Tag Archives: ipad

And the Winners Are…

Emma randomly chooses the winners...

Emma randomly chooses the winners…

This morning  I placed all the names of those who commented on yesterday’s post into a bowl and Emma randomly chose five names to win Barb Rentenbach and Lois Prislovsky’s hard cover book, I Might Be You

Be prepared to be blown away.  This book is absolutely wonderful.

To all the winners – Julie L., Edie, Kathy Quoyerser, Corinne Joly and Jill – I will be contacting you by email. Your book will be sent via United States Postal Service after I’ve received your address.

And for those who want to read it, but didn’t win, please consider purchasing this terrific book either as a hard cover or as an ebook available for all eReaders, or the audiobook, which I had the honor of recording with Barb and Lois in New York City last year.  I am the “voice of Barb” and documented that amazing experience ‘here‘, ‘here‘, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.

2

without looking…

And the winners are...

And the winners are…

My Star: Emma

Rhyming words, poetry, fables, history, science, multiplication, math word problems…  these are the things Soma has covered with Emma over the last three days.  Emma went from pointing to one letter at a time, to writing out several words and even whole sentences describing profound thoughts, insights, doubts and concerns, and I sat there witnessing this outpouring of words, this torrent of letters that, when added up, evoked emotion and identification and concern and understanding.  The power of language.  The power of communication.  There is tremendous power in both.

This has been a profound few days; transformative, exhilarating and exhausting.  I have watched my daughter work and she has worked very, very hard.  I have watched her and I have marveled at her and been dismayed by her and astonished with her.  I have laughed and wept and listened and listened and listened some more.  She has said things that have provoked more questions than answers, but she is here, very much rooted in this world and not, as many suggest or seem to think, somewhere else, off in her own “little world”.

I cannot write about anything specific this morning, I’m too tired and Emma has said she is too.  We have two more sessions today with Soma and then we head home.  We are lucky.  We are incredibly fortunate that we’ve had the means to do this, to come here, to stay for the week so that Emma could work with Soma.  All the young children Soma has worked with over the years, so many of them are now writing books, and are at an age where they are publishing their hard-won  words; there are too many to ignore.  They are communicating on letter boards and iPads and keyboards, an unbelievable output of thoughts, ideas and opinions.  “I want to be able to talk,” Emma wrote yesterday.  And maybe, just maybe one day she will be able to talk the way she writes, but until then we will keep providing her with every available resource we can find so that she has a better chance of achieving that goal.

Em standing beneath the “Star of Texas”

Em & Star of Texas copy

Our Amazing Adventure

Emma gave me permission to blog about some of our day yesterday.  I asked her, “Is there anything you typed that you do not want me to write about?”  She typed, “No.”  So… here goes…

We are in Texas to work with Soma Mukhopadhyay.  I’ve written about Soma many times before, ‘here‘, ‘here‘, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.  By the way, Tito, Soma’s son (who is non-speaking and autistic) is the author of several books.  I highly recommend all of them.

Soma began the session using a stencil board and having Em point to the letter she wanted with a pencil, then took the pencil, wrote the letter down, handed the pencil back, and on they went.  By the afternoon session Em was pointing to the first letter and then the next and the next, spelling out whole words and even several words before Soma wrote all the letters down.  As the sessions are all being videotaped, the stencil board is by far the best thing to use, as it is clear when you are watching the tape, which letters Em is pointing to, where as a laminated letter board, or a keyboard would be more difficult to see as clearly.  Soma does not touch the person she is working with.  There is no physical contact of any kind, unless initiated by the other person.

Some people have accused Soma of manipulating the stencil board.  I have watched Soma work with my daughter many times, as well as with other students and beyond the natural slight movement that occurs when holding an object with one hand, I have witnessed no manipulation of any kind.  With Emma she used a full alphabet stencil board, so even if one wanted to somehow make her point to a particular letter this would be impossible without physically touching her.

They began discussing the weather and Em wrote that she likes it when it is windy.  Soma asked her to tell her anything at all about windy weather and Em wrote, “flying leaves”.  They then discussed temperature, how heat rises, the sun, and finally Soma asked her for the name of any state.  Emma wrote, “Colorado”.  Soma asked her why she chose Colorado and I smiled knowingly, believing that I knew the answer and expecting her to write something about how this is where her Granma lives and where we go to visit several times a year.  But Emma had something else in mind.  She went for the letter “b” and then wrote “Boulder”.

