Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Amazing Day in Watercolor Class

Because of her autism and aphasia, Pamela has always struggled in community settings. When she was little, everything overwhelmed her: fluorescent lights, air conditioners, change, transitions, etc. On field trips, I vigilantly kept my eyes peeled for anything that might set her off: escalators, elevators, loud machines, etc. Through diet and sensory integration techniques, she learned to stay regulated when we were out and about.

Pamela still struggled with groups. In co-ops, YMCA classes, library activities, nature center activities, etc., I concentrated on what the teacher did and then I showed her what to do. She had so little awareness of other people that she had no idea of whom she should pay attention to, when should she take an action, when should she do what others did, when should she do her own thing, etc.

We took a break for three-years to work on social milestones of infancy and toddler years through RDI and our fantastic consultant and now we are finally seeing a pay-off, bordering on miracle. Keep in mind when you watch the videos of Pamela's fourth class that, when she was little, she tantrummed, threw herself on the floor, cried, let out piercing screams, kicked her feet, etc. because group settings overwhelmed her.

Steve came to watch the artist at work, and he was VERY impressed. His presence did not throw off Pamela at all because he sat on the couch behind us. Working with David Monday made a tremendous difference (he deserves a sibling of the year award for his patience). I made sure Pamela was sitting next to the fifth grader because Pamela seems to reference her well.

The teacher demonstrated frisket first and practiced drawing shapes before starting the barn. Classes last only an hour now, but, by the time the class was ready for the barn, Pamela was tired. We will start the barn for homework, and the class will finish it next Tuesday.

During the class, Pamela was very calm, comfortable, confident, carefully processing and thinking about what she was doing. She did SO WELL that I can imagine myself, sitting on a cozy chair with a large hot mocha, reading a book while they work. I don't know when that will happen, but I see it as a possibility.

Here are the highlights:
  • I asked the teacher a question about the brush size, and Pamela listened to the answer and acted on that almost immediately.
  • At first, I needed to make declarative statements about what the fifth grader was doing. Once Pamela realized she could reference her while the teacher was busy, everything went smoothly.
  • Most of the time, Pamela distinguished when she ought to reference her teacher, reference the other student, or do her own thing.
  • Occasionally, Pamela did not respond to my declarative comments, so I tried a nonverbal hint by putting out my hand and waiting for her to give me something.

My favorite moment was when they were drawing blocks. Pamela selected a cylinder and rectangular solid. Her fellow homeschooler chose a cube and rectangular solid. The teacher demonstrated how to draw a cube, and the fifth-grader copied her. Pamela did not draw a cube. She waited patiently for the teacher to draw a cylinder. Then, Pamela carefully drew her cylinder, peeked at the girl's drawing of a rectangular solid, and then copied that.

Stop and think how much dynamic thinking it took to do what Pamela did without any hints from me!

Pamela's thinking grew more scattered as she tired. She started getting behind in the color value study (which I plan to review during the week). She grabbed yellow and blue paint like her neighbor, not the color of her blocks. She took more time to think and react. When she asked to take a break, I consented. She had worked hard to process during the first two projects. She had earned her respite!


Jennie said...

Tammy, I so enjoy seeing Pamela in her watercolor class! I learned so much!

I really love the declarative statements you make allowing Pamela to think for herself what she needs. Also, how you patiently wait for her to think! Often as a parent/teacher I feel like I rush through, forgetting to give my children/students the TIME to think!

Thank you for modeling for us parents and for sharing Pamela with us!

Mary said...

Tammy, This is so amazing! Referencing someone other than you or a family member...

not being thrown off by Dad in the room...

Love to witness her progress and read your blog.


Phyllis said...

Wow, what fantastic accomplishments. You should be so proud. I know how hard it is for autistic/aphasic people to know whom to reference when this changes all the time. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Love this blog. Definitely inspirational for those of us attempting to follow a similar path with our kids. How wonderful to follow the advances Pamela has made with your guidance. You go, girls! Jen

Bonnie said...

What a wonderful day Tammy! How exciting! I'm just only this week had time to start reading blogs. PTL - Pamela has come so far.