She has questions

For over a year now R. will occasionally take my finger and use it to point at something. She seems to be asking what the item is, so I tell her. It was random for a long time, she would do it once every couple of weeks.

A couple of months ago she started asking every day who particular muppets were on one of her favorite Sesame Street videos – A Celebration of Me Grover. Most of the muppets were just generic nameless characters. At about the same time she started to open Safari on the ipad and ask for Elmo. If you search for Elmo in Google and select images there are tons of pics of her favorite red monster.

It didn’t take long before she asked me to look up other Sesame Street characters and it became a new activity-her asking me to search for something and then looking at the pictures.

She’s also started watching some different shows-only on the ipad, but I’ll take it. She came to me with each show-– Backyardigans, Wonderpets–– nearly every single kiddie show and wanted me to name each character and look it up in Google.  I prompted her to use her own finger and say Who is it. This has become a favorite activity, so she picked it up quickly.

Now she’ll come up to me all the time, point at the picture and say Who is it. And then I have to look the character up in Google. I’ve learned all kind of names. I now know that Caillou’s mother’s name is Doris. How fascinating that she even wondered about that. She was upset that the boy in the cat in the hat has no name. And I’m amazed that she figured that out, I never even noticed.

She has been very into Sid the Science Kid, and one of his phrases is I have a question. R. repeats this, sometimes out of context but often she’ll walk up to me and say either I have a question or just question. And then she will ask a question!

An example of an exchange:

She walks up to me and says Question.

Me: Oh you have a question? What’s your question?

She tugs on my hand and says Come.

I remove my hand from hers (I’m working on trying to remove her touching me from her communication.) and say OK, I’ll come with you. I follow her to the stairs where she has a bunch of stuffed animals lined up.

She points at one and says Who this?

I say That’s a cow.

She walks away, retrieves the ipad, opens up Safari and points at the Google search window and says That’s a cow.

I search for cow pictures for her to look at.

The teacher suggested that I have her type in her search requests, even hand over hand. Sometimes she’s impatient, but after weeks of doing this it seems like she can spell some of her favorite searches on her own, I’m just sort of holding her arm for moral support.

 

 

Why are there no donuts?

R. is going through her first noisy phase that doesn’t involve crying.  Her mouth is forming words just about from the minute she gets up until she falls asleep.  I don’t understand a lot of what she is saying, especially when she is playing on her own.  But it has the quality of sentences and there are words there.

When she asks for something she will repeat it over and over again. I imagine this might get annoying eventually, but I have to say I enjoy every word. She has been singing for longer than she has been talking, but now she can sing an entire song, both on her own and along with the CD or television.

The same child who was hitting us when we said no just a few months ago is talking back.  That’s right, when we say no bubbles she’ll say yes bubbles.

She strung together her first sentence (rather than using a complete phrase she has been taught).  She said And now chocolate and pointed to the cookies.

Before Christmas R. caught me with a stuffed Big Bird on my computer screen and ever since she demands to see it again. You know how Amazon makes suggestions based on what you are viewing? Well she figured that out and after she asks to see Big Bird she’ll ask for all the other characters.

She used to do this by just saying the name of the character and pointing if I didn’t do it fast enough.  She started saying Look at this Elmo, or Look at this Zoe followed by pointing.

She is saying yuck and ewwww to foods she doesn’t like. She says cold when she is cold and she says smell when she smells something unusual.

I feel like we are seeing the beginning of her asking questions.  She takes my finger and points to things that she wants to know what they are. It is usually Sesame Street characters, but it has been other objects too. I think I’m going to have to name the guys in Hoot’s band, she’s not happy I don’t know the real name for each of them.

She’s actually asked why a few times.  I’m never sure if that is really what I’m hearing, but it sure seems like it.  The last time she was asking for a donut and I told her we did not have any and she said why?  I didn’t respond and she tugged on me to make sure I was paying attention to her and she said it again.

