As I shared in yesterday’s post, (Day 14) Cayden quickly progressed through the switches, and it became obvious to me that we needed a better system. The constant switching of the papers in the SuperTalker was tiresome & really didn’t happen when it needed to. Instead we ended up using the pages on their own as an eye-gaze choice selector system.
We used these frequently for choosing toys, clothing or food. I would have a page with 4 options on it with icons for different toys (or shirts or lunch foods). I would hold it up to him & he would look at the page, then select one with his eyes & smile. I learned to easily see which one he was choosing by where he was looking. If none of the choices were acceptable to Sir Cayden, then he would look away without smiling & a “Seriously, these are my only choices?” look on his face.
We learned that this system worked for any number of things & instead of using pre-printed pages, I moved on to small individually laminated icon cards (about 2”x2”). These were stored in a binder in business card holder sheets. This way, I could position them on his tray in any combination, & separate them enough to see his eye gaze selection easily. It worked wonders.
We used this method with his hearing impaired specialists to start to test his comprehension and vocabulary. He went from being able to select from 3 items, with one descriptor, to five items with 3 descriptors in just a few months, once we learned his selection method.
Imagine a table with 3 differently colored balls. We would say, “Cayden, show me the blue ball.” He would look at each of the balls in turn, and then… wait for it… wait… look and hold his gaze on the one he was choosing, usually with a smile, meaning “Yes, that’s it.” Then we would do it again, this time saying, “Show me the red ball,” or “Show me the big ball.” (in auditory training they suggest you not use the W question words, because children can become confused by the question words, and forget the real question. So you would always phrase the question in a command. (Show, point, pick, choose, grab, move).
As he progressed we would then have 5 balls, of different sizes, textures & colors. So we would say “Show me the big blue ball.” or “Show me the small, bumpy red ball.” You could say Touch the green ball,” or “Grab the fuzzy ball,” but these involved motor skills that were too complicated for C to do when working on this task. He COULD do it, but then the wait time for him to find the fright one, then force his brain to make his arm move to grab the ball, WOW! Waiting for the answer was so long he would sometimes forget the question & so would we!
I won’t forget the day when he did 3 descriptors with 5 objects. It was a collection of yellow vehicles. (all yellow). Dump trucks, crane, car, truck, bus. Some had things on them. So we would say, “Show me the dump truck with the blue duck. “ Usually you do this trying to trick the child, so we had a dump truck with a yellow duck as well. And a pick up truck with a blue duck. He selected easily. Then we upped the ante. After re-arranging the cars & animals we said, “Push the dump truck with the big yellow duck.” & he did. “Pull the dump truck with the small green duck” & he did. “Dump the duck in the little yellow truck,” & he did. He had mastered this skill. We couldn’t trick him! AND he was so motivated that he even moved his hands to make selections. Oh what a day!
Cayden understood this skill & it showed that he had really mastered hearing the differences between duck and truck, push and pull and dump. He could do it with objects & he could do it with pictures as well. This was a BIG accomplishment for Cayden, as a hearing impaired child, as a visual impaired child, and as a child with holoprosencephaly.
I have two funny stories to share. It was summer so we had a summer school hearing impaired teacher coming to work with Cayden who was not his usual teacher. She didn’t know him very well, but was working hard to keep him moving forward on his skills. We began working on the selection game. We were working on position words (under/over/on/in/between, etc). The teacher had brought a set of small plastic dolls & furniture to work with, which seemed fine and useful for the task. But Cayden did NOT want to participate. We tried him in a different room. We tried him in a different chair. No go. Wasn’t going to play. Finally, I said, “I think he doesn’t want to work with these because they are DOLLS & he is a BOY and he wants to play with cars or balls or dinosaurs.” As soon as we got his ball bin out, he did his assignment without a mistake. What a stubborn & smart BOY!
The other major memory I have of him ‘showing his smarts,’ was when we were reading a new book called “Red Light, Green Light,” by Marjorie Wise Brown. It is a lovely book about animals, people & vehicles & where these things ‘live’ at night. The car goes in the garage. The cat sleeps in the tree. The mouse sleeps in the hole. There were at least 12 items that we read about, first they come out of their home, drive around, hit the red light ‘Stop!’ & the green light ‘Go!” & go home at night. So after one reading, I showed him some matching cards I had made. He had to pick the pairs for the things, matching the item to the home. After one reading, he correctly placed all the items in their home. This was huge to me & really gave me hope on his long-term progress. He got it. He was definitely NOT a vegetable, & by this point I really believed he was not even somewhat learning impaired.
He was hitting his achievement goals, passing all expectations. We started to tease about needing to start saving for college for him, he was so smart. I really had high hopes for his future!
Don’t give up on your kids. If my deaf, blind, mute, lame, brain challenged son could do this… yours can too. All kids have potential, you just have to keep searching to find their gifts, find their communication method, find their passion. Even the most challenged kids have a reason for living & a passion that ignites their curiosity. Cayden’s was cars, dinosaurs & trains, NOT dolls & furniture. It wasn’t that he couldn’t do the task, he just flat out didn’t want to with those particular items. Find their interests. Even if it means reading books about legos every night for a year, read them. Buy the legos. Buy the toys. Watch the movies. Find ways to learn that ties into that interest. Find the entry way into their brain by finding the entry to their heart and interests.
No matter how hard we worked or all the progress Cayden made, college was not meant to be. Turning 5 was not even meant to be. We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails. (Proverbs 19: 21 MSG) I had Cayden figured out. I had options & big plans, but they were not part of God’s plan for Cayden’s life, or for mine. I was meant to be a mom without this child, and he was meant to spend a little while waiting for us in Heaven.
I can’t wait until I get to see him & his great smile again!