Okay, I thought.  Boulder, that’s kind of weird.  Richard’s best friend lives in Boulder, maybe she’s thinking about Steve.  Meanwhile Soma asked, “What happened there?”  And Emma wrote, “flood”.  And I sat there stunned.  You see, we are not a family that ever turns on the television unless it’s for a pre-recorded show or to watch a dvd.  We do not listen to the radio.  We no longer have the NYTimes delivered to our house as both Richard and I receive it online and read the news from our iPads.  Neither Richard nor I spoke (that we can remember) about the devastation that occurred because of the flooding in Boulder recently.  And yet, there is absolutely no doubt that others have and did discuss the floods in Emma’s presence, though it’s doubtful anyone spoke to her about them and yet here she was, writing about the floods.

The afternoon session began with Emma choosing “story” from a choice between “story” and “number”.  Soma proceeded to tell a fable about a crane and a fox who were friends.  The fox invited the crane over for dinner and prepared meat for the crane which was almost impossible for the crane to pick up with his beak and the fox watched with great delight as the meat fell from his beak over and over.  Soma talked about how the fox was having fun, but mean fun and throughout all of this asked Emma clarifying questions about various words, all of which Emma knew without hesitation.  But the fox underestimated his friend the crane, Soma continued.  She then asked Emma what she thought about the word underestimated and Emma wrote, “less expectation”.  The story continued with the crane being polite and asking the fox to come over the next day for dinner at the crane’s house where upon the crane served the fox soup in a jar that the fox could not drink, except to lick the sides.  Soma then asked Emma for the moral of the story and Emma wrote, “do unto others”.

Soma used Emma’s interest (anxiety?) about the time and how long the session was going to last, to discuss time and the calendar year and then asked Em “how would you like to be treated by others?” Emma wrote, “I want to disappear when people talk about me.”  Soma asked a clarifying question about situations that she was specifically referring to and asked if Emma felt that way when people said nice things.  Emma said, “no”.

Later, using a laminated “yes” or “no” card that Rosemary Crossley uses and gave us, I asked Em more about this.  It came out that people are “mean” to her on the school bus.  I asked her if people were mean to her at school and she wrote, “No.”

Today we go back for Emma’s next two sessions with Soma.   As they say in the 12-step rooms – more will be revealed.  I cannot write about how I feel, other than to say, Soma is doing amazing work.  She has been doing this work for close to two decades, everyday for hours at a time.  I am learning a great deal, but will I be able to replicate what she is doing?  No.  I won’t.  Not yet, anyway and I don’t expect to, but I can get better with practice and I can apply what I see Soma doing with other things I’ve learned that Emma has responded to.  But more than anything else, I can continue to stretch my limited mind and limited thinking, (my neurological deficits) and practice, continue to practice expanding my knee jerk “truths” until one day perhaps I will no longer feel incredulous at what I continue to witness, not only with Soma, but with a great many people, all of whom have devoted their lives to finding ways for people like my daughter to communicate.

I want to disappear when people talk about me.

*I have read this to Emma to make sure what I’ve written is okay to publish.  She has given me her permission.

Soma and Emma

Soma & Em

Early Intervention

Last week I wrote a post,  Autism “Experts” about how I used to attribute any action or sentence uttered by my daughter as evidence that whatever therapy or treatment we were employing at the time was “working.”  It was my way of staving off the persistent fear that if we were not intimately involved in a constant barrage of therapies, she would make no progress or whatever progress she made would be less, than if we devoted every waking hour to constant involvement and interaction.  Suddenly every waking moment became a moment we must engage, interact, teach and push for more.

We were told about the human brain and the small window when the brain’s plasticity is at its most optimal for learning.  From the moment that diagnosis was handed to us, we felt we were in a race against time.  Any time we sat down to read the newspaper or took ten minutes in our daughter’s presence to relax and just be in each other’s company without “working” with her was reason for guilt and the feeling that time was slipping away from us.  The nagging worry, if only we did more than we already were, she would be better served, is one I remember well and can still feel the residual stress of.

