Utter Autism

July 23, 2008

House of Shock

Adrian was looking for attention tonight.  Standing on the furniture, trying to steal Grandma’s glasses, taking my pens and doing what ever else he could think of to get me to pay attention to him.  Dad’s been gone for a few days for work and without my tag team partner, I was feeling kinda tired and ready for a break.

I turned to our Dynavox V to try to distract him from getting attention in negative ways.  With our surprise success the other day, I went into the keyboard screen to see if he’d type something for me.  I wasn’t prepared for what he did.

He typed


and then thought – hard.  It was as though you could see the wheels in his head turning.  He stared off into space, looking for that word in his mind’s eye.  He continued…


By this time he started to close his eyes and squint.  He was just thinking so hard!  He tentatively finished…


and hesitated before he slowly asked the machine to say it.  He knew it was wrong but couldn’t figure it out.  I had no idea what he was attempting to say and told him so.  He went to his computer and I watched to look for clues.  He went to the Clubhouse Mickey webpage. Suddenly, it dawned on me…. HOUSE!

I asked him to come back and I showed him how to spell house.  I was so pleased at that point I couldn’t have fathomed that it wasn’t over yet.  He continued…


He finished the rest of the title without hesitation or help.  And I sat there in shock for a minute.  Then I ran and got the House of Mouse – Villians DVD and put it on for him 🙂

What an amazing thing words are…. and what an amazing son I’ve got 🙂

July 19, 2008

Exciting Development

My husband came upstairs the other day and said,

“Adrian just typed out Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin without looking at anything with those words on it.”

These are two of his favorite movies and he accesses them on his computer by sight reading them.  So I wasn’t shocked to hear he’d used them.  But then I thought about it. 

He typed them without looking at anything else and spelled them correctly. 

First, this means that not only can he learn to sight read words – he can learn to reproduce them.  And if he can reproduce them, he can learn to use them.  There’s a whole lot of hope in that statement and if you’re not the parent of a non-verbal child you may have missed it. 

While being able to use programmed vocabulary is great, it still limits what he can say.  The ultimate goal is to teach him to read and write so he can type his own spontaneous, unique messages – to be able to say what ever he wants to say, whenever he wants to say it. 

So what did we do next?  I opened Adrian’s keyboard page on his Dynavox V.  And he began typing…


Lune?  I couldn’t figure out what he meant.  He thought for a second, went into his ‘time for’ page and looked there, then when back to the keyboard screen and typed…


He could have just hit the lunch button but he didn’t.  He typed it.  Could it be that he really recognizes the power of all those letters?  This is one exciting development 🙂

June 20, 2008


Verbal manners are one thing we’ve always tried to teach Adrian.  He’s pretty regular about asking for things using a verbal approximation, the sign or the button for please.  But thank you is always required a prompt. 

Until the other day.  For the first time, Adrian thanked me for making his drink.  Without a prompt.  Without so much as a glance in his direction.  He looked me straight in the eye and signed, “Thank you.”

Now I’m the grateful one 🙂

June 13, 2008

Packed Up

Adrian let go the Dynavox last week and let it crash to the floor.

The good news: We got it working again.  I backed up all his pages.

The bad news: Two days later, while sitting calming on a desk it gave out.  “No Operating System Found”  Not good.

So it’s packed up and ready to ship to Dynavox so they can repair it.  I’m far more calm about the whole affair this time than I was last time we had a malfunction.  Dynavox handed it all beautifully last time and I have faith they’ll do the same this time as well.

May 25, 2008

Getting Grandma

Last week Grandma flew in and I took Adrian with me to get her at the airport.  While we drove I explained where we were going and why.  He was very happy about it and used his device to say, “I want to go – Grandma”   Upon arriving at the airport he waited patiently with me.  When Grandma arrived, he pointed towards the gates.  He used his device to tell us ‘Airplane – take off.’  Apparently he was hoping to take a trip himself.  🙂

April 6, 2008

Nifty News

A while back I programmed a button on Adrian’s home page to express something that had happened at home I thought Adrian might want to tell his teachers.   It worked so well that it’s turned into a permanent  ‘News’ button. 

