Last Friday morning, I slept in longer than usual. Steve left for work Well before I slunk out of bed. Who knows how long the other early bird (Pamela) had been up? When she spotted me coming downstairs, Pamela quietly followed me to the computer and asked, "Is it dead?" The computer seemed to be sleeping in too. No pretty blue lights displayed the icons that decorate the laptop. No pleasant fan whirred in the background. A quick check revealed the problem. The computer had become unplugged the night before, and all power had ebbed out of the battery before dawn.
Then, I realized the little miracle. Pamela had not wailed loudly when she made the awful discovery on her own. She had not woken me up to fix it for her. She had stayed calm and regulated while I slept blissfully ignorant of the battery's demise. Her anxieties are clearly diminishing because last year I would have faced a rude awakening.
My parents drove to a peach orchard, so I feed and let out Miss Elvira, their white standard poodle. They paid me with fresh, juicy peaches. Since she didn't knew their destination, I told Pamela that Oma and Opa had brought back something from their trip. I raised my eyebrows and tried to exude an air of mystery. Pamela asked, "What?" I pretended to eat a fruit, making a crunchy sound while holding something ball-like in my hand, so she guessed apple. Then, I shook my head and wiggled my fingers down my chin to simulate dribbling juice. She guessed, "Oranges" and then "Peaches." Now, how cool is that? Autistic people aren't supposed to understand nonverbal communication and, thanks to RDI, Pamela can! This ability has definitely improved her quality of life because, when aphasia gums up her words and syntax, she can fall back on gestures and facial expressions.
Before I went to bed Saturday night, Pamela spoke to me in Spanish. Steve is a native speaker in both English and Spanish as is his entire family. Being comfortable with Spanish is important since we sometimes travel to Latin America. Pamela knows that "Steve es mi papa" means "Steve is my dad". Through clever word substitution, she said, "Tammy es mi mama," so I replied, "Pamela es mi hija" (Pamela is my daughter). Even if she is never fluent in Spanish, enjoying the language and being able to express herself even a little will help her feel more confident around her extended family.
During the church service the next day, I was sitting with the choir as usual. Pamela, Steve, and David were in the same pew. Pamela loves doing both children's bulletins (young kids and older kids). She got stuck on finding a five-letter word for the opposite of light. She quietly turned to Steve for help. He was stuck so he showed her the trick of guessing words in the sentence and working backwards to figure out that the first letter of the opposite word was h. The minute he wrote h she whispered, "Heavy." Steve's heart melted in this beautiful moment in which they were equal partners, working together to solve a problem. Pamela was being very quiet, not disturbing people around her. She enjoyed using her mind in a task that wasn't related to school. Too many people never want to see another book or use their brain after they leave school.
I have not blogged much on our latest RDI goal and plan to rectify that this week. We just wrapped up spotlighting Pamela's ability to recognize when someone is not available and resist the impulse to interrupt. This ability improves the quality of life of most parents. Think about how often we get interrupted while talking on the phone, taking a bath, using the toilet, etc. Because of Pamela's growing interest in eavesdropping and knowing who is on the phone, she plagued me with questions while I was trying to talk. Now, she looks at me and says, "Not available" and walks away. The minute I hang up she is back, asking me questions! Yesterday, she turned the tables on us. Her aunt calling from Louisiana wanted to talk to her on the phone. Pamela was using her iPod Touch and said to me, "I'm not available." I love how she used this new understanding for her own benefit. Smart girl!
Last night, I walked into the TV room. She was sitting on the couch, looking at a book, and listening to Bach, instead of being glued to the television or computer. I think it is wonderful that she lives in such a large room:
Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. "Thou hast set my feet in a large room," should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking––the strain would be too great––but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests; we prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or conchology, geology or astronomy. The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him? (School Education, pages 170 through 171)
And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room. Psalm 31:8