Monday, 4 February 2013

The Woman's Got Game!

OK, now I have to tell you, when we left Nate's ABA program for the ECI program the 3 year olds graduate to, I was skeptical.  He was one on one with an aid in ABA, and we had Miss Kristen who came out once a month.  And we loved us some Miss Kristen!

So when Miss Gwen knocked on our door for the first time....well, I was having the usual issues with change.  Miss Gwen comes an hour a week on Mondays.  It is almost becoming a spectator sport among those who love Nathan.  My mom comes most Mondays, and we say that it's because we all want to learn Gwen's techniques, but honestly, as my mom said today, it gives us all such hope. 

What this woman can get Nathan to do!!!!!  I mean first of all, she has him sitting in his little cube chair for an HOUR.  And focusing pretty much the whole time.  She does give him some short down periods, but for the most part it's work work work.

When I say work, what I actually mean is "play" for neurotypical kids.  She gets him to play with toys appropriately.  Today it was race cars going down a ramp (not to brag, but I can get him to do this too, lol), doing a 10 piece puzzle, building a block tower repeatedly and not only that but tricking him into wanting to do it so badly that he had to strain and reach to get the blocks- which he did.  They worked on color sorting, they played peekaboo. 

And this is the one that kills me- she got him interested in bubbles.  He has been ho hum about them forever.  In case you didn't know, bubbles are typically one of the most motivating activities for all kids, but especially kids on the spectrum.  Without this tool, it's kinda like what do I use as incentive now?  She was blowing the bubbles one at a time and he was reaching to pop them.  She repeatedly put the bubbles away- he asked for more.  We have been working on a communication technique with Nate- it's so simple that I don't even really understand why it works.  I just know we have been using it at mealtime, and Gwen used it incredibly effectively today.  It is literally a laminated sheet of paper with three dots on it.  The idea is that when Nate wants something, you take his finger and touch each dot I-want-cup.  The goal is to get him touching each dot when he wants something and eventually filling in the words that go along with it.  Well he has "I want" down pat.  We are working on the nouns, he has a few- like cup, pretzel, chip, and if that isn't what he wants he usually gets frustrated and just starts pointing in the direction of the kitchen saying "that".  What a huge improvement this is!  So today with the bubbles, when Gwen started putting them away, he would say "I want", but not be able to fill in "bubbles".  Eventually he started looking at her and pointing to each of the three dots.  He knew that he had to touch ALL THREE.  That "I want" wasn't adequate.  So he substituted the dot for the word, and when he did so, she gave him the bubbles, and repeated over and over "I want bubbles".  The hope is that he will soon replace the dot with the word.  But it's amazing to have him doing that much.  Every little step is just so so huge.  I can't emphasize this enough to parents of neurotypical kids.  I remember how amazed I was when Jack was developing speech (very very very quickly).  I can't express how hard it is to watch your child struggle so much with communication- every time we jump even the smallest hurdle- it feels like I just WON a marathon. 

And you can tell Miss Gwen feels the same about her "students".  She came in today a little teary saying that another client had his/her first meaningful speech in 2 years during their session today.  Can't. even. imagine.  Miss Gwen does have one magical tool- the cube seat with a desk contraption that goes across it.  Basically Nate is a captive audience.  Starting to think I need to get me one of those!  Of course, I'm pretty sure the desk isn't magical, Gwen is just amazing.

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