Saturday, January 19, 2008

More school

I got to go see Joey at school again today- this time with his morning teacher, Mrs. H. She's a very different kind of teacher from Mrs. S, and is doing different things- and that's good. Between the two of them, we have a compliment of skills and styles that is really doing great things for my Joey.

We've noticed lately that Joey is tossing out a lot of word salad. His sentences and speech include words that are relevant to the topic, strung randomly together. This may seem like a complaint, but it isn't. We notice it more because he is talking more- and talking more is good. Relevant words are good. And the salad is because he is not echoing those words, but trying to construct his own speech. He has an easier time with it when he's calm and focused- more salad when he's excited or frustrated or tired- but the words are out there.

Joey greets his classmates by name. He even tries to greet his Sunday School classmates by name- before they greet him. Initiation is good (shame it isn't often positively reinforced by other kids).

Joey is answering questions. Not always correctly, or even willingly, but the answers come out. He was especially frustrated today because he was working on sequencing a set of story cards, and then narrating the story. He got the cards sequenced (YAY!) but then got frustrated with the narrative. It was like, "I got the things in the right order, what more do you want?" he was done and wanted to move on to something else, instead of finishing up the details. He knew what the story was and what it was about, and didn't want to expend energy telling us what he knew we already could plainly see. But he got through it. He did it.

He's reading on a first-grade level. We know from the software the school uses for special ed and ESL language teaching that his receptive auditory processing seems to be quite good- he can differentiate sounds and match them and that sort of thing. His receptive language is really coming along. Now, we just need that expressive language... apraxia, hie thyself to the hills!

Katie McCarron would have been in school today. She probably would have been able to circle the "pl"s in the poem Mrs. H read. Perhaps, like my Joey, she would have gotten frustrated with the card sequencing- perhaps the sequencing itself would have been a problem? Or the narrating? Then, like my Joey, she may have turned to a computer software game or a favorite activity for her break. Had she lived here, she would have lunched early, because the Russian ballet was coming for an afternoon assembly- I bet she would have liked to try to dance, in a pink dress and a flower in her hair, just like the pretty ballerinas did at school. After all, Katie would be a kindergardener this year.

Thinking of you, Katie.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Winter Fun!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


One thing I keep noticing is the use of the terms "verbal" and "non-verbal" when referring to children with a variety of communication disorders, including autism. We just had a SPED meeting, so the use of it bouncing around the bar (we all go out and debrief afterwards- usually over beer. This time we had lots of non-drinkers, so hot chocolate) brought it to mind again.

Depending on how you use the term, Joey is verbal. Or Joey is non-verbal.

Joey is on the brink of language. He has lots of words to use now, and is stating to use it pragmatically and conversationally. He reads, he talks, he answers some questions. For a lot of folks, this is "verbal."

However, his pragmatic and conversational language is limited. Most of his speech is nonsense, echoed, scripted, or perseveration. He runs out of words and has to turn to other forms of communication. He prefers visual communication to oral communication. We began our adventure with a child who had zero words. For a lot of folks, this counts as "non-verbal."

What it brings to the fore is the inexact use of language when trying to discuss disabilities and abilities.

I often have heated discussions of the word "myth." In common use, this term implies falsehood, even deception. Stories taken as true which are really not true. Stories that refer to explanations of things we don't understand. However, in many academic fields, including mine, "myth" is not about falsehood. Myths are narratives that refer to deeper truths using mundane language. Myths are intended to be read "on the slant"- they hint and provide glimpses of Truth in terms humans can use; using inexact human language, these stories point to the workings of the cosmos and our role within that larger Being.

Having a conversation with another person about myth can get interesting, especially if we are using these two related, but significantly different, meanings for the term. We start gibbering in nonsense, like a passage from Alice in Wonderland.

For me, Joey being verbal or non-verbal is a matter of getting him speech service. To me, he is verbal. This qualifies him for speech services in this city. Thats what labels are for- guiding us in what services he might need. The whole autistic, verbal, ritualistic, disabled thing is not about Joey; but they are labels and myths that guide and point us to think deeper about who Joey is, how he is experiencing the world, and how we can support him.

For the difference, between "help" and "support", I refer you back to my good friend Snail. Snail wants to be supported, not helped all the time.

Yes Indeed

I love For Better or For Worse.

Monday, January 14, 2008

And how was your day?

An exciting day here! Andy started his new school. He was SO excited.

So was Joey. He overheard me talking to Andy about going to school, so he woke up this morning saying, "Andy go to school today!" and was completely confused when I didn't wake Andy up or put him on the bus. He took it in stride, though, and apparently had a good day.

He hopped off the bus and into the arms of Andy for a big hug; and as they went in the door, Joey was saying, "Andy! How was your day?" And Andy babbled something about dinosaurs that I couldn't understand, but Joey seemed to know exactly what it was.

What a day!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nine Hours

In Nine Hours, my baby will be once again starting school.

Three days a week, I will have about two and a half hours to run around doing things that are better done sans kids. Cleaning. Shopping. Research in the library. I already have this week booked, lest there be no week 2, like last time. First morning helping mom with the business books. Wednesday a visit to Joey's school. Friday, my friend Christina and I are going to paint the town red (who let us loose on an unsuspecting world?) I guess putting the Christmas decorations back in the attic will have to wait until next week.

I wonder how many times I will use that formula: x will have to wait until next week. Seven and a half hours to get things done. How quick can I fill those precious minutes?

Ah yes. Dreams of time. When I get caught up to myself (oh HA HA), I am going to do a little stitching, maybe brush up on some cooking. I will work on the blog and website projects I have been putting off. I'll get the downstairs bathroom finished, my own bathroom finished, maybe get the dinosaur curtains made for Andy and completely re-do Joey's room. I'll clean out the hall closets. I'll get my own bedroom to rights- or at least carve a walkable path through it. The garden will get mulched and weeded, and a new lockable gate installed. Time.

Nine hours from right now, my little baby goes off to school. I will have three fewer morning a week to go to the farm, or wander around Walmart with him, or watch dinosaurs with him. Three less mornings a week to take him to the gym, and split a milkshake after. Three less mornings a week of his hugs and kisses and demands for dinosaur snaks.

Nine hours.

And counting.