Saturday, September 22, 2007

Never Give Up . . .

. . . Never Surrender!

If you filled in the blank, you have watched Galaxy Quest one too many times. When this movie was still somewhat recognizable, the kids, Steve, and I attended an astronomy talk at Florissant Fossil National Monument, which was about a mile from our home. The astronomer began talking about galaxies and Pamela got everyone laughing by saying loudly, "Never give up! Never surrender!"

That is how I feel about Pamela's acquisition of language. When she was two, she had no language, no signs, and no attempts at communication. We started teaching her sign language and she mastered a few signs, but did not get the idea of using a signed word to get something for it. Unlike Helen Keller's moment at the water pump, Pamela could only manage to learn one verbal word a month once she figured out that everything had a name. She was four she had a vocabulary of nouns and echolalic phrases. Through some Mommy ABA ala The ME Book, we added some adjectives, shapes, and colors. When she taught herself to sight-read by connecting video tapes to video boxes, she learned that her echolalic phrases were made up of individual words. By the time she turned seven, we were excited about her growing lexicon of language, and then she stalled.

We tried a variety of ways to teach Pamela how to put words together in order to make sense. Nothing worked. Pamela's kindergarten teacher gave me a discarded copy of the Vocabulary, Articulation, Syntax Training (VAST) Program. The program had cards color-coded by parts of speech (146 composite cards, 157 component cards, and a sentence tray). I tried teaching her to put together words with this system for about two years before I transitioned to something new. I figured out later that the VAST program lacked the written component and the very slow introduction of new syntax Pamela needed. Then, I tried Teach Me Language because it was ABA, and ABA was the scientific way to teach anything. I spent another two years on that and realized this was not the ticket for Pamela, either. I figured out later that it also did not have the element of writing and slow pace of syntax.

At that point, I transitioned to a Charlotte Mason approach to language: reading aloud, copywork, oral narration, studied dictation, and recitation. I had all the elements I needed except the slow teaching of syntax. Someone had to connect those dots for me, and that was Mildred McGinnis in her program, the association method. Pamela is near the end of the second unit of language and can finally write simple narrations. She can finally answer questions and use sentences like the ones I tried to teach with the VAST program and Teach Me Language.

Yesterday, I published an updated version of Pamela's web page. In years past, I took her ideas and filled in the correct syntax. With this update, I realized that I could make a list of questions and have her answer them for her web page. For the first time ever, Pamela wrote all the material describing herself with her own syntax. The page pictured above may not seem like much to you, but it has taken over a decade of never giving up and never surrendering to produce it!

6 comments:

Bonnie Arnwine said...

What a triumph! I know what you mean about never giving up! We always say "slow and steady wins the race" in our house. I just started homeschooling this year b/c my son can't learn in a conventional classroom.

mom to max said...

wow...this is some really good information. thank you so much for posting this...my son is in the same boat and i am always eager to find something new which may work.

good to see you my friend. i took a little break from blogging.

Anonymous said...

Answering questions is sooo hard. Handwriting is difficult too. This is so amazing to me. Thank you for the hope you continue to give me. Please do a snoopy dance from me to you all.(I think your family is such an example.) Sincerely, diane G.

Taffy said...

Congratulations on this progress! Your positive attitude is a constant source of inspiration for me!

The Glasers said...

Bonnie, Pamela is definitely a tortoise living in hare's world.

Max's Mom, I find it hard to blog sometimes. Then, something happens and I just can't hold back! :-)

Diane and Taffy, thanks for the encouragement. As you both know, this path is not always easy or fun, but it is definitely worth the effort! BTW, Taffy, Congratulations about your little one . . .

Niffercoo said...

I agree with everyone else --- Pamela's progress is amazing and fantastic! She is so lucky that she has such a devoted and smart mama! And we're lucky to have you as encouragement with homeschooling our children on the spectrum! Thanks so much for sharing your family and time online, Tammy!
Jennifer