He Rocks – Harry’s Heart and Humor Part 2

He Rocks- Harry’s Heart and Humor Part 2

Thanks for coming back to read about what has happened with Harry’s communication since Christy got married. Although REACH has yet to be able to provide a different therapist to work out of We Rock The Spectrum Glendale they were able to offer Katie who was already working one day a week at Harry’s school, Westmorland Academy . Although disappointed Harry would not be having his weekly sessions at the gym, I was grateful for how far he had come in 6 months and desperately wanted to see him progress.  “We’ll take it!” I proclaimed, and I carved out time every week to go to the school and observe what was happening with Harry’s speech therapy.
At this time I think its important to say that Harry has been going to a private school specifically for kids with autism since he was in fourth grade. He has struggled his entire life to learn, pay attention and control his challenging behaviors. Until he began typing, he had never demonstrated that knew how to read. Year after year academic goals were created and never achieved. It was presumed he had a cognitive disability, although his IQ was never measured. How could it be? He had no way of communicating what he knew. The school was beginning to shift his goals more and more to vocational, behavioral and social rather than focusing on his education. I worried about his future. What would he do? What does he want to do? Where will he live? What is he capable of? I had so many questions and I wished that I could ask Harry and that he could participate in making decisions about his future.
Starting with a new therapist or anything new for that matter is always challenging for Harry. Christy and Katie had different ways of working and it took some time for my son to adjust and feel comfortable to start communicating. Eventually Katie was able to create a trust with Harry and she introduced him to an alphabet letter board. She taught him to point to the letters on the board at times when it seemed he was having trouble focusing and typing on the ipad. Like Christy, Katie would read to him and presumed when she asked him a question about the reading that he knew the answer. Soon he began to spell his answers with Katie. She had been trained in RPM Rapid Prompting method and was using some different strategies with Harry. She did not need to touch his arm or any other part of his body to keep him engaged, but rather she would encourage him verbally to stay focused, keep going with his thought and she taught him to “reset” his own body as needed. It’s important to understand that Harry’s autism affects his motor planning. This relates to every aspect of his life from his ability to talk, type, cut his food, button his pants, ride a bike or write his name. Katie was patient. She encouraged Harry by presuming he was competent, capable and she always reminded him that he could do it.
Katie continued to read to Harry longer passages from educational books. He would answer more and more complex questions, first directly about the content, but soon Katie would ask him to answer drawing references to his own life. He was enjoying learning about Ancient China, Early American Presidents and Scientific Inventions when one day at school in his speech session he shared his personal thoughts! His school had participated in a Special Olympics event that morning. Harry had been entered in a throwing and a running event and much to everyone’s surprise and delight he won his race. He ran the fastest and reached the finish line first, but since no one had told him to run right through the ribbon, he touched it then turned around and ran back the other way. When encouraged to go back to the finish line, he turned around and ran right back and UNDER the ribbon! Still managing to claim first!

IMG_0197        IMG_0195
When Harry returned to school he was so excited from winning and everyone giving him high fives and congratulations on his blue ribbon. Harry sat in speech therapy with Katie and for the first time that day instead of typing about his lesson he typed out letter by letter what was on his mind, the race! The photo below is of his actual saved session on the ipad. It took him about 45 minutes to completely type out this thought.

harrys first sentence

One year later thanks to Harry finding his voice, he has just participated in his first official Special Olympics representing Glendale California, and was able to take home even more medals and ribbons.

IMG_6989                            harrys first olympic race  ribbon and medal
We are thrilled to share Harry’s progress with all our customers at We Rock, especially families who struggle with a non verbal or partially verbal loved one. I can not recommend enough  introducing your child to the ipad for communication. So when you come into We Rock The Spectrum Glendale next time, if Harry happens to be there, let him know you read about his progress in my Blog. I will share what Harry has typed from his heart and how we discovered his sense of humor. I invite you to get to know Harry’s Heart and Humor.