The day before Thanksgiving a facilitator, P. came over to work with Emma. I met P. at the AutCom Conference in October and asked him for some guidance in helping Emma communicate more effectively through typing. And while Emma is verbal, she can voice basic desires, has even begun to comment on things going on around her, she has not communicated more complex thoughts. I know Emma is intelligent with a great many ideas and interests. I want to help her express herself in whatever way proves most advantageous, whether that is verbally, through typing or some other, still unknown, way. I want to help her be a full participant in this world so that she can have choices and options available to her.
P. has facilitated people for several decades, so I felt confident he would be able to help me learn how I can help Emma better and was excited to have him work directly with her while I watched. We started with a number of apps, Emma had no trouble pointing, using her index finger to match words with images that she knows. But in the past when it comes to typing an idea, Em will usually type, “yes” or “no” and then repeat the question, which is what she was taught to do with her most recent literacy program. I am hoping Emma can be encouraged to move beyond that.
As P. worked with her, slowing her down so she couldn’t simply repeat what had been asked, holding her arm at the elbow, putting up some resistance to her desire to type quickly, reminding her to write what she was thinking, asking if that’s what she meant, I felt tremendous hope. P. asked Em to bring a book she liked. She brought him a collection of fairy tales and plopped the large book on the table in front of him. Em chose to discuss Goldilocks and the three bears. Most of what was typed were fairly simple ideas about the bears and Goldilocks and the havoc Goldilocks causes (much to Em’s delight.) But then P. asked Em what she would do if she went into her own bedroom and found baby bear in her bed, Em typed, “I would be scared and I would watch his mother.”
I read that sentence several times. How can I describe the feelings that came with reading it? How can I express the surge of hope I felt? How can I possibly describe the feeling of euphoria? This sentence, this idea was beyond what I have come to expect. It suggested a whole other level of thinking, a thought process far beyond anything she has been able to express before. It was a terrific idea, one I have discussed with both children during the summer months when we visit my mother in Colorado where we often see bears. I have warned the children that if they encounter a bear, especially a mother with her cubs, to not get between them, to keep their distance, to keep their eye on the mother and to make loud noises.
But Emma wasn’t finished. She then typed, “By the way, this is a very sad story.” I was astonished. I had a million questions. Emma has never spoken this way. Ever. “By the way” is something both Richard and I say, both in jest as well as seriously. Em has never uttered these words, let alone typed them. And why does she think it’s a “sad story”? What strikes her as sad? Which part or does she think the whole thing is sad? It is sad, I thought and then I Immediately went to, I have to become trained in facilitated communication. I have to find a way to communicate like this with Emma. As I am not able to become trained in facilitated communication in the next 24 hours, I made an appointment to Skype with P. in another week, which feels like an eternity, and will try to do whatever I can to continue to learn so that I am better able to help my daughter become an independent communicator.
Between now and that Skype call, I am doing my best to manage my impatience, my excitement, my hopes and dreams and the reality that my daughter has a great deal to say and boy do I want to hear it all!
Em & P.