Catch Champion in action on Instagram at @chatwithchamp
Q. So Melissa, who is this learner of yours?
Champion is an orange, three-legged, feline goofball who loves snoozing as much as any kitty, but is adamantly opposed to snoozing on his own. If you’ve got a lap, you’re now a bed. I don’t think he’s ever had a negative or angry thought, and his unflinching trust of humans and other animals alike seems unconditional. He’s never met anyone he wouldn’t call “friend.”
Q. What was your learner’s first button?
We started with two - “Play” and “Pets,” and “Play” really was the button that opened up his world of communication.
Q. How long did it take for Champion to press their first button?
Only a few hours. His insatiable curiosity translated surprisingly quickly to pressing buttons once we had modeled them a few times.
Q. What have the buttons revealed about Champion that you wouldn’t have known without the buttons?
We knew he was playful, but we never would have known how much he really, really loves cooperative play, especially with wand toys. We also discovered he really enjoys observing his toys as much as actively playing with them. Before buttons, we would have assumed he had lost interest. But when we think he’s done and then he goes to request the same toy immediately again, we discovered he enjoys the preparation for the “hunt” as much as actually pouncing.
Q. What inspired you to do button teaching?
Like many people in our community, I had seen Bunny the dog and Billi the cat and found the whole concept of (what I now know as) AIC fascinating. Honestly, I ordered buttons on a bit of a whim, thinking it was likely a personal lark that I wouldn’t be able to be consistent enough as a teacher to have success. We have three cats, and Champion was not the one I expected to take to it, if any of them. After his quick success with his first buttons, I jumped in with both feet to the forums and learning more of how to keep unlocking this incredible gift of communication with him.
Q. What challenges have you faced with button teaching? How did you overcome them?
My greatest challenge is honestly myself. I definitely do not model as much as I could, and am not as consistent as I could be. But Champion’s consistency keeps me on my toes and pushes me to be more consistent for him!
Q. What’s your funniest button moment?
Q. What’s your most surprising button moment?
Champion is almost exclusively a “requester,” and primarily for his toys. So any time he uses his buttons for narration, observation, or inquiry, it is always surprising!
He used “water outside” once while it was raining, and that really showed that he was paying far more attention to our verbal and button modeling than we imagined before!
Q. What’s your favorite button moment?
Every time he asks for pets or cuddles, and then jumps directly into my lap with a loud purr.
Q. How have buttons changed your relationship with your learner?
Q. What advice would you give to others who are interested in teaching their learners to use buttons?
Be confident in your ability to be a great teacher: there are SO many resources available now from teachers who have been working with learners for years now. Use the How They Can Talk Forum, and reach out to your favorite teachers on Instagram or TikTok for advice.