I want to clarify a couple of things that perhaps were not entirely clear in last week’s post.  I do not believe an autism diagnosis means we sit and do nothing to help our children, but I believe there must be a balance.  What we did was detrimental to all involved and I do not encourage anyone to follow in our footsteps.  All our hard work, the round the clock therapy, (more than 40 hours a week) the training, the evenings and weekends spent taking over once the therapists had gone home, did not ensure our child’s brain was rewired.  She was not mainstreamed within a few years.

This idea, popularized by the book, Let me Hear Your Voice by Catherine Maurice was NOT our story.  I do NOT recommend that book, in fact I urge parents to avoid it.  It was the first one recommended to me by Emma’s ABA supervisor and it set us on a very painful road of discouragement and disappointment, but perhaps even more importantly and destructive, it put into play the belief that Emma’s neurology could and should be “fixed.” And it pushed us further away from any degree of acceptance and eventually embracing and yes, celebrating our daughter for the amazing, uniquely beautiful being that she is.

That early intervention is so often equated with ABA is worrisome to me.  I hope this is changing.  People suggest it is, but when my daughter was diagnosed it was a given.  It was ABA or nothing.  Agencies offered versions of ABA, but it was still ABA.  My child was not helped by ABA.  I would not have done it could I do it all over again.  I’ve written about ABA before ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.  I know many of you feel it has helped your child, many have written to me and described some version of ABA that bears no resemblance to the method used with my daughter.   Evidently ABA has, in some cases, changed.  The bottom line is this – Does it presume competence?  Does it respect the child as a human being?   Is this a method I would use on a child who was not Autistic?

What I would have done when my daughter was first diagnosed was OT.  I would have enrolled her in gymnastics, trapeze school, swimming and I would have introduced her to a stencil board and AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices.  I would have begun using Proloquo2go and many of the terrific Grasshopper apps had we had iPads when Emma was diagnosed.  And I would have begun working with Soma Mukhopadhyay.  In an ideal world all of these things would be a given.  All of these things would fall under “early intervention.”  All of these things would be available to ALL families despite their level of income.  These are the things that have proven to help my daughter.  All children may not respond to the things she has responded to.  But in an ideal world “services” would include an evaluation determining what things would help and a plan would be made.

In last week’s post I questioned those who are not Autistic and have little or no contact outside of a professional setting to those who are and yet call themselves “experts.”  I was not referring to the many professionals who are intimately involved in the autism community (and by that I mean the community of people who are Autistic) who have dedicated themselves to helping our kids and us so that we can be, not only the best parents we can be, but also equipped with information that will help us help our children flourish.  There are a great many of you out there, and to you I am incredibly grateful.  To all those professionals in the field of autism who are not familiar with Autistic blogs, books or do not have have any Autistic people in your life who are friends and colleagues, please become familiar with Autistic people’s work so you can tell parents.  Many parent’s first contact with anyone involved with autism, outside of their child, will be a therapist.

Please make sure parents know there is a growing population of adults who share our child’s neurology.  Even if that means just giving us a list of blogs and books written by Autistic people.  Ideally there would be programs in place that employed Autistic people, just as social workers, therapists, parent liaisons are employed. Autistic people who are interested in interacting with new parents and their newly diagnosed children would become a part of “Early Intervention.”

Ideally we would live in a society where we did not segregate those who were more profoundly affected by physical impairments and do not speak, so that all of us came into daily contact with those whose neurology was similar to our child’s as well as those with an array of impairments.  Perhaps families with older kids who are farther along in the process would volunteer to reach out and be available to other families new to all of this.   The point is that we could help each other more than is being currently done.

No family should feel they are alone, or feel the fear we felt or the terror and worry that dogged us every waking moment of those first years after my daughter’s diagnosis.  Years we spent in a state of almost constant panic that we should be doing more, that if we didn’t we were losing time, that our daughter’s life depended on it and that anything less meant we were failing her.

No one, who is given a diagnosis of autism, should feel they are alone.  None should feel less than or believe they are damaged or broken.  No child should feel ostracized or that the way they process and view the world is “wrong” or “bad.”  None should feel that because they are Autistic, they need to hide or feel abandoned by society. No one should be made to feel ashamed for the way they were born.  No one.  This is what I want to see change.  This is why I keep writing.  All of us can work together to create a world that embraces one another and encourages, rather than condemns.  Each of us can play a small part in making this happen, by increasing our awareness, by accepting difference, by working together.

