It’s developmentally appropriate for kids to go through the phase of wanting no help with anything, wanting to have control of the objects they’re interested in, and wanting complete independence. But for kids who struggle with verbal expression, this can be a very frustrating time. It can result in less functional behaviors such as grabbing, running away, screaming, hitting, etc. These behaviors often happen because the child has no other way to tell you, “I want to do it on my own! I can do it all by myself!”
I mentioned using Mercer Mayer’s Little Critter books in a previous blog but I can’t say enough about them. I wanted to share an idea I had recently that was very successful with one of my kids. This child is at the point where she’s really wanting to assert herself but does not always have the verbal language to do so. She loves books and we have read Little Critter stories together in previous sessions.
Mercer Mayer’s book All By Myself allows for lots of practice of this very useful phrase. Its repetitive story line provides predictability so the child can join in reading the story with you. It also presents situations that your child is likely familiar with such as brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, and going to bed. While reading this book with my student I realized she was feeling very empowered by saying she could do these things all by herself . This is a child who desperately needs to feel empowered and I didn’t want the activity to come to an end so I had an idea: we’d make our own “I can do it all by myself” book. We got out paper and markers and drew a picture of the child as well as her name on the cover. I started with the first few ideas in hopes that once she got the idea she would contribute some of her own. I wrote, ” I can put on my shoes all by myself.” I drew another picture of the child and encouraged her to contribute by telling me what color she wanted her shirt to be, whether she wanted pants or a skirt on in the picture, whether she wanted her hair down or in pigtails. After suggesting two ideas and creating the pictures together, she suggested some of her own. It became an excellent exercise in expressive language as she told me that she could pick out new pajamas “all by herself” and that they should have cookies on them in the picture. Later on in the session I overheard her in the bathroom saying, “I can go potty all by myself!” (This was not even an idea we had put in the book!)
This activity could be adapted for many different levels. For a child who needs less support they could create all the ideas themselves, and draw the pictures as well. They could make a plan before doing the actual pages to encourage organization of ideas and language.
I hope this is a helpful activity to try with a child you know. If you do have a chance to try it, let us know how it went!