Teasing Miss Stephanie
Cody has become very fond of most all the staff at his day program. Being the ladies’ man that he is, he makes sure that the first item on his agenda for the day is to greet all the female staff members with a big hug for each of them. But it seems Cody has developed a much more playful side with one staff member in particular: Miss Stephanie.
Jesting and using prank gestures are usually reserved for Bill and me. But for the first time Cody is showing that side of himself to someone else. His shenanigans have included accusing Stephanie of drinking his orange juice, which didn’t exist, pretending that he was going to throw up on her and then on another occasion she was scolded for burning his toast, eating his couch and ruining his life all in one day. In each case Cody attempted to be as serious but failed because the giggles got the best of him.
Now, while Cody’s behavior does represent inappropriate ways for a client to interact with staff members it also shows a progression of social interaction which we haven’t seen before.
After you have been around Cody for a while, you realize that there is a very clear distinction between what is a language processing issue and what is a product of his imagination. Inventing non-existent orange juice and accusing Stephanie of drinking it—all while grinning ear to ear—was definitely an example of Cody creating an imaginary reason to draw Stephanie into bantering with him. He just doesn’t do that with others. Bill will often draw Cody into bantering session with him in this manner, but only on rare occasion will Cody initiate a bout of words with Bill. And Bill has been the only person I have ever seen Cody interact with in that way until now.
All the staff are very good about using these instances as teachable moments. Stephanie’s response to an occurrence like this would be to smile and say, "Now, Cody you know your mom did not send orange juice with you and I wouldn't take your orange juice anyway, so don't say I did." And Cody responds well to her.
Having seen her interact with clients, I know that she addresses clients' inappropriate humor, anger issues, social issues, attention issues, etc. in a professional way. Her wording is very clear and to the point but her tone of voice, facial expression and body language are calm, relaxed and pleasant. In other words, she addresses issues without making the client feel like they're "bad" or mocking them and stripping them of all dignity.
When Cody pretended to throw up on the back of Stephanie's head while on an outing, and then laughed about it, it was very much non-characteristic behavior for him. It surprised Stephanie and the other staff member in the car that Cody was attempting to interact with Stephanie in this way. However Stephanie explained to Cody that it was not appropriate to pretend to throw up on others because not everyone would find it funny. Stephanie and the other staff members are very good about addressing problematic behaviors but still recognizing when clients are showing signs of progress even when they may be expressing it in inappropriate ways. In other words, Cody may have exhibited inappropriate ways to get Stephanie’s attention but the fact that he was attempting to socialize with her without being prompted to, and using humor as his medium to do it is a big step forward for him.
When all is said and done, I feel very blessed that Cody is enrolled at this day program. We’ve already dealt with programs and their staff who failed to achieve any positive results with Cody. But I feel it's pretty safe to say that finally we have a provider who knows what they're doing.