**Em

Tears and Love

This past Saturday we took Em to meet and have a session with Soma Mukhopadhyay, who developed RPM ~ Rapid Prompting Method for Autism.   I’ve written about Soma before, ‘here‘ and briefly on a number of other posts.  If you want to read those old posts you can put “Soma” into the search box and everything I’ve written mentioning her will come up.  A word of warning, however, those early posts show a very different mind-set regarding autism and my daughter than the one I now hold.  I find it difficult to read them because I had so completely bought into the Autism = tragedy mode of thinking.  As anyone who follows this blog knows, this is not the view I hold now.  It is good to see that my daughter is not the only one who is making progress!

One of the first things Soma did, (who has never met nor worked with Emma before) was comment to us that Em needs help to slow down.  This is identical to Pascal’s observations.  Em’s default is to script or point to the first thing she sees, whether that is a piece of paper or a key on a computer.  So despite the name of Soma’s program, for Emma this is less a literal “rapid” method and more a sustained level of interaction.  During the entire session Em remained focused and answered each of Soma’s questions appropriately.  There was no physical contact of any kind.  Rather Emma was asked to point to letters on a stencil board or to scraps of paper with different options on them.

Soma began with “I am thinking of a month when the leaves start to fall.”

Em then dutifully spelled “October” on the stencil board and my tears began to flow.  “I’m thinking of the season when the leaves grow,” Soma said.  To which Em pointed to the letters to spell “spring.”  For forty-five minutes Soma covered math, the seasons, an Aesop’s fable, reasoning, science and for forty-five minutes I watched with tears in my eyes as my daughter attended with focus while holding on to her string.  Every now and again Em would verbally respond to Soma’s question and then glanced up at her with a little smile.  By the end of the forty-five minutes Soma asked, “do you have any questions?”

“Will you come live with us?”  Was the only question I could think to ask.  I was kidding of course, but it was the only way I knew to sum up how I felt.  For years now we have been trying to find a curriculum that will help Em learn in an academic setting.  For years we’ve tried, her various schools have tried many different methods, none of which have worked.  Yet here we were watching a program that not only worked, but that I could see the potential and the potential is limitless.

Yesterday I decided to try to combine some of what I saw Soma doing with what Pascal has been helping us learn with supporting her typing by creating resistance to her.  I sat on Em’s right side and brought out our iPad.  I also had Nic’s old globe and we talked about how we live on a planet called Earth. I showed Emma where we live and then where one of her favorite people lives in London, England and how to get to London we would need to fly over the Atlantic Ocean.  Em typed, with me providing resistance, “We live on a planet called Earth.  To visit England we have to fly over the Atlantic Ocean.”

This was the first time I have supported Em’s typing and given her the proper resistance.  I could feel it.  I could feel her reaching for the keys.  I could tell when I needed to provide more resistance, I could feel when her body was tensing and when she was trying to perseverate or trying to script.  This was the first time I have worked with Em that I knew without any doubt that I was not directing her at all.  She went on to type that if she could visit any other planet she would like to visit Mars.  We then ended with her typing her full name, her age and where she lived.  She knows all of this and so much more.

And finally, just finally I know she knows.  I know, she knows, without any doubt.

Tears and love.

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Air Pressure, Autism and How To Make A Perfect Arnold Palmer

Em has a cold.  When Em has a cold it’s stressful to her.  She repeatedly holds her nose and blows, despite being told this will not reduce the pressure she feels in her head, she does it anyway.  Maybe it momentarily does release the pressure and that’s why she keeps doing it.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that having a cold along with a change in air pressure causes her tremendous discomfort and pain.  A friend of mine, who is also Autistic told me her head feels as though it’s going to explode when the air pressure changes.  She told me it’s so excruciatingly painful she loses the ability to speak.

