Tag Archives: teaching special needs children

A Brilliant Mind

I have maintained in previous posts, that I continue to believe in my daughter’s brilliance.  Current IQ tests do not account for children who are non-verbal or with limited or impaired speech.  I have no way of knowing what Emma’s IQ is, but I can tell you there are things Emma does, on a daily basis, indicating her mind is capable of some pretty astonishing leaps.  What follows are a number of examples.

Our refrigerator light is out.  The first thing I did was replace the bulb, only to find that wasn’t the problem.  A little later Emma opened the refrigerator door and pressed a switch on the ceiling of the refrigerator and immediately all the lights came back on.

“Wow Em!  How did you know to do that?” I asked incredulous.

“Lights broken,” Emma said, nodding her head up and down as she removed her caramel yogurt from the frig.

“Yeah, but how did you get them back on?” I went over to her and watched as she reopened the door and pressed on the little white button that activates the lights when the door is opened, something I did not realize until Emma showed me.  The lights flickered for a second and then went out.  Emma reached up and matter-of-factly jiggled the switch and the lights came back on.

“There,” she said, with a certain degree of satisfaction.

After a few days of all of us wiggling the switch, the lights flickered on and off feebly one last time before remaining permanently off and I had to call the company to get the light switch replaced.  Now to many of you, this may seem completely commonplace, but I can tell you, I had spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what was causing the problem.   I should have saved my time and just asked Emma.

Yesterday while Emma and I worked on her literacy program requiring her to choose the word “leg” from several options, she positioned the cursor over the correct button then clicked on the space bar.  Then she looked over at me with a mischievous grin as if to say – did you see that?

Again, hitting the space bar instead of clicking on the mouse or the return key never would have occurred to me.

Another thing I’ve noticed while working with Emma is that she has an amazing ability to see patterns.  So, for example, if I show her a series of “words” but with only parts of the letters showing such as:  _a_s,  r_ _ _, _e_ _, _ _s_ and ask her to find the one that can be “eats” she will find the correct one immediately, less than a second, faster than I am able to.  I am consistently amazed by this.  It is in keeping with her ability to know instantly when a photograph is missing from her pile.

Emma’s box of photographs – over 200

The other day Emma was singing while shooshing around on her scooter.  Richard was reading in the rocking chair, Merlin happily nestled in his lap.  “You know what she’s doing right?” Richard said looking over his reading glasses at me.

“Yeah,” I said without looking up.

“She’s created her own carousel.  Do you hear her?  She’s singing all the songs they play on the carousel.  And watch.  She’s going around and around on her scooter in the same direction as the carousel.”

I stopped reading and watched and listened.  Emma was currently singing “Georgy Girl” one of the many songs they play at the Central Park Carousel.

“I wonder if she’s singing the songs in the correct sequence,” he wondered out loud.  “We’ll have to make a note of that next time we go.”

Emma riding on the Central Park Carousel

These are only a few examples of Emma’s brilliant mind.  There are countless others.

We, as a society have a tendency to view ourselves and others with a critical eye.  We are taught early on to look at our deficits and then do all we can to take corrective measures to make up for those deficits.  I don’t believe this kind of thinking is helpful with children diagnosed with autism.  The deficits pile up unbidden until that’s all we can see.  Our children are routinely viewed as “less than” as we struggle to help them.  I feel strongly a more balanced approach is necessary.  Our children are often brilliant.  If I approach Emma with this in mind, I am able to more fully help her, by focussing on her talents, on the things that are easy for her and using those assets to help her with the things that are more difficult.   In addition I find I can learn a great deal from her.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

A Light Bulb Moment

This morning Emma, Joe and I went into “Emma’s Study Room”, which is where we go to work on Emma’s literacy program.  Emma asks to do this each morning.  Earlier this morning Joe and I discussed various strategies to help Emma with the handwriting portion.  Up until this morning’s session, the handwriting part has been extremely difficult for Emma.  Her anxiety level (and mine) have been counter productive – with Emma fidgeting, pushing her chair away from the desk and saying things like – “study room all done now.”

We began with the video – a short story about a man washing his car with a rag.  Emma seemed mildly uninterested, but watched the short clip and then was asked to find the word from a series of sentences, which she did with little problem.  She then was instructed to spell the word, again with few problems and when the computer portion was over we went to the handwriting part.  But today we implemented some other techniques that we had used in the first part of the literacy program, exercises she was familiar with and as a result had no problem doing.  We then moved on to the more problematic spelling of the single three letter word, but this time Emma had no problem!  As I watched her work, I could see that something had clicked.  It was an amazing moment.  It reminded me of the moment when Helen Keller finally realizes the water dribbling through her hand is the word Annie Sullivan is spelling for her.

I felt such unbelievable joy witnessing Emma “getting it”.  The look on her face, the smile… it was priceless.  To say that I am proud of her is a vast understatement.  I am ecstatic for her as well as proud, so very, very proud of her.

We continued through the other exercises with amazing results.  At a certain point I looked over at Joe and made a Can-You-Believe-This?! face.  And after we were finished I went to tell Richard, overwhelmed with happiness and relief.  What I witnessed was the beginning of reading and writing comprehension and it beats the joy I felt when Emma took her first steps.

As a side note, I will be adding the link to this blog on each post as various posts are getting picked up elsewhere.  For those who read Emma’s Hope Book already, just ignore and for those of you new to it, welcome!