The many gifts of the ipad

There are so many things that R. has learned that can at least be partially attributed to the ipad.

She started to point purposefully after she learned to use it.  I’m sure the ipad is not the sole reason, but it seems to have helped.

Her receptive language has increased and it seems like she is picking up words (especially labels) faster and with less trouble generalizing.   I know that school and the techniques the ABA therapists are using deserve the most credit.  But I also know that the ipad is helping to reinforce these words -pun intended.

I think it also has helped with her auditory processing, she is pronouncing some words better.  I suspect it is because of apps like Bob Books, where she can hear the phonetic letter sound as many times as she wants.  She is touching the letter, seeing it and hearing a sound.

I have posted about how her youtube video selections seem to mirror what is happening in her life.   She will finish with her ABA session where they were working on the prepositions on top and under and go to youtube on the ipad and find Sesame Street videos that are teaching the same concepts.

She has stopped playing with her spit on the window (big hooray for that one!).  I really think it is because she can get that same sensation from the ipad.

She is writing letters, numbers and shapes.  She asks me to show her how to draw things -shapes and letters.   Of course they do this in school, and I give her teacher plenty of credit for helping to teach her these skills.  But I think that the ipad helped her focus in a way she could not before, and those positive experiences give her confidence and motivation.

She doesn’t have to to it all the time, but she will share the ipad with a friend, and even negotiate turn taking.   I never thought about the ipad as something that she could do with a peer, silly me.  They seem to do it themselves quite naturally.

 

Looking to youtube for inspiration

R. really likes to watch videos on youtube on the ipad.   She can pick videos from her history, the favorites or subscriptions. (I subscribed to Sesame Street.)  She also seems to remember how to find particular videos by looking at the choices that come up when a video is chosen.  It looks like she is just watching a video for a second and then going on to another one, but it usually means she is looking for something.

When she started summer school at a different school she kept watching this video about riding the bus 40 blocks from home.   When we started potty training she was finding all these Elmo potty videos.  She does tend to like to watch a video over and over, not for an hour, but five or six times.

I’ve been trying to see how I can work with her interest in these videos.  The obvious way is to sing the songs.  She does like this, and will sing along and request that I sing them now.  She also likes it when I change the words and add her name.  She never seemed to notice before.

R. likes counting videos, for a while she was watching ones with Count and his counting organ.   I started using her Count doll to count things and this is now a regular game.  Mostly she wants me to count the pieces of her play birthday cake.  I have to hold up the Count doll and have him count and touch each piece, and I can’t forget the ah ah ah at the end either.   She is starting to do it herself, so we can take turns.

Another video she watches often is an old Sesame Street cartoon – Number 9 martian cutie.   The artwork is simple enough I actually managed to draw it and boy was R. impressed.    She asks me to draw it over and over.  I will only draw one part at a time, she has to tell me to continue.  She usually taps me and then I prompt the word. Since the martian has nine hairs, eyes and other parts we are closing dozens of circles every time I draw one.  She also likes it when I hold her hand and draw it with her.   I’ve been backing off and getting her to at least draw the hair and arms (just lines) with just a prompt at her elbow.  She is so proud of herself.

If that crafting gene I’ve been waiting for all my life ever kicks in, maybe I can think of some way to make the martian in 3D with glue and stuff.

Her favorite dvd right now is Elmo’s Christmas Countdown.  She’s been watching this video from that dvd of two actors from the Soprano’s playing Bert and Ernie.   I tried acting out the videos with her Bert and Ernie dolls, but she was a little too entertained by sticking things in my ear.  I don’t think I should encourage that.

I found a stuffed gingerbread man and woman a relative gave her a while back, so I’ve been playing you’ve got a gingerbread man on your (or my) head.  It is usually good for some laughs, but it doesn’t keep her engaged as long as drawing martians.

