Last Sunday, Anwar, Savion, Taj and I went to the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, KS. Savion had been lobbying for weeks to go to the Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina.
“First I go to school, then we go to Rolling Hills Zoo,” Savion told Victor .
“We can go to grandma’s and then we go to Rolling Hills Zoo,” Savion informed me.
“After speech therapy, we go to Rolling Hills Zoo,” he whispered to my mom.
Notice that Savion never asked, if, we could go to the Zoo. Savion has adopted the “first, then” format I use to simplify directions. For example, instead of saying: “Get your shoes, and we’ll go for a drive.” I say: “First shoes, then car.” I might reinforce the statement with sign for Anwar(shoes and car) and also type it in Anwar’s speaking device.
So we went to the closest zoo. It’s about a 30 minute drive to Manhattan,KS. Once parked, I started with my safety narration.
“Mommy unbuckle, then Anwar and Savion unbuckle. Anwar and Savion get out of car with Mommy. Anwar, Savion and Mommy go other side of car, unbuckle Taj. Anwar, Savion, Taj, walk with Mommy to zoo.” Anwar held my left hand, Savion held my right hand and Taj was holding onto Savion. As we approached the entrance, two women approached us.
“Excuse me, can you take our picture?”
“Sorry, I can’t my children might run away.” The boys had made it from the car to the zoo without eloping; I didn’t want to mess that up. Because the last time Savion was at the zoo, Victor had prevented Savion from chasing the roaming peacocks and kept him from racing down hills. Last Sunday the boys and I walked together. They didn’t try to chase the peacocks, bang on the enclosures or run away at a full sprint. It has taken a lot of patience, practicing walking together on paths, to get to this point.
I had my key ring of picture cards to reinforce my words as we walked. Stop. Walk with Me. Wait. Those were the cards I used the most. Savion said his favorite part was “Hilarious” the Hyena. Taj liked the gibbons, Gabriel and Glenda. Anwar enjoyed being outside and feeling the scattered raindrops on his face.
Before leaving, there was a small playground the boys played in. Taj was delighted that the flamingo exhibit was on one side and down below gibbons were chattering. The boys were able to sit still for a picture! It was a great day.