Caregiver Corner: ‘Koko on the Ball’ by Lucas Slavik

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I enter Koko’s kitchen to visit. Usually I ask her if I can close her into one of her rooms and clean the vacant one, but today as soon as I entered her kitchen she greeted me with:    Koko: Purr # Koko points to the control panel that is used to close off one of her rooms for cleaning. Lights-off was originally used to communicate flipping a light switch on or off, but Koko has expanded its use to other contexts. She often uses lights-off to tell us to turn the TV on and off, open or close a window, and in this case, operate the switches that control a gate within her enclosure. After closing off her room and cleaning, I return to her kitchen at 12:02 pm, two minutes after she normally gets her noon drink and supplements.   Koko: Kiss#. Drink.   Lucas: Time drink?   Koko: Drink, drink, purr#. Both Koko and Ndume are highly aware of the timing of specific activities scheduled in their day, down to the minute when it involves something going into their mouths! # Note: In Koko’s responses above, the pound symbol (#) after a word indicates that it is a vocalization by Koko; otherwise the word or phrase represents her response in American Sign Language.

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