Tuesday, May 25, 2010


This morning Martin offered to help me wash the dishes. He was not motivated by disinterested benevolence. Rather, Martin knows that we have a new feature in a our sink: a hose with a nozzle that squirts water. Martin is intrigued. I let him join me at the sink.

It can be very difficult to teach Martin new things. For instance, Martin used to be in occupational therapy to learn tasks such as buttoning buttons and using scissors. He didn't have a physical problem. Instead, he simply did not understand instructions for completing these tasks. He could hear an adult say something like, "Put your index finger in here and your thumb here." But the instruction would not make sense to him, even if an adult helped him get his fingers in the scissors and proceeded to make them open and shut. Every new task demanded a strange curriculum of text (perhaps a flashcard with instructions), spoken word, visual cues (such as pictures on the flash card), and physical modelling.

This morning I tried to teach Martin how to rinse dishes after I washed them. I gave him four simple commands. 1) Wait for there to be three soapy dishes in the sink. 2) Turn on the water. 3) Grab the nozzle and aim. 4) Squeeze the trigger so the water comes out. We had some mishaps. Aim proved to be particularly difficult. There was some water in inappropriate places. Martin also struggled with waiting for three dishes, which was the only way I could get him to conserve at least a little water in the rinsing process. In the end, he was successful. He waited. He turned on the water. He loved using the nozzle. He rinsed all the dishes. The whole process made him feel so good.

Sometimes I sell Martin short. I've never invited him to help me wash dishes because I've assumed it would never work. Maybe it's me that isn't getting the world I live in?


  1. You must have so much fun finding the pictures you use in your blogs! :-)

    Hmmm....I wonder why I haven't invited MY 6 year old to help wash dishes?

  2. I know why I haven't invited my 5 year olds to wash dishes. The mess would take me the rest of the evening to clean up. I don't think they would manage nearly as well as Martin seems to have. Congratulations to both of you!