The Wooden Chair

for blog - the wooden chair

In my last blog entry (‘Look at me’), I mentioned my first session with Ian and sitting him in a ‘big wooden chair’. Perhaps an odd choice, putting a three-year-old in an adult-sized chair, but when I started I didn’t have anything else and grabbed the nearest seat I could find.

When the therapy team got together, the therapists – experienced, knowledgeable – all wanted Ian to sit in a child-sized chair. The speech therapist particularly wanted Ian’s feet on the ground, so I went shopping for child-sized furniture and bought a blue plastic table and a couple of brightly coloured small plastic chairs. The table had a centre panel of pink and yellow flowers, a sticker, and Ian made it his life’s mission to remove it. It distracted him so much we had to cover the flowers with a sheet of plain paper. And then the paper became an object of interest because Ian knew the sticker was underneath …

At first, when Ian’s feet touched the ground, he would stand up. A great avoidance technique. A lot of time was spent getting him to sit down again. Sometimes, when he sat with his feet on the floor, he would rock the chair, leaning further and further backwards. I don’t remember him ever over-balancing (he was too clever for that) but for a while we had to put the chair against the wall so Ian couldn’t lean back.

I questioned the use of the small chair. In the big wooden adult-sized chair, these things didn’t happen. Ian sat cross-legged. His top half could move – and frequently did – but his bum stayed in his seat. It was easy to manage his legs by placing a hand over his crossed ankles.

It affected his eye-contact too. When Ian was in a child-sized chair, an adult (also crouched uncomfortably on a child-sized chair) was head and shoulders above him. When Ian was in the big wooden chair, I knelt in front of him and our heads were the same height. See the picture above, from one of our earliest sessions. Surely this was better?

I persisted with the wooden chair. It was solid and dependable. I liked it. I was closer to Ian, kneeling in front of him, and I suppose as his mother that was easier for me, to be more physically involved with him, rather than spatially removed, in a separate chair, our knees keeping us apart.

Ian, being an amenable little lad, got used to both.

“Look at me – part 2”

Look at me - for blog

That was my side of the story, where all was calm and gentleness.

Ian’s side of the story was slightly different.

In my book, I described it as follows: “I started taking Ian into the classroom every morning. He wouldn’t sit, and he most certainly wouldn’t look at me when I asked him to. You’d have thought I was asking him to peel his own skin!” So for Ian, it was more of a challenge.

He moved around a lot in his seat; he made strange noises; he kept trying to get up; his hands were everywhere. But then …

“… after a few scary days, he did start to sit still for more than a few seconds at a time, and he did start to give a fleeting glance in my direction when I asked for it. ”
(“From the Inside” Chapter 5)

Something changed in him. He still made noises and his hands were all over the place, but now I was getting his attention. He wasn’t just reaching wildly, he was reaching for the things I was talking to him about, the plastic animals, or the books, or my pens.

When the therapy team was formed, each person had to go through their few days. Ian had to get used to the idea that he was required to do the same things and behave the same way, for more than one person. And he did.

Nothing made me happier than watching him walking, sometimes running – yes, running – into the classroom ahead of his teacher.

There was learning to be done, and Ian wanted to be a part of it.


Next time:  “The Wooden Chair”