Friday, October 20, 2006

Who Needs to S-P-E-L-L in Front of the K-I-D-S?

We never needed to spell in front of Pamela. We could get away with saying anything in her presence! She processed strings of words so poorly that she struggled to follow conversations, even with her bionic ears. Yes, we did try Berard Auditory Integration Training twice, and she lost many hypersensitivities. We tried Earobics, Ease disc, and auditory digit spans, and we still could say anything in front of Pamela. Fast Forword sounded like a possibility, but pricey. We accidentally discovered another way, cheaper and more fun, albeit more gradual!

Back in 1999, the Charlotte Mason philosophy of homeschooling grabbed my attention. A literary road to an education seemed tailor made for our family of bookworms. Because of Pamela's delayed reading and language skills, I began reading books aloud to Pamela. She sat by my side, eyes following my finger on the page, tracking left to right, top to bottom. We read together and enjoyed all the books in Year 1 of Ambleside Online. We laughed and sometimes cried our way through Year 2 for the books really touch the emotions.

About halfway through Year 3, we noticed Pamela tuning into and following conversations more. She was processing what we said and reacting! She was hearing family chitchat and asking questions! She was listening in on phone conversations. Like Sam Gamgee, she became adept at dropping eaves. Here is a classic example of Pamela's new and improved auditory processing:

Steve in a phone conversation with a coworker: "We need to sell the dogs!" (Sell inventory that is moving slowly.)

Pamela in an outraged voice: "You can't sell the dogs!" (We have two.)

During a visit last Christmas, Steve's family gathered around the dining room table and asked about Pamela's progress. She was watching television in the living room, part of a great room combined with the dining room. We told them about her new snooping skills. Steve said, "Watch this!" and he turned to me and said, "Tammy, do you think we should leave for home Wednesday?"

Without missing a beat, Pamela shot into the dining room and asked, "What are we doing Monday?" the day we were supposed to return home.

Who knew that cozying up with an autistic child and living books for hours and hours of reading pleasure was the key to improving listening skills? However, I will warn you of a downside: we have to leave the house to discuss any plans not already laid in concrete.

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