The school uses it to allow Adrian to pass along information about things he did at school.  He was able to tell us when he went roller skating, when they colored eggs and about his favorite part of a book they read.

Here at home we programmed it so Adrian could tell folks at school about walking on the treadmill, talk about his loose tooth and say what he did over the weekend.

Much of what we’ve programmed the button to express have been things that would have been difficult for Adrian to talk about otherwise.  This button makes it easy for us to add thoughts that aren’t part of his usual vocabulary. He seems to appreciate the ability to share these various news bits with everyone.


March 5, 2008

Feeling Very Happy

Feelings were one of the first things we put in Adrian’s original PECS book.  He only ever used it when he was prompted to do so. 

We added it to his first device and now it’s on our Dynavox V as well.  For a long time he’d only use this if he was prompted.  But more recently I’ve seen him initiating conversations by telling us how he feels.  He used it at school one day to tell the staff he was feeling ‘a little sad’.  Then earlier this week we arrived at school and he immediately told me he was feeling ‘very happy’.  

For me it’s huge that he sees value in expressing to us how he’s feeling… and that he’s got the means to say it too!

February 22, 2008

Dentist Day

So today was our re-scheduled dentist appointment after last attempt’s disaster.

With a fully charged Dynovox V, everything proceeded according to plan.  As expected, Adrian was a bit confused about where we were going.  I was able to show him the dentist office visual scene showing the chair and equipment we’d see.  When he started to throw a little fit, I was able to get him to talk to me about what he wanted after we finished at the dentist.  He calmed right down.

We walked into the dentist office on the same page.  First we’d do the dentist thing and then we’d get some french fries.  It was a good deal for both of us.  Adrian was happy and compliant.  They got some x-rays, checked his teeth and managed to do a mini cleaning and fluoride treatment.  While we waited he used his Dynavox to talk to me about where he wanted to go next. 

It was a great visit and I’m sure next time will be even better.  We know he doesn’t care for certain flavors now so next time we’ll try some others till we find the right one.  Knowing the routine should make the directions easier to understand and follow.

After our visit we went to the grocery store to get french fries, as promised.  We put Adrian’s Dynavox in the front of the shopping cart and he pushed it through the store himself.  Besides french fries he asked for some fruit punch, cereal, cupcakes, fruit snacks, chicken nuggets, ice pops and candy.  We got some things and left others behind.  He was an angel throughout.

February 17, 2008

Back in Business!

I’ve got to hand it to DynaVox.  Less than two weeks after we sent out our DynaVox V for repairs, it’s back! 

Adrian laughed when he saw it come out of the box.  I breathed a sigh of relief.

I failed to back up my files often enough so there’s a few pages I’ll have to redo but for the most part everything is as it should be.  The timing is perfect.  This week’s school break should give me a bit of time to fix it up before we send it back to school.

I’m grateful to DynaVox for putting us back in business so quickly!

February 4, 2008

Backup Plan

Machines are funny things.  Computers in particular sometimes seem to have a life of their own.  As such, it pays to have a back up plan for when a communication device goes out of service temporarily.  How do I know?  Well, we’ve found out the hard way.

While Adrian’s device is out for a tune up, we’ll be using multiple strategies to hold him over till it gets back.  First, I’ve created a communication book from screen shots taken from my backup copy of the pages from his device.  Adrian doesn’t find this way of communicating nearly as satisfying but it will hopefully help us avoid the worst of the tantrums. 

Second, the school has a device they can loan him while he’s there.  We’re lucky to have this option available to supplement what ever PECS they’ll use to get him by.

Third, we’ve got the old Speaking Dynamically Pro/Boardmaker software and boards loaded on the computer here at home.  It’s not portable and the computer isn’t as easily accessible, but we’ll at least have a place to take him when we see his frustration level rising.

Having backgrounds in computers, my husband and I understand better than most that these things happen.  It’s a good time to see how the backup strategies we’ve got work out, plan for device down-times in the future and really appreciate fully what a big role the device plays in the quality  of our life. 

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