June 14, 2011

The Kiss in the Psychologist's Office

Moe and I continue to be involved in the Pivotal Response Training study at Stanford. One morning a week, I leave Jelly with a babysitter and take Moe to see Dr B.

Going places with Moe can be a challenge. Because he will run off if not held tightly, I always need a plan. Park close to a parking ticket vending machine. Leave Moe in the car while I retrieve the ticket for the dash. Then get Moe out of the car seat and cross the long parking lot.

We enter the lobby of the child psychiatry building and check in. Moe pulls my arm or drops to the floor trying to break free. He tries to run down the hall. I steer him to the fish tank and we count the fish. We wander the lobby. One time he tried to get to the elevators. If we have to wait more than just a few minutes, we both come very close to a meltdown.

Eventually Dr B comes and gets us. She shows us to one of two or three different rooms, set up like little living rooms with couches and lamps. We exchange the business of the study, I hand her the forms I fill out every week and she gives me next week's assignments. Then we start.

We wait for Moe to get interested in some toys. We give choices of things to play with. We get shared control of favorite things, and make Moe request "more." We block access to favorite hiding spots unless we get a verbal request. One time Moe made up a game: get on couch, get down from couch, cross room, turn off light. Over and over he did this, and over and over we were able to stop him and ask him to say "down" to leave the couch, "off" to turn off the light, or "up" to get back up. It worked really well.

Sometimes, Moe just isn't very interested in the toys we have and he'll start to flip through a magazine that has been in the room since early May. I know the date, because it is a People magazine with pictures of the royal wedding. Moe flips the pages, stopping always at certain ones. Sometimes we hold the pages and ask him to say "turn" before allowing him to turn the page.

Moe is a fairly affectionate kid but he isn't much of a kisser. As I've written about before, if I say "give me a kiss," Moe will hold out his hand for me to kiss, a response he learned in the days when I couldn't reach him in his crib and I just had to give him one last good night kiss. So imagine my surprise when, last week, Moe was flipping through the magazine and all of a sudden he stopped, looked up, and kissed me. A real, on the cheek, kiss.

Dr B and I looked at each other with surprise and delight. We cooed over him for a moment, and then moved on. I don't have any idea what brought on that cute kiss. Perhaps he saw a picture of the royal couple kissing on the balcony. Or maybe he just felt the need to reach out and kiss me, as I do to him as often as possible. Whatever the reason, I basked in the glow of that moment for the rest of the day.

Moe hasn't kissed me again since that day. Like so many of his behaviors, I see amazing glimpses that last just a moment, then slip away so quickly I wonder if they really happened at all. But these moments keep me going, remind me that although Moe may not be able to express his thoughts or feelings, they are there inside him, just waiting to come out at the most surprising moments.

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