He Rocks – Harry’s Heart and Humor Part 3
I’m excited to continue to share about the progress my son has made in his communication this past year. Just before his 15th birthday, Harry had been having a fun summer with lots of hiking, swimming, surfing, skateboarding, and of course his newly expressed passion, running! As you can see we have totally supported Harry’s wish to let others know that Autism can be equated to great fitness! He had been continuing to work with Katie, typing and using his letter board, but it seemed no matter how hard I tried to duplicate what she was doing he was not willing or seemingly able to type with me. I was getting frustrated and discouraged and I wasn’t sure how long I could continue to afford to pay for this speech therapy. It was not covered by Harry’s insurance (Medical) and having recently opened a new business with We Rock The Spectrum Glendale. To say there wasn’t a lot of extra money is an understatement. I had been invited by our CEO and founder of We Rock, Dina Kimmel, to hear a special needs attorney speak about what services can be funded by the Los Angeles Unified School District. It was literally like a light bulb went off in my head. I wasted no time bringing her on board to fight for REACH communication Services, which had given my son a way to show what he knew in school, to be paid for by the district for the upcoming year. It didn’t take long, for Valerie Vanaman to use her expertise of special education law to prove that my son needed this speech therapy from this company to “access the curriculum”. We not only were awarded payment for the upcoming year, but reimbursement for the past year I had already paid. I could not believe it, I was thrilled and ready to take on the next challenge of getting my son to type with me.
In July 2015, I attended a REACH Communication conference, along with Harry and his step dad Michael. Harry’s therapist Katie was presenting about RPM in one of the break out sessions.
Harry sat between Michael and me and on the first day of the conference and for the first time, he spelled out answers to my questions.
We were so excited and proud of how he handled all three days of the conference. It was as though he was amongst “his people” and he felt totally at ease. We were all like sponges that weekend trying to absorb as much information as we possibly could.
Ever since then, I have been able to get Harry to type and spell out his thoughts with me. A year ago, it was not everyday, or even every time I asked, but his communication was improving. It was still extremely limited but significant. I would take what I could get, often without pushing him for more. At school he continued his weekly sessions and I attended every one, diligently taking notes. The following are some of the highlights from those sessions.
Katie asked what he wanted to do and Harry typed on the ipad, “I can get done hearing about mirrors”.
Katie “Do you have a topic you really like”?
He typed, “great changes fenced china”
Katie did a lesson on the history of The Great Wall of China and Harry answered all of her questions from the reading correctly. She told him he was doing such a great job typing on the ipad and had developed a rhythm. At the end she asked him if he had any final thoughts, or a message to the world and he typed
“Heartened here erased fear”.
Katie asked what he wanted to work on
Harry typed “longing to do the great wall”.
Katie read and then asked, “What is one reason for closing yourself off”?
Harry typed, “control the population”
He seemed kind of distracted and maybe even sad. Katie asked if he was doing ok. He said yes but he did not look like it. His school aide told Katie that they had watched a documentary that morning about the terrorist attacks on 9-11.
Katie asked Harry, “is there anything you want to say about the 9-11 movie”?
Harry typed “its so sad”
He began jumping in his seat and it seemed very hard for him to control his body.
Katie went back to reading about China and he calmed down. At the end she said, “Last question, do you have a final thought? Whatever you want to say, a message to the world”?
Harry typed, “have a heart”
Katie asked, “What do you want to talk about”?
Harry typed ” china”
She read from a book on China and he answered questions by pointing to letters on the stencil board. One question from the reading was a vocabulary word she asked him if he knew what it meant to be homely.
Harry typed, “essence needs hugs”
Katie read him a definition of homely from a dictionary then asked him, “what do you think about that”?
Harry typed “not electric” then he got up and asked to take a little break. We were beginning to notice that when harry was asked something he didn’t really know he got very anxious and would usually ask for a break or to use the bathroom. After his break he went back to the lesson and answered more questions.
Katie asked him to type out the number 22.
Harry spelled “twenty two”
She told him he could use the number keys and then he accurately identified the numbers 100, 800, and 900.
Katie asked her last question before the timer went off, “what’s a quality of a good leader”?
Harry typed “ruling with purpose “
Katie was reading a history lesson and asked, “What does revolt mean”?
Harry chose to answer using the letter board rather than the ipad.
We noticed when he has a hard time controlling his body movements, pointing at the small letters on the ipad or query keyboard is difficult for him and he does better using a pencil to point at the large letter board. He tried spelling an answer but got frustrated and quickly grabbed at Katie’s arm. She told him it was ok not to know the answer to the question about the revolt. She said lets start over, from scratch. Do you know what that means”?
Harry spelled, “you start like again”.
Katie asked, “What signal can you use to let others know you have something to say”?
Harry spelled, “let’s have going to communicate “
She asked if there was anything he could do non verbally to indicate he has something to say and he spelled,” saying takes less time”.
Katie asked him to clarify, “What do you want to say, going to communicate or maybe just communication? Do you want to use one word or the whole phrase”? He spelled, “Not word use phrase”
I went into this session to ask Katie for help because for the past month, most times I asked Harry to communicate with me he was refusing. He would type “no” or “move” but I wasn’t getting much more since he had started back to school.
Katie started the session by asking Harry “How is typing going with mom”?
Harry typed on the ipad “eta”
Katie asked, “What does eta mean”?
Harry typed “estimated time of arrival has learned
that youth hears moms as asking …”
He got all that out then asked to take a break. I was so anxious for him to finish his thought and it was torturous to be patient and wait for him to return from his break. When he did, Katie decided to do some academics with him, which often seemed to help him organize his body to type. We noticed when he was asked anything difficult, including many personal questions, he would have a hard time. After a few correct answers from the lesson she said, “ now back to mom question”. She asked him to finish his thought, “estimated time of arrival has learned that youth hears mom as asking …”
He continued typing “grand awesome questions at days end best hear usually in the morning”
And then I knew.
For more information about REACH communication services including this summers workshops and trainings, click here.