Since Hanna is heading our way, we have been making preparations for tropical storm force winds: stocking up on liquids and food requiring minimal cooking and storage, having back-up lighting, inspecting the yard for FOD (Foreign Object Damage)--i.e., Navy for stuff that will fly in a strong wind, etc. I explained to Pamela that tomorrow we may have some strong winds and we have to get ready. She told me she was going to watch Twister and The Wizard of Oz and spend the whole day in bed! We live inland and are not in any danger of floods. Tomorrow, we expect 20 mph winds and lots of much needed rain; however, we are in a tornado watch until five in the morning!
This morning, David was complaining about shows taking up too much space on the DVR. Steve and I have spent the past two weeks watching convention coverage. Pamela told him, "Don't worry! We'll live!" Not only can she self-regulate and co-regulate, she can other-regulate!
The other day, David and I were being pests in the car. We were listening to Tchaikovsky and gently grabbing her at certain predictable moments in the music. She blustered for a few seconds and finally poked me. When I turned to look at her, she said very deliberately, "Don't do that!" I loved how effectively she stopped me in my tracks.
Last week, Pamela made some neat comments to me. She did her written narration for the association method perfectly. She grabbed the paper and gleefully announced, "Finally! Zero mistakes! I DID IT!" Later, I asked her a question. Instead of guessing whatever just to make me happy, she told me, "I don't know." I spotlighted how happy I was to learn that she didn't know. We just started a new book, The Ark (an out-of-print book), which introduces the setting in the first chapter: 13 Parsley Street in an unnamed city in West Germany. Pamela thought for a moment and asked me, "What city?" All of these vignettes add up to two things for me: Pamela thinks and she cares!
Throughout the summer, we have worked very hard on one of the objectives for gestures that stumps some RDI families. My consultant broke it down in the following way: imperative gestures (at which Pamela excelled) and declarative gestures. We started off with spotlighting receptive declarative gestures in which Pamela lets me know she is receiving and understands (head nod or shake and pointing). Then, we worked on her ability to recognize when I am listening (or not listening) so that she can make sure her body language matches when she is listening.
Now, we are transitioning to the world of expressive nonverbal language, starting off with what comes naturally: imperative gestures. We are hoping to help Pamela develop a set of natural gestures she can use to emphasize her words. The framework is any activity in which Pamela can be the boss and show me what to do. To avoid the habit of purely pointing, I play stupid quite often so that she can learn to refine her gestures.
Fortunately, Pamela is quite adept at thinking up signs on the fly. From what I understand, some autistic children find this difficult because they have to conceptualize the action they want taken and communicate a meaningful sign for it. At Walmart, Pamela told me to swipe the credit card by running her index finger down the credit card scanner and to sign the signature pad by wagging her finger like a pen along a horizontal line.
I have already practiced this objective with baking, so this time, we took apart the panda puzzle and started a new one: a dolphin puzzle with hidden images. The objective was for Pamela to be the teller by using gestures. You can see Pamela's wheels turning as she conveys instructions to me nonverbally. She also uses multiple parts of her body: head, hands, and fingers. She did quite well at repairing the situation when I made mistakes.
We did make a little bit of progress in getting this 750-pieced puzzle started. My consultant wanted to know how frustrating this was for her. So, I asked Pamela to rate the puzzle building out of five stars. She told me it was four stars. Then, I reviewed the entire session, which lasted for twenty-three minutes, and she showed me only very minor moments of frustration without any extreme emotion:
- Pamela made one minor grimace.
- When she tried to take a step, I said, "I'm the worker." She told me, "Change it," to which I replied, "Not today." Pamela asked, "Tomorrow?"
- After 19 minutes, Pamela said, "I want to stop." She did not get upset when I told her we would work a little longer.
- About 22 minutes into it, she told me, "Later! I said later."