While I do not share in Em’s pain due to the barometric pressure, I did manage to throw my back out Friday afternoon.  No this is not going to be a “woe is me” post, I promise.  I could barely walk on Saturday and so Richard, being the all around amazing, wonderful, practically perfect guy that he is, took Em to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ending with the Natural History Museum where they played an extended elevator game. (Emma rides the glass elevator in the biolife section where an enormous whale is suspended from the ceiling and a video plays on a massive screen showing the beauty of the ocean and the slow, march towards its inevitable death because of mankind’s negligence and refusal to take responsibility, while Richard pops into view and pretends to scream, and Emma, safely cocooned inside the moving glass elevator hysterically laughs.)  This game can go on for a very long time.  Thankfully Emma was NOT slowed down by her cold or the pain caused by the air pressure.

By the time they returned home I was able to hobble up to the roof with Em where she insisted on wearing this outfit.  It’s a new take on the standard knight costume, a kind of King Arthur’s knight meets one of the witches from Macbeth.  Personally I think it totally works and can we all take a moment and admire Emma’s pose.  (No.  I did not set this up.  She saw the camera and struck a pose unprompted..)

Last night, having spent yet another jam-packed day going to MOMA and (yes again) to the Natural History Museum with her awesome dad, Emma’s cold had worsened only slightly and my back had not improved.  “You two are quite the pair,” Richard observed as I hobbled over to Em’s bedroom, carrying my iPad, while making (almost inaudible) groaning noises.

“I’m going to read to her and then it’s zombie time,” I warned him.  Lest any of you conclude this is referring to some form of kinky foreplay specific to Richard and me, let me dispense with this notion.  It’s not.  We are catching up on season two of the series ‘The Walking Dead’, which Richard has tried to get me to watch for about six months.  Given my weakened state I finally gave in and found I rather enjoyed it.  Lots of zombies, end of the world as we know it, great non-zombie characters and it’s only while watching a zombie show that one can truly appreciate the following conversation: “That was totally unrealistic!  Zombies can’t move that quickly.”  Or “Gross.  How can a zombie have that much blood in their skull?”  Or  “So, wait… they eat humans?  But how are there so many of them?  I mean are the zombies basically left-overs?  Why would they just bite one human and devour another, seriously I don’t get it…”

And then, as though this might explain everything, Richard asked, “Want to go back and start from the first episode?  You’ve missed a lot.”

“No.  That’s okay.  Just keep filling me in.”

So when I was jolted awake at 3:45AM by a body (Emma’s) lying practically on top of me, I just rolled over in a zombie induced state of undead exhaustion.  I heard Richard get up and take her back to her bedroom and ten minutes after he returned to our bed, having immediately fallen back asleep, I heard Emma crying.

I grimaced in pain as I made my way to her bedroom where she had the lights on and was whimpering “Mommy come.  Ears popping.  Go see Mommy nurse.”

“Oh Emmy.  I’m sorry.  Want me to lie down with you for a little while?”

“Mommy stay.”

I promptly fell asleep only to be abruptly awoken, a few hours later when my face hit the floor, having fallen out of bed, either that or Emma pushed me in an attempt to gain a few more inches of room on her twin bed.  In a dazed state I slowly stood up and found, much to my surprise, my back felt fine!

“I think falling out of Em’s bed this morning made my back better,” I announced to Richard as we got breakfast for the children.

“Really?” he said.   Then he added, “Cheaper than a chiropractor.”

“And not as painful as a zombie bite.”

As an added plus, Emma seemed to feel much better this morning too!

Lest anyone accuse me of ‘making lemonade from lemons’, I need to add that I was voted, “Most Negative” in high school, a high school, by the way, of over 3,000 students.  Just sayin’… Plus, I don’t much care for lemonade, unless it’s in an Arnold Palmer and even then limeade is preferable.

The Perfect Arnold Palmer

Fill two-thirds of a glass with brewed, cooled English Breakfast Tea, add Limeade and a splash of Cran-Raspberry juice, garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Voila! 

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Tolerance, Despair and Hope – Autism

A follower of this blog emailed me this morning about a new app for the ipad called, Pop It.  It’s a “book” that when one shakes the ipad, the perspective of the story changes.  The creator, an artist named Raghava, gave a talk on Ted.com, which is terrific – about perspective and tolerance of others and the role of art and creativity.  Listening to Raghava made me think of a book I am currently reading by the extremely talented and insightful theologian, James H. Cone.  His book – The Cross and the Lynching Tree is a deeply touching and powerful investigation of suffering and hope.  James Cone writes at length about the nature of faith, how God “could make a way out of no way”, how “hope could remain alive in the world of Jim Crow segregation.”

