Utter Autism

December 14, 2009

A Year Later….

It’s been a whole year since I last posted here.  It’s been a very difficult year.  With puberty in full swing we’ve had issues with increased aggression and changes in medications.  At 5’7″ and 180 lbs. he now towers over me and can easily out muscle me.  There have been more broken windows, broken appliances, broken doors, broken beds… 

And yet the news isn’t all bad.  He continues to type words on the computer and in his Dynavox.  He’s discovered Google and YouTube and regularly types in long lists of keywords to find things to watch and see.   He’s picked up a few more chores (aka living skills) including filling the dishwasher, putting away his own clothing and even becoming independent in toileting. 

The latest report from his speech therapist:

I also wanted to fill you in on the reading and writing program that I started him this year.  Both myself and his reading teacher have been working with him on it and it’s been a huge success.  I put together a literacy binder that has pictures of functional every day objects and corresponding words.  Some of the categories include; food, leisure activities, numbers, shapes, household objects, appliances, etc.  We have been gradually increasing pages since the beginning of the school year.
He began by using his keyboard to type in a word, listen and match it to the corresponding picture.  We then moved to showing him the word and having him match to the picture.  He is now able to type many of the words when shown only  the picture.  In many cases, he is able to type in just the beginning part of the word.  This has given me a great opportunity to work with him on using the word predictor feature on his device.  He’s really starting to catch on! 

All good news.  After a rough time at camp this summer we were thrilled to find that his return to school went spectacularly.  The staff seems to be a perfect match, clearly ‘getting him’ from the first day.  It’s awesome to see the looks on their faces when we drop him off at school.  You can tell that they’re genuinely happy to see him and his eyes twinkle with reciprocal affection.

I’m grateful to have made it through what I hope will be the worst of this transition period into manhood.  And I’m looking forward to the coming year and all the progress he’ll make.

December 22, 2008

He’s the Typing Type

The keyboard screen has become a favorite on Adrian’s Dynavox V.  More and more often we see him go to this screen to type out things he wants. 

Sometimes he needs to check his spelling by going to other pages on the device where the word appears but amazingly, he chooses to type the word out instead of just using the pre-programmed button for that item.

Every few days he’s typing in things – without checking the spelling – that we didn’t know he knew.  I couldn’t even venture a guess now about how many words he can read or type.  It’s all happened so suddenly that our heads are still spinning.

He continues to use the keyboard screen to answer the all important question, “What does that say?”  I considered putting a button on his device for him to ask this question…. but then I realized, he’s already got a perfect strategy for answering the question for himself!  Several times now, we’ve seen him copy words he clearly doesn’t know from items or websites – just to find out what they say.

Amazing stuff 🙂

December 7, 2008

What’s That Say?

I have  a five year old who’s learning to read.  He’s constantly pointing to words and wondering, “What does that say?”  It seems Adrian has similar curiosity but without the ability to ask us to read it for him, he’s left in the dark. 

In the past I’ve set Adrian up with his Dynavox and given him items with words on it, like a cereal box or books or a magazine, so he can type the words in.  But this has always been an activity I’ve initiated. 

Just the other day, for the first time, Adrian decided to try this technique himself.  He had a screen cleaning cloth he’d been looking at and I guess his curiosity about what the tag said finally got the better of him.  He typed the words in and listened as the machine told him it said ‘Scotch Brite’.  

He smiled, satisfied that he now knew what those words said. 🙂

December 4, 2008

Christmas Time Again

I may have been quiet here… but Adrian sure hasn’t been.  He continues to surprise us on a regular basis by typing out words on his Dynavox V that we didn’t know he knew. 

We expect he’ll have a whole new group of words to type now that the Christmas season is here.  Adrian loves Christmas time.  He loves the trees, the decorations, the lights, the music…

He’s already using his pre-programmed buttons to tell us he saw that Christmas tree out in the garage and he can’t wait to decorate it 🙂

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

H

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…

HAU 

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

HAUO

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…

HOUSE OF MOUSE

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

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…

LUNCH

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 🙂

July 1, 2008

Dynavox V Returns and Family Leaves

Filed under: aggressive behaviors, Dynavox, Parenting Autistic Children — Carol @ 11:47 am

Our Dynavox V came back from repairs in record time. 🙂  Thank you, Dynavox! 🙂

And even without it, we managed to survive 9 family members coming to visit in the same week.  Adrian tends to look for attention when we have people over.  He tried everything from stealing my grandfather’s cane to pinching the baby.  It was good to see everyone but I’m glad things are back to ‘normal’ around here.

Next week Adrian goes back to the summer camp he loves so much.  We can’t wait!

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.

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 18, 2008

Keeping the juice flowing….

Now that we’ve got our Dynavox V back from being serviced, we’ve been figuring out the best way to keep it powered throughout the day. 

The first change we made was a rather simple one.  We turned off the option to have the screen blackout after a few minutes of not being used.  This drove Adrian nuts and he would compulsively touch the screen just to have it come back up – so not a real power saver after all. 

Instead we’ve been using the ambient light sensor.  The program stays up all the time, which makes Adrian very happy and the device saves some juice by automatically adjusting the brightness of the screen to match the light in the room. 

At school we’ve found that the external battery is the best solution for giving the device that extra boost to get through the day.  The external battery itself is thin, lightweight and very easy to use.  You plug the device into it just as if it were the power cord itself….. only it’s still portable!  Adrian’s not tied to the walls, there’s no power cords to trip anyone up and if he needs to get up and go, he can.  The team at school is very happy with it.

And, finally, my insurance policy – the car charger.  Even with the external battery working so well for us, I’ve still pulled our car charger out a few times.   I’m getting so much better about remembering to bring the Dynavox V with us when we go out but on occasion I still forget to check the power or pack up the external battery.  I can’t tell you what a thrill it is when this silly little charger saves me from myself.  With as much time as we spend in the car, having this insurance policy right there next to my seat is simply priceless.

Power failures used to be a regular occurrence for us, but no more.  These accessories keep the juice flowing… and Adrian talking 🙂

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