Thursday, April 29, 2010
All Blue, Only Blue, No Other Color Will Do
For some children, the activity of coloring is like a cognitive pothole where the child becomes stuck in a single colored neurological loop. The child becomes consumed with the desire to use one and only one color. If I was not trying to hold a conversation with the child, I am sure I could be cool with the one color thing--at least for a while. I am not cool with it, though, because there is very little one can or wants to say while trying to cover a large white surface with a single color.
Three children that I saw this week insisted on the color with one and only one color thing and wanted to fill the entire white surface of the Smart Board with one color. I used a shapes program on the Smart Board and filled much of the board with circles. The child was then able to pick a color and fill these circles with that color by tapping on the circle. Two of the three children would only choose blue. The third would start with one color and then she stuck with that color, period, end of discussion. I know the drill with her because we have done some coloring on paper and she does the same thing. When I tried to talk these children into using other colors, I got ignored--which served me right because talking is almost never useful in this kind of situation. If I pushed the issue by taking a turn and coloring with a different color on the board, the child got upset and tried frantically to repair the damage that I had done. If I pushed too long, the child lost interest in the Smart Board activity suddenly, completely and absolutely. So.... what to do?
First, I know that some of you have some good strategies and now, as I think about it, a lot more strategies are coming to mind. Feel free to comment below with what you would have done or have done in a similar situation. I missed several of the likely to succeed strategies.
Child 1. I gave up on talking and took a turn, thus ruining her art by adding a second color. She moved away from the Smart Board and requested that we go to a different room to play. I took her to a different room when she said We gotta get outta here, Tahirih!
Child 2. This child filled every circle with blue. I took a turn and filled a circle with red. He protested angrily and I decided to take an indirect approach to showing him all the color opportunities on a Smart Board. I offered Child 2 a different activity which I set up across the room. While Child 2 was busy putting together a letter puzzle on the other side of the room with his mom, I had mom call out letters across the room to me. When she called out a letter, I wrote the letter on the Smart Board. Child 2 likes letters and he started looking up to see me write the letter. I changed colors often and called back what I was doing. Red B. I said while writing a B in red. Blue T. Purple X. The child began to call out letters with prompting from mom. I wrote the letter in different colors. I hope we will be able to do a letter writing game on the Smart Board next time he comes so that we will not be stuck with blue, blue, nothing but blue every time he draws on the Smart Board. Once we have the colored letter game down, we will try to play the colored circle game the same way--with lots of different colors.
Child 3. We started by making circles and Child 3 helped me and then I suggested that we paint the circles. he agreed but then "painted" them with blue, blue, and more blue adding circles and then painting them until the whole white board was covered in blue. I sometimes changed the color of a circle quickly but my co-artist quickly changed circles back to blue and after a few times he asked me politely to leave the circles alone. The words were polite but the voice sounded a note of panic. I became aware that every time I changed the color of a circle, this child was learning that asking politely does not work and he was moving closer to having a melt down. I stopped changing the colors. I then talked about how "boring" all blue circles were and he told me he liked boring. Never argue with a child who has autism. You can disagree but there is no point engaging in an argument. I know this rule and I didn't pursue this discussion because it was likely to become an argument. We talked about it being my turn to choose a color and that it would be fair if I got to choose my own favorite color. He told me that I could take a turn but my favorite color was blue. I soon realized that we were not making progress even though this little guy is very verbal and wants to be cooperative.
But maybe he is at home right now reflecting on how much nicer those squares would have looked if he had done them all in blue.