I do not claim to know of the existence, nor can I claim to know of the non-existence of a god.  I cannot even define that word.  It is not a word that holds any meaning for me.  But I do know what it is to struggle with hope.  Hope for Emma, hope for all our children who will grow up to become adults, who many will fear, ignore or just wish would go away.  Our children with autism are often misunderstood, in their inability to fall into line with societal norms they are in turn rejected by society.  The continued negligence and worse, abuse, of people with disabilities is rampant.  Their abuse is done by people who have deemed them incompetent, imbeciles and without value.  This is the common thread that exists in the abuse of all groups of people throughout history.  It is our intolerance of those we believe to be “less than” that makes us believe we have the “right” to punish, shun, ignore, hurt, torture and kill.

James Cone writes:  “The cross is a paradoxical religious symbol because it inverts the world’s value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last.”

When I was in my late teens I began using food as a way to quell anxiety and emotions I felt incapable of dealing with.  My overeating turned to full blown bulimia and the bulimia became a way of life – for 22 years.  I remember when I finally stopped, the idea of “surrender” seemed antithetical to all I had, up to that point, believed.  I thought that if I just had more will power I would be able to stop the destructive behavior.  I believed that the bulimia was something I could control.  I believed that my lack of control simply proved how despicable I was, which only served to fuel more of the same behavior.  It wasn’t until I took a leap of faith – really took in that I was, in fact, out of control, that I received a respite from the behavior.  Early in my “recovery” from bulimia someone said to me, “don’t you think that if you could have controlled the bulimia, you would have by now?  Isn’t it true that in fact you have tried to control it all these years and this is where that control has gotten you?”  With a great deal of support from others who had eating disorders and had come out the other side, was I finally able to find a way out from under it.  In surrendering to the fact that I was unable to control it, was I finally able to find freedom from it.

I’m all over the map with this post, but perhaps some of these thoughts will prove helpful to someone else or if not at least encourage thought and conversation.

For more on Emma and our journey through her childhood of autism, go to:   www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Dreams For Emma – Autism

A follower of this blog and mother of two children on the spectrum asked me if Emma used an ipad.  I wrote about Emma’s ipad last fall for both this blog as well as the Huffington Post, so in responding to her email, I reread both those posts.  The one for Emma’s Hope Book is entitled Emma and Lists.  What struck me was how far Emma has come since then.  I looked at the date – September 24th, 2010 – and while yesterday I was feeling a bit discouraged with Emma’s ongoing struggles with handwriting, I cannot help but feel incredibly optimistic with her progress after reading those posts.  It’s funny how rereading something I’d written less than a year ago can have such an impact, but it has.

Emma has certainly come a long, long way.  In the post “Emma and Lists” I write about how when I am feeling a little sad or discouraged I make lists.  I go on to recount my current lists, (hopes) for Emma.  “Help Emma with Reading,”  “Help Emma with writing,” are two such items.  I remember when I wrote that post, thinking that these were dreams, perhaps dreams I might not ever see accomplished.  And yet, here I am in July of 2011 and not only are both these dreams coming true, but so are others that I hadn’t even thought to put on my list.  Things like:  beginning math concepts, writing in full sentences, learning to type, following three and four step commands.  These are all things Emma is in the process of learning.

I will try to remember to take a photograph of Emma’s handwriting this afternoon.  She is coming along.  She is learning, she is progressing.  It’s easy to forget, though.  I forgot that last September I could only hope Emma might one day learn to read and write.  That she is now doing so is remarkable and wonderful.  Last fall we were still riding on the wave of our success with having finally gotten her out of diapers at night.  We were still struggling with getting her to sleep through the night.  I’d forgotten all of that.  It seems so much longer than ten months ago.  It feels as though years have slipped by.

I haven’t dared dream for awhile now.  But rereading those posts reminds me of how important it is to have dreams, for ourselves, for our children.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, and to see how far she’s come in one year go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Emma and Lists

Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I make lists.  I have a number of lists going simultaneously.  I have one for my jewelry business, one for my jewelry e-commerce site (yet to be launched), I have another, which is a general To Do List and then there are the lists for Emma.  Emma – research is one, Emma – goals, is another.

