If given the choice between planning an activity with Ellen or having an idea and then ‘winging it’, winging it wins every time. My RDI consultant may have noticed, because I have been given a new planning template to fill in which forces me to sit down and think about what I am trying to achieve during each engagement. To me it’s like fruit. I know it’s good for me but I still find it hard to force down.
Still, having already decided that I was going to make butterfly cupcakes with Ellen this afternoon (the freezing temperature putting me off any outdoor activities) it seemed a good opportunity to practise the new regime and so I sat down and filled out the form.
My main aims were to use minimal language and instead to rely heavily on non-verbal communication. I would know this was working if I noticed Ellen’s gaze shifting to me on a regular basis. The difficulties I predicted were (a) that Ellen’s poor motor skills would make cracking the eggs a struggle, but I planned to model this for her, and (b) that Ellen finds the hand mixer loud and offputting, but I would do the majority of the mixing and encourage her to hold it for at least some of the time.
Finally if Ellen walked off during the engagement I would spotlight this by saying something like ‘you must be bored, I wonder how I could make this more exciting for you’ (if only people would say this to me sometimes!) and hope that she would come up with some suggestions about the changes we could make.
Happy with the plan I printed it off and virtually skipped into the kitchen. As soon as I turned on the video camera however, I totally forgot what I had so carefully planned. Ellen was stroppy; she didn’t want to be in the kitchen making cupcakes with me, she wanted to be upstairs watching her DVD. She responded to my facial expressions with a loud ‘humph’ noise and by crossing her arms. She smashed the eggs into the jug, refusing to let me help her and then fished large chunks of shell out with her finger – leaving several smaller bits behind. Granted I did get lots of eye contact, although it was rather more mutinous than enquiring, I’ll take what I can get.
Ellen left the room, several times, but I forgot my line about being bored and instead said I was ‘waiting’ which resulted in more loud ‘humph’ noises. She point blank refused to hold the hand mixer until eventually, sensing that I wasn’t going to give in, she let her hand briefly touch the handle before letting go and leaving me to lurch forward to grab it before it smashed into the bowl. The home phone rang twice and Ellen repeatedly stuck her finger in the mixture and then licked it. Things were not going well.
We perservered. I got my first smile when I picked up one of the whisks and started licking off the icing, indicating for Ellen to do the same – funnily enough – this time she obliged!
And when it came to actually decorating the cakes, Ellen was all smiles and delight although still rather more interested in pinching icing off the cakes we were icing than actually producing sylish wing designs. Still I went with it keen to produce some positive experience sharing memories. My Mum, who had rung up during the proceedings, said the cupcakes sounded delicious and could we save one for her. Of course I said. After all who cares about a bit of shell and saliva, it’ll probably be a boost for the immune system. Cake anyone?