Friday, January 29, 2016


Following the traditional path meant constantly trying to maintain or stay on-par with the group, either the class, in school, or age-appropriate behavior as defined by ABA therapy.  By letting go of maintenance mode, we've been rewarded with unexpected upgrades.

Expressive speech - how someone puts a sentence together to make their thoughts known - is an ongoing challenge for Liam.  Give him a bunch of sentences to correct on paper, and he'll fly through them.  So he understands much about how language is constructed, can read aloud (decode) English at a very high level (last time he was tested, in 3rd grade, he decoded at about a 6th grade level), but he has trouble attaching meaning to what he's read or expressing more complex thoughts. 

Before we broke loose, much effort was spent on teaching him what he "could" say or "should" say in certain situations, which gave him "scripts" to use.  For six hours a day, he would be expected to adhere to the rules of expression in school, with an aide to help him navigate social situations.  After school, for 2-3 hours a day, he'd work with a therapist on other concepts, but always in a systematic way, which left him very prompt-dependent.  Both in school and at home, he would hang back and look to the therapist, teacher or us to prompt him towards a correct response.

It should be noted that Liam has always used scripting to some degree.  He learned to use snippets of books or lines from videos in situations to express himself, early on.  Lately, he's been watching videos of other kids and teens playing games and has been trying on some of their expressions, modifying them to fit his needs.  His latest favorite is "what the hell is happening here?"  He uses it appropriately, every time.  He's found a few more choice words as well, which gives us an opportunity to work on context.  Anyone who knows me knows that I swear, but I also know there are places where it's best to choose other words.  Working away from his natural, binary inclination (right or wrong/good or bad), will be an important step in his language development.

As far as original speech goes, Liam has become adept at making his needs and wishes known ("I want a bagel and veggie chips, please").  He can also give clear responses to direct questions (Question: "What are you making?" Answer: "Goomba Stomp on VideoPad.").  Questions about more subjective things like, "why are you crying?" or "why do you want to go to the mall?"  were usually met with an unknowing stare and a throwback of the question itself, "because I'm crying" or "because we are going to the mall."

In the past couple of months, though, there have been some subtle, but remarkable shifts.  This morning, Liam asked "Can I have my iPad, for a minute?"  "For a minute," may not seem like a big deal, but for Liam, using a conditional phrase was huge.  As was his realization last night that his dad's keyboard might need an upgrade.

"Hey, Dad, come in my room." (Dad went in his room and saw a keyboard demo on Liam's computer), "You should have this keyboard in your studio."  He had researched and found a newer version of the keyboard my husband uses in his music studio.

In the past, Liam was resistant to changing operating systems or hardware on his or anyone else's computers.  Things were what they were and should not be different. He actually freaked out when we upgraded his OS and we had to put it back!  Now, he's starting to explore the idea that, maybe, there's more in life (and computers) than what's in front of him and that change can be good.

I only hope he doesn't figure out how old his iMac is and ask for an upgrade on THAT anytime soon!

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