I think her favorite part is when they yell gingerbread man, because I hear her saying that and she loves it when I say it.    I dug out some Christmas books and we look through them and yell gingerbread man when we find one.   I also printed out gingerbread men from the web and placed them around the house.  She doesn’t quite get the idea of hunting for them, but she enjoys finding them and yelling gingerbread man with me.   I should try drawing them with her, but I think I’d need a stencil or something.

Any easy crafty suggestions are welcome.

Only Say Hi if You Mean It

ABA has been working on some sort of greeting program since R. started therapy over two years ago.  The ABA provider during EI tried different techniques.  They taught R. to do a high five and used that as a greeting for a while.  It did not transform into a natural wave as they were hoping, but it did help with imitation programs later and it is a social thing to do with someone.

Then they took photos of each therapist and enlarged them so they were a little larger than the size of an adult head.  They cut them out and laminated them and attached them to large popsicle sticks.   I guess the idea was that they would hold one up and she would wave at it.  It did not work, but she loved all the faces.  She would gather them all up and arrange them in a circle around  herself.   It was funny, all the therapists were uninhibited in their play and interactions with R., but those faces on sticks made them all uncomfortable.

By the time she started preschool she would say bye to the therapists, but only when they were at the door.  It was like they had to really mean it.  Our current ABA providers did not put any emphasis on a greeting program at first.  At our last team meeting with the teacher before summer started, everyone seemed to say that she would say hi or bye when someone said it to her.    The ABA supervisor said they would do an actual greetings program.  I told them about our previous experiences, and suggested they keep it natural.

At first they only ran the program when a second therapist or the supervisor or behaviorist was there.  The second person would go outside R.’s door, knock and enter and R. is supposed to say hi.  She did this fairly well, although after the second time she seemed to lose interest.

About a month ago they started doing the program with just one therapist, but not every day.   It seemed like it was going okay.  Sometimes R. would play along and say bye, see you later when they walked out, making into a game.   But in the last week they have been doing it every day.  I think they are trying to master it out.  And for some reason she will not say hi consistently.  I think it is because it does not feel natural.  Why should she say hi to someone who has been sitting with her for the past hour?

The supervisor went to observe the classroom this week.  R. walked up to her and said hi.

Words, they are coming

R. is having her first real language explosion.  This is the first time in her whole life I feel like I can’t quite keep track of all the new things she is saying.   Her language is still a far cry from a typical four year old, but for us it is amazing and wonderful.

Mostly she is speaking in 1-2 words requesting (manding) things.  She will spontaneously say what she wants, and if we don’t respond right away she will repeat herself over and over again, and then point at the item and give me a determined look.  She is doing a lot less hand leading, it is like she realized she can get us to do what she wants with her other methods.

It is so interesting to me, I’ve been working for years now on increasing the exchanges (circles of communication) between R. and I.   For so long it was mostly gestures and facial expressions that we were exchanging, I guess I thought that when talking was the main method of communicating, it would decrease the number of circles of communication- because talking is so much more efficient, and R. is not able to really converse yet.   But I’m finding that while it is certainly more efficient to have R. talk to me, we are actually closing way more circles of communication during our exchanges.  She looks at me to see if I am paying attention when she speaks, she keeps looking back at me to see if I respond.

She is also doing a lot more labeling, she hardly did that at all before.  It seems like anytime she sees something she recognizes she labels it and seems so pleased with herself.   We were at the playground and some adults were riding bikes just outside the fence.  She said bicycle, bicycle clear as could be and ran to follow them.

R. does not seem to have the same problems with over generalizing that she did a few months ago.  I think the behaviorist was correct to say that increasing R.’s receptive language would help her generalizing abilities.   Sometimes she comes up with the wrong word for something, but it is different, I can usually get her to say the right word with repetition.  But I do have to figure out what she means first.  She was asking for peacock, so I showed her pictures.   Later, I gave her some peas to eat (she likes to eat them frozen out of the bag) and she got all excited saying peacock peacock.   I only had to model the word pea a few times until she started asking for pea instead of peacock.  I also don’t think she exactly understand what it means when someone says ow.  She bopped me on the head with a toy, and then rubbed my head and said ow R.

