It started when Adrian’s speech therapist last year had the brilliant idea to program a button that would make a comment about something that happened during Adrian’s school day. She felt he’d enjoy communicating with us at home about what took place at school. We were only able to use it once, but I think she was on to something.
I knew I wanted to do something similar with Adrian’s classroom this year but having the staff simply type in a message for him seemed to be missing the point. I realized that we could easily combine the ‘what happened at school today’ button with the goal of having him type words.
I explained the idea to the classroom staff last week and they were all on board. Early this week I began our ‘Home Journal’. I created a notebook and placed removable PECS inside that would allow us to create sentences about things that were going on at home.
This week we had lots of things to write about. Grandma is here to visit and we just had a birthday party for Adrian’s twin sisters. In the notebook I put icons and/or words for Grandma, sisters, I, me, we, cake, party, eat, ate, come, came, visit, dance, my, is, was, had, has, a and for. I asked Adrian to look and see what he wanted to talk about. He choose Grandma, sisters, cake, visit and dance. Using these topics I helped him put together sentences. We lined up the PECS/words to say: “My sisters had a party. I ate cake.”
We read through the sentences on the table first and then I asked him to type them. He did. He seemed pretty pleased with his work as it was read back to him. Encouraged by our success, I formed another sentence for him to type: “Grandma came for a visit.”
Again, we read through the sentence on the table and then he typed it and had his Dynavox say it. Although he seemed to be happy about the result, I could tell he’d had enough for now so I decided to skip the ‘dance’ icon he’d picked out. (Grandma had been dancing with him and I think that’s probably why he picked it.)
Fast forward to today. I told the teacher about the messages we’d created. I don’t know how Adrian reacted to being able to play them for his teachers. But she did mention that Adrian was VERY resistant to typing out his message in the ‘School Journal’. He was so upset about doing it that he spit on the aide who was working with him.
I’m disappointed that he reacted this way at school when he’d participated willingly here at home. I know the teachers wonder if he’s just trying to get out of work. I can’t say their concern isn’t valid. Adrian’s done things like that in the past. Still, I wonder, can you force communication? Is the point here coercion or connection?
I don’t want Adrian to think of writing, typing or communicating negatively. I want him to see these things as useful, purposeful, desirable and even fun. From where I sit now, forcing him to type under these circumstances is less than productive – it’s counterproductive.
I think we may have to put the school journal on hold for a bit until Adrian and his team can figure out how to communicate and work together under mutually agreeable terms.