During the last 2 weeks, the J-man has shifted into high gear. Suddenly, he can do some of the movements to the morning song at school. They’ve been singing this SAME SONG since, well, forever, and something just clicked. Now he is starting to follow along some of the movements with a slight physical cue (touch to his hand) or even a verbal cue (pat your head). He has been playing a game with one of his teachers, Mrs. Cindy. We call it “Pat, pat, pat, pat” at home, because according to what the J-man does at home, it starts with patting the legs 4 times, then clapping 4 times, then patting the legs 4 times, then doing Wonder Twins fists with the other person and bringing both arms up to say Blast Off! He is so proud of himself when he does that, and of course, we are proud of him too.
Think about how much motor planning that little game takes. Patting your thighs: make sure the hands are open, make sure both hands are doing the same thing, actually hitting the thighs but not too hard, and doing it 4 times. Then, SHIFTING to open-hand clapping (the J-man normally claps his fists but not in this game): hands open, arms moving in such a way at the same time to clap them together while SAYING “clap, clap, clap, clap.” Shift again, back to patting thighs. Then, put both fists out to touch the other person’s fists, bringing both arms up at the same time (still touching fists) AND saying “Blast Off” (or the J-man’s approximation of those words).
Now, try to imagine programming a robot to do those things. I know, you’re probably not a programmer, but think about all those steps, and how carefully each would have to be coded. Think about the pages of code that would take. Now imagine that each time something is repeated, you can’t just copy/paste the same code – you have to recreate it, and you don’t have your old code there in front of you, and in fact have trouble even remembering how you came up with that code.
That, I think, is how the J-man has to do it. He has to carefully think through EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL MUSCLE MOVEMENT, big or small. He has to put all those single individual muscle movements together, but because of his motor planning issues, he has to re-think about how exactly one makes that muscle move. For everything. Every time.
I liken his motor planning issues to my inability to dance. I’m not talking about those people who say, “I can’t dance” and then go out and while not the best dancers, can at least do the Clap and Step of every junior high school dance. I mean, I have trouble watching someone do a step, and then repeating that step, because I have to seriously consider what FOOT they started on. Add hands, or any hip shaking whatsoever, and I’m lost. (I was an absolute riot in aerobics class the 2 times I took it.)
So imagine if my whole life was having to dance every day. I could definitely spend an entire year absolutely not getting a dance. I had to learn a dance in the summer before 10th grade, and I still remember it, because it took me having the instructor come over and actually MOVE MY FEET INTO POSITION as she broke down every step. I cried over it, because I was so bad. I can’t imagine doing that every day. It’s been over 20 years, and I still remember how hard that was for me. I wasn’t happy when I learned it enough to stand in the very back and not really let anyone see me, but I was relieved. I wasn’t proud.
And think… my kid does that every day of his life for every move he makes. And he smiles during it. And is incredibly proud of himself.
BLAST OFF indeed.