A Behavior plan for the ipad

R. is still requesting the ipad, by saying ipad when it is out of sight.  This skill seems to be generalizing, because she is starting to tell me what she wants for other things when she grabs my hand, as opposed to waiting to say it until she leads me to it.

We’re running into some behavior issues regarding the ipad.  I know we need to be consistent so we don’t create a monster.

Issue 1:   She wants all ipad all the time

She is getting kind of obsessed with it, she demands it as soon as she gets up and throughout the day.  I know that she gets this way, fixated on something new and then the novelty wears off.  So I am humoring her a bit, and letting her use it a bit more than I would like.

Set limits for use – times of day and length of use session
I don’t want to go so far as to set a schedule, but I think having specific times of day that we use the ipad, will help with setting limits.   I also make sure she doesn’t spend hours at a time using it.

Give warning with a specific cue for end of ipad time. Offer transitioning help – music on ipad, new activity.
I’ve been giving her warnings, telling her when whatever she is doing is finished we are all done with ipad.   She usually protests, so I will turn on Pandora and tell her only music on the ipad, and I’ll put it out of reach.  It really is best if I have another activity planned and ready, even just coloring or going out.

Be consistent and firm and acknowledge but do not react to her emotional outbursts.
When I’ve decided it is a “no ipad time” I have to make sure not to give in to her pleading. She has never verbally begged like this before, and it is so hard to say no.   She will cry sometimes and get very angry.   At first I was not sure how to react, and she totally picks up on this.  She’ll scream louder once she senses my indecision.  If I am firm and consistent, she gets over it a lot quicker.

Issue 2:   She wants to pick her own apps and they are usually a video or an app she gets stimmy with.

She is not allowed total control of the ipad.  She should say all done when finished with an activity.
We have to totally take charge of the ipad the majority of the time.  We select which apps she plays with, and insist she do at least a part of the activity.   She’ll press the button to exit the app, I’ll stop her until she completes the activity, and then I’ll get her to say All done before going on to something else.

Use preferred activities as a reward.  Tell her first this and then that.
It is usually obvious what she would like to select, so I’ll tell her first do a puzzle and then you can play with the fish pond.   When she spends a long time doing “educational apps”, I’ll let her play around and do what ever she wants for a little while, even it seems stimmy.

Don’t treat the ipad like a drilling machine.  Explore all the different possibilities.
I do try to find things to do that match her mood.  After a day at school and then therapy, she doesn’t always want to write letters in iwrite or anything like that.  But I can usually find something that requires some engagement and interaction on her part, even looking at her photo album, and having me name her classmates and other people in the pics.

Allow her some free time.
We let her do what she likes with the ipad for a little while before dinner.

Issue 3: She wants to use my finger instead of her own to operate the ipad. She has a short attention span at times.

I think these two issues are related, because the more successful she is with an activity, the longer she wants to do it.

Use the easiest apps.
Some apps require less precision than others.  The puzzle pieces go into place if you are in the general vicinity, even iwrite is somewhat forgiving about the lines.   We need to use the easiest apps when prompting her to use her own finger.

Start by letting her use the method she is comfortable with and then physically prompt her to use her own finger.
It seems to go easiest if I allow her to use my finger a couple of times and then say R. do and I’ll physically take her finger and make her do it.   Sometimes she argues and wrestles her hand away, but if I’m insistent she will comply.  I usually have to hold her finger a couple of times, and then I can back off to just putting my hand on her arm.  With some apps she’ll usually go on for a while on her own, but with others she’ll do it on her own for a few times and then I have to go back to letting her use my finger and start over again.  When she can do an activity all on her own she gets so excited and pleased with herself, and she wants to continue doing it.

