was about 2 and she would get scared andscream and scoot to a wall for refuge. She almost always shut down when professionals tried to test or engage her. In contrast, when I enerd her world and did not force her into mine, we made amazing connections. One day, Elizabeth as usual, was down on all fours with her head glued to the baseboard of our bed, rubbing her head back and forth, deep in her own world. I decided to join her. I put my head on the baseboard next to hers and did what she was doing. I moved my head back and forth once, and then waited for her to do something, without making a sound. She looked at me out of the corner of her eyes and then moved her head like mine. Soon we were rubbing back and forth faster and faster, heads glued together, totally in tune, and soon she was giggling and in my arms. This was from a little girl who rarely made personal contacts with anyone. Moments like that stay with you! Elizabeth is much more interactive than that now, but still makes the very best contacts when others enter her world and do things that she can do and that she is interested in doing.