Several days ago, when I posted “What Now?” I was feeling particularly down.  Out came the paper and pen.  A list was created with the simple heading:  Emma.  Below the heading I began to make an action plan.  As I worked on my list Emma appeared caring my Ipad.

“Mommy go to bed?” Emma asked.

“Do you want to sit in my bed with me, Em?” I asked.

“Yes.  You have to ask Mommy.  Mommy come to your bed with you?”  She pulled on the sleeve of my robe.  “Mommy can you come to my bed sit with you?”

“Yes.  But you say – Mommy, can you come with me?” I said standing up.

“Mommy can I come with me,” Emma said, struggling with the ever elusive proper use of pronouns.

“Okay.  Come on!  Let’s go.” I said taking Emma’s hand.

Emma loves the Ipad app – Interactive Alphabet – ABC Flash Cards.  She loves the music, which plays as she taps on different letters, each letter coming to life as she touches it.  This app has become such a favorite, Emma requests it each night before she goes to bed.

EE IS FOR EGG,” the female voice said, when Emma tapped on the egg.  She tapped again and watched it cracked open, a raw egg splatted down next to the first one.

“Hey Em,” I said, “What letter is that?” I asked pointing to the E.  Emma said nothing and tapped on the A.

AA IS FOR APPLE,” the voice said.

Emma tapped on the picture of the apple and watched as the apple was eaten with accompanying crunching noises.

“What about this letter, Em?  What letter is this?” I asked pointing to the B.

Emma ignored me and pressed the B.  We continued in this way for a few more letters, with me watching her as she listened to a letter and then when asked what that letter was, she could not answer.

“Press U Em,” I said.  Much to my surprise, Emma immediately pressed U.

UU IS FOR UMBRELLA,” the voice said.

“Hey Em, press P,” I said, holding my breath.

Without hesitation, Emma pressed the letter P.

“Em what letter is that?” I asked, excitement creeping into my voice.

Emma said nothing and pressed P again.

PP IS FOR PLANT,” the voice intoned, as Emma bopped her head up and down keeping time with the music.

“Okay, how about B?  Press B, Em,” I said.

Sure enough, no hesitation, Emma tapped on the letter B.

BB IS FOR BEACH,” the voice said.

I repeated this with more than a dozen letters, picked at random with never a hesitation on Emma’s part, until I asked her, “What about W.  Press W,” I said.

Emma held her finger over W and then tapped on V, just to the left of it.

“Em!  That’s not W,” I said.

“No.  Not W,” Emma said laughing.

“Come on Em.  Press W,” I said.

Again Emma tapped on V and laughed.

V. V IS FOR VOLCANO,” the voice said.

“Okay, what about R?” I asked.  “Press R.”

Emma looked at me, smiled and tapped on Q, again the letter just to the left of R.  After this had gone on for three or four more times, it was clear Emma was choosing the letter to the left on purpose. Each time she did so, she laughed.  It reminded me of all those therapy sessions when I would be called in to discuss Emma’s progress.  The puzzled therapist would then describe a session with Emma regarding something she thought Emma knew, only to question whether perhaps she didn’t.

“So it’s a processing issue,” Richard said later that night when I described my session with Emma.

“Yes, it’s really interesting,” I said.  “She knows every letter of the alphabet if I ask her to point to it.  I think she even knows almost all the sounds they make, but if I ask her to name a letter, she can’t.”

Of course the implications are exciting.  Up to this point I have wondered whether Emma could learn to read or write. I wondered if the wiring in her brain was too jumbled to be able to, just as many autistic children who can read and write, cannot speak.  The other night convinced me; reading and writing are achievable goals.

I spent several hours researching other apps for the Ipad and will be previewing a number of the free ones recommended by other parents of autistic children.  In addition, I have watched the first video from Soma Mukhopadhyay regarding her Rapid Prompting Method and intend to watch the second tonight.

I looked at my list just now.  Below the heading – EMMA – I had written Help Emma with Reading and below that Help Emma with Writing.

Maybe, just maybe, I will one day be able to cross those off my list, just as I have been able to cross off:  Toileting & Bedwetting.

By the way, have I mentioned Emma slept the last TWO nights in her own bed without waking anyone, coming into our room at 6:30AM and 6:45AM?