Have her ask for use of someone’s finger.
I’m going to prompt her to say help, each time she wants to use my finger.  I hope that will eventually help her realize that use of someone else’s finger is not automatic.

She wants me to go away

R. is talking a bit more all the time.  Her requests are becoming more natural.   For nearly a year we had to verbally prompt each word. Last month she started saying some words if we held the item she wanted up and waited.   Now for most items we just have to wait.  At mealtime she is just speaking up and saying what she wants.  It almost feels normal.  E. and I will be talking and she’ll just interrupt with her demand.   It is just one word, but I’ll take it.

She is also self correcting herself.  She’ll say cookie, bagel, or open, cookie.   She’s saying more words in response to situations, oh no, wow and after years of me working on it – she is saying hey.  I know that sounds like a silly word to be excited about.  But I’ve been trying to get her to say hey or stop instead of crying.

Her echolalia seems to be changing slightly.  Sometimes when she echoes she changes her intonation. It is subtle, but definitely deliberate.

She is very into spending time with E., and she wants him all to herself.  She’s been saying Hey!  What you doing? When I come into the room.   If she is being nice she will hand lead me into another room.  But often she just gives me a shove.  I’ll say, you want me to go away? And she will say go away! I think this is really funny, and it doesn’t bother me at all.

I feel like I’m documenting every second of potty training.  She is up to sitting for eight seconds.  The therapists tell her she will sit for eight, and they say only the first, middle and last number.  R. counts on her own, and insisted on staying until the count of ten once and twenty another time.  Nothing happened, but she was and is happy to sit there.  I’m almost looking forward to summer so we can devote more time to this.

I do have to say that I really hate pull-ups.  They leak like crazy, and trying to do up the sides makes me feel like I’m all thumbs.   Maybe it is because I have so many years practice with diapers.

Behold the ipad

Anybody know how remove washable markers?

R. was entranced by the ipad from the moment she saw it.  At first she just watched, and seemed kind of reluctant to touch it.   It is a little confusing to teach her, because each app works slightly differently in terms of what to touch and if she should press or swipe.     It works best if I show her hand over hand, but she prefers to watch me do it, and then use my finger as a stylus at first.

I don’t have a PECS program yet.  I’m going to research it a bit before spending the money.  I don’t think we will use it as a true AAC device if her language continues to progress.   But I think it could still be useful.  I would like to find something so that I could offer choices, like breakfast options or where she wants to go.

I’m kind of amazed how much the ipad inspires her to speak.  She echoes, she labels and even a little commenting if I can count Oh no.   In just a few days, she’s already used to a bit of ipad time before dinner.  We forgot the other night because we had visitors, and she actually started saying ipad, ipad, ipad, totally unprompted and with it out of sight.

I’m going crazy downloading apps, trying to find ones that are good and that she will like.   Many of them have intro or accompanying music that she hates.      Some of the apps do have settings to turn off music and other sounds.  I have to go through the apps before I show them to her.

The free flash card app My First Words by Smart Baby is helpful to show her how to manipulate things on the ipad.  They are flash cards of objects in different categories of items (more categories are available for purchase).  Each card shows a picture, the word and the word is also spoken.  The app can be set up to automatically scroll through the cards, or manually so that the cards only advance after you touch them.  I found setting it up manually really showed her how to use the ipad.  She is really interested in the pictures and words, she will repeat them and it just looks like she is absorbing everything with such interest.  Another neat feature about this app is that you can record your own voice for each of the flash cards.

