When Cali first started out with her therapy, one of the main goals we had her work on was staying together. I can remember dreading trips to any stores that did not offer shopping baskets because Cali would run and wander like crazy. In fact, I pretty much avoided them and only went once I had a sitter. OH, and walks around the neighborhood or trips to the park made me want to pull my hair out! At least it was a good workout! I was completely helpless until I was introduced to this two word phrase: stay together. Ok, yes. We have all used this phrase before, but here was the difference. “Stay together” was the ONLY phrase I would use when teaching Cali to stand or walk by my side in all stores or outside places. I was taught that using this consistent phrase would make all the difference. I couldn’t say “stay together” and then five minutes later say “come back”. All I could say was this two word phrase and let me tell you, in a store or on walks when we were practicing, I wanted to magically silence my voice from my own ears, but still have my voice carry to Cali’s. I think I said this darn phrase every two seconds!
Here is how we began working on this new goal of staying together: we practiced every single day, if possible, during our walks around the neighborhood. Either Casey would be there to hold ava, so I could focus on Cali or I would strap Ava in to the stroller. In both cases, Cali was free to walk. From the very start of our walks Cali would wander or run. I would then immediately run to her, pick her up, say “Cali, stay together”, and bring her back to where we were on the road. She would stay by our side for about five seconds and be off again. Round two: run to her, pick her up, say “Cali, stay together”, and bring her back. This is how our walks worked for a solid two months or so. And let me assure you this was NOT easy. In fact I was really sad feeling like we weren’t a normal family who could enjoy simple quality time on a nightly walk or whenever it was.
But what do you know…Cali finally started to catch on. The progress was slow, but progress was being made nonetheless. At the time, I would have given anything to look at where Cali is today. In fact, if I could have had a look into today specifically, I don’t think I would have been near as frustrated or discouraged during those practice walks. Why? Because today me, Cali, and Ava went to Target and they ventured the store not in a shopping basket, but by my side the entire time! Remarkable? Not really. Just exciting to know that Cali has learned how to deal with her tendency to wander, drift, and be distracted by EVERY little thing.
So here is the key:
- Pick a consistent phrase to use with your child. Don’t waver from that phrase. Use it ALL the time. Granted, Cali doesn’t respond 100% of the time but probably 90%, which seems pretty good to me.
- Practice every single day, or as consistently as possible while taking walks. You very well could practice at stores, which we definitely did; however, that came later as she progressed.
It seems to me the common thread is being consistent. Sounds easier said than done, I know. First commit to yourself this is a goal worth working on, then consistently do the things that will help your child to succeed and accomplish this goal. It will work!