In my son’s ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) sessions, there are tutors who work “programs” which teach certain concepts to my son. Lately, they’ve been working on a program called the “guessing game.” The idea is a pared-down version of 20 questions, using three “clues”, one of which is to narrow the field of objects. It goes something like this:
“I’m thinking of something.”
“It’s an animal.”
“It’s got a long neck.”
“It’s yellow and brown. What is it?”
My son says, “Giraffe!” and then is duly praised with an excited, “Good job!”
The little guy loves this game. He wants to play it all the time, in and outside of behavioral therapy. But as with most things he learns, he likes to put his own little signature twist on it to suit his own purposes.
It’s become somewhat of an obsession. The obsession can escalate to a behavior. If he is on the verge of a meltdown, he will manipulate the game to serve as a method by which he plunges himself into a scream/cry-fest.
We are at home. He runs up to me and, in his little boy sing-song voice, says, “Wanna play the guessing game!” He’s so excited and happy. I agree, of course and then he says:
“Wanna guess this!” and he will hold up an object that he covets.
He doesn’t get the concept of a guess. This is a bit of a cheat and control mixed together. Currently, “guess” items include a small rectangular timer we got from Crate & Barrel (yes Grace, you are going shopping there with me someday!) or a car from the new Cars 2 movie among other objects.
I tell him that is not the way the game works. He still forces his method. “Wanna guess it! Wanna guess it!” and when he is in his good, “cute” mode, I really have no reason to argue over it because – well, he’s cute and he’s making an effort to use his communication skills and thought process to guess, or so I think.
“Ok,” I respond. “T’s turn.”
“No, it’s your turn, mommy,” he responds.
Let me pause here. Do you ever feel like you are weighing, in your head, whether to give in to the child versus dealing with the meltdown? And you let giving in win to avoid the meltdown? Because sometimes I take the path of least resistance. Usually, because it is either shortly before or after I have a fight with a lawyer, AT&T, the bank or the hubs.
So, sometimes, I just say – okay, it’s my turn. We get through a few rounds of “guessing game” just fine. We guess pigs, cats, elephants, kangaroos, swimming pools and playgrounds and then…
“I’m thinking of something. It’s a vehicle-”
“Wanna guess green! Green!”
“It’s got four wheels”
“RED! WANNA GUESS RED!”
You see where I’m going with this right? I have to pull the plug on the game and, sometimes give a time out. There are tears, sniffling, a whole dramatic production. 30 minutes later, he’s laughing and running around like nothing happened.
“I’m thinking of something, it’s a little boy. He talks a lot. He dances and likes cars. Who is he?”
I don’t think the program is mastered yet.