Another free app, Z is for Zebra is helping to teach her swiping/scrolling.   A screen comes up with the letters of the alphabet, and when you press one it takes you to a page with the letter in upper and lowercase and a picture of an object that starts with that letter.  You can touch each letter or the object and hear the letter or word.  I wish they actually displayed the word too.    You can also scroll through the alphabet by swiping left or right, she really liked doing this once she figured it out.   If you touch the wrong place it just goes back to the alphabet screen.  Many apps have lots of buttons that when touched accidentally take you out of the app, or other places.

iWrite words was suggested by the school’s OT.  The free version gives you the letters A,B,C  in upper and lower case, the numbers 1-9 and a few three letter words.   I upgraded this for $2.99, now we have the full alphabet, the numbers up to twenty and more words.    It displays the outline of a letter, and a little crab appears at the start point followed by numbers showing the direction to write.  You drag the crab through the numbers (connecting the dots) and the line shows up on the screen.   After the letter is completed a copy of what is drawn shows up in the upper left hand corner, and a small box with the same letter drops down so you can either tilt or drag it to a wheel that spins and the letter disappears.  It doesn’t sound very exciting, but R. loves doing this.  So each letter has  built in reinforcer.  R. usually starts using my finger, and after a few letters she will do it herself.   I wish you could select the letter or letters you want to work on instead of having to go through them in sequence.    I wonder if they will come up with some ipad-friendly stylus for handwriting practice.

Color SlapPs is a free program to practice color recognition.  You can select which colors you want as options, (I removed peach) and choose from one, two or three colors on the screen at a time.   A voice says touch brown or whatever color is next, and when brown is touched it spins and disappears.  You can choose to cycle through five or ten times, and when the round is completed two stick figure children appear and jump up and down and the sounds of cheering and applause is heard.  I’m surprised how much R. likes this, she smiles at those little figures.

The Dr. Seuss interactive book apps are amazing.  When you select read to me, the words turn red as they are being said.  R. is so fascinated.    I am too, because while she might occasionally sit through part of the ABC book, she will leave the room if I read Cat in the Hat.   On the ipad, she is fully engaged with both books.   She actually likes them better than the sample of a Sesame Street book I downloaded.  I think it is the words lighting up red that is so engaging.   Who do I have to talk to for an app for Polar Bear, Polar Bear?

Here comes spring break

Spring Break has an extra day tacked on as a furlough day, so it started on Friday  The school department is trying to save money.   School actually ends for the year before Memorial Day, so it seems like we are getting into the last stretch before the dreaded summer.

I’m still waiting to hear about ESY.   I’m fairly certain it will not be at R’s regular school.   Which worries me a bit, but if they can finally finish the construction over the summer it will be worth it.

R.has been saying more spontaneously.   When I would normally prompt her with a word, I can wait and give her an expectant look and she is saying a word more often.  The word I prompt the most is come.  I make her say it every time she hand leads me.  She is starting to say something as she pulls my hand some of the time.  But with E. she’s doing it almost all the time.  A couple weeks ago she was saying what sounded like Da cuh then last week it sounded like Duddy come, and now it is really Daddy come.  She’s also saying Daddy no.

She is labeling things, which is new.  I mean just naming an object she sees, not saying the word because she wants it.  She has really only labeled numbers, labels and shapes before this.  Mostly she is labeling animals and food.

R. has also developed some separation anxiety or something like it.  She has to know where I am at all times.  I don’t think she cared too much before.  Especially when we go out, she is constantly looking for me.  E. will be pushing her in the shopping cart and she will be craning her neck trying to see where I am.   I remember during our assessment with the ABA provider for early intervention, the program director told me that R. should be referencing me (looking for me) constantly.    Of course she wasn’t.

Someone always leaves the gate open at the playground, and I usually spend most of my time trying to beat R. to the gate so I can close it.  A useful side effect of this constant looking for me, is that she is not running away at the playground.  She runs off and she comes back, especially if I don’t follow her.   She also used to run right for kids on the swings.  I think she really wants to know what it would feel like to be smacked by someone on swinging.   Lately she’s actually been just watching the kids on the swing, and I’ve seen her stop short so she doesn’t get run over by a kid on a scooter, or kids just running around.    It’s like I could actually sit down at the playground, if she would let me.