Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Variations on a Theme

The letter "Q"
One of the reasons we walked away from behavioral therapy when we left traditional school was ABA's focus on working away from areas of intense interest (the clinical term would be "perseverations") and towards more "age appropriate" activities.  With ABA, his areas of interest were often used to entice him to do other things which would connect more with his peers, or make him function better in a classroom setting.  While introducing Liam to games like Mario Brothers was a hit and definitely expanded his universe (and every kid gets it), he's never lost his love of alphabet and number sequences.  We had a choice - worry that our kid was fixated on what would be a preschool aged interest, or allow him to enjoy something that obviously still brings him great pleasure.  We went for door number two.

At times my husband has said that he wished he could be as excited about anything as Liam is about numbers and letters.  I honestly didn't know if there would be any practical applications for his interest, and it's only now that I can see the growth that happened at every stage, as he explored his passion:

In preschool, this interest led him to develop extremely delicate fine motor skills as he would cut various alphabets in all shapes and fonts from paper and draw them on anything and with anything.

Between ages 5 and 6, he realized that he could create his own alphabet videos, which led to him learning how to do stop-motion animation and teaching himself video editing software including VideoPad (around age 8) and Adobe After Effects (around age 9). 

And looking at different alphabet videos of course led to "related videos" in other languages.  This has been ongoing since about age 3.  On his own, Liam learned to decode and read Japanese, Spanish, Russian and recently Cherokee (at one point he could count in as many as 20 languages).  His Mandarin teacher was amazed at how quickly he picked up both the written and sound sequences of Chinese. And last semester, he surprised his Urban Homeschoolers teacher by demonstrating that he already knew the entire Greek alphabet and could speak/decode it as well.

Eager to see different alphabets expressed in unique fonts (in English or other languages), he's learned how to create fonts in iFont Maker.  He started taking photos of found-object alphabets, then imported the images into his font program and created usable, fonts based on the photos.  He's memorized thousands of Fonts and will often point out the fonts on signs around town or in ads on TV.
The font Liam created from photos

The reference photos before he imported them to iFontMaker

The most important thing about all of those achievements, is that they were self-initiated.  During traditional school classes, every task was prompted and monitored.  Liam happily works for hours on his ideas on his own and will come out to tell us to "come into my room" to see some really cool work.  I even caught him in his room, watching an instructional video on how to create a specific font, and another one on pixel art.  He's learning to find and use tutorials to further his skills.
A pixel art Yoshi that Liam drew while watching a how-to tutorial.  I gave him some graph paper and he came up with the idea to do this, after creating a few on his own.

What might not have been evident in a clinical setting, is setting the stage for what may become his life's work, or at least, his life's joy. On the iFontMaker site, I found his creations and discovered many similar variations on a theme (or a font).  Looks like he was perfecting, experimenting and refining each time.Check out another font he created.  Very cool.  And it looks like 37 other people thought so too (see below). 

For anyone else on this journey who worries about screen time, or one, single "obsession" that seems to drive your child's life - instead of judging it, watch it, study it, try to understand it.  If you can introduce something to add to it, try that.  Otherwise, relax.  You may be amazed at what's growing in those minds.  Here are a few of my favorites, from the alphabet photos, blown up to see the detail.  Enjoy!
The letter "M"

The letter "P"

The letter "W" (also happens to start with "w" so bonus points there)

The letter "X" (which took a long time to make in iFontMaker, as he had to use vectors to get the curves right)


  1. What a wonderful post and a beautiful story of how learning emerges naturally. I can sense your acceptance and love of Liam throughout this post. Beautiful.

  2. I'm an alphabet fan as well. I'm so impressed by Liam's skills and passion!


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