One of the most striking differences between Ryan and the average child is that Ryan does not usually learn by observation. No matter how many times he saw other kids ride the swings on their bellies, he never tried to imitate them; I eventually manhandled him into belly-swinging position to demonstrate the concept. And when all the children at a party are following along as a DJ teaches them the YMCA dance, Ryan is staring intently, vaguely wiggling one hand over his head like he knows he's supposed to do something with it but can't for the life of him figure out what. Seeing that other kids are standing in line does not lead him to infer that he, too, should be in line.
We have much better luck with hand-over-hand demos coupled with step-by-step coaching.
The one thing he invariably parrots along with me on: brushing his teeth.
When it's time to brush his teeth, I do a preliminary scrub for him, then hand him the toothbrush so he can try to do it himself. Then I grab my toothbrush to demonstrate my fab technique. I turn on the water and wet my brush; he wets his brush. I brush my back teeth; he brushes his back teeth. I make a funny face; he makes the same face.
I know this is one of those things that most children naturally do from infancy, but now at age 4 1/2 is the first I'm seeing it, and it's thrilling. Seeing that Ryan is capable of imitating in real time at all gives me hope that we can figure out how to extend this behavior into other parts of his day. But how? It could be the presence of the bathroom mirror that has made the difference, though he will also mimic my tooth brushing while facing me directly.
Any clever suggestions out there on how to build on this new skill?