Stepping Back to Move Forward

Stepping Back to Move Forward

It was about a year ago that I wrote a blog entitled “The Communication Slow Patch”. If you haven’t read, I am sure you can guess the gist of it from the title. And since then it has all felt fairly static, communication-wise. It’s not that H hasn’t been using his talker, he has, but perhaps not making the language gains with it that we’d been hoping for or working on. That may sound harsh and I am absolutely a big believer in taking things at his pace, but nonetheless it’s hard, as a parent, to feel like you’re coasting on a communication plateau not knowing when, usually accompanied by a sigh of relief, the next gain will be made.

A couple of months ago, we had a speech session where I aired some of my concerns and asked for guidance. How can I better support H? Am I not doing enough? Am I doing the wrong thing? You know, the usual mum guilt scenario assuming that it’s something that I have or haven’t done…ugh.

She introduced me to the Red/Yellow/Green System developed by Karen Erickson. In a nutshell, Erickson explains the importance of pairing red tasks (cognitively and linguistically challenging or new) with a green communication system (a system that can be used easily with a great deal of success).

Thinking about Harry’s learning at school and the new language skills that we are teaching him, these would all fall into the red and occasionally yellow task category, but most of the time we are also pairing that with a red/yellow communication system. And with those 3 colours in my mind it became perfectly clear, we are simply asking too much of him. With all these new language and cognitive tasks, he needs his green communication system, an old reliable PODD that he can use easily without too much thinking. And do you know where his green communication system is… oh wait for it… it’s in a plastic bag covered in vomit. Oh yes, a PODD-destroying spew that no amount of disinfectant spraying and wiping and scouring could erase. But I’m a PODD fan girl so instead of throwing it out, I have hung on to said spew covered PODD.

But now that we had a clear plan, it was all systems go. I got the files for Vom PODD and Vom PODD 2.0 was created. You know what, let’s call it Green PODD, a totally fitting name seeing that it is in fact green! Green PODD is based on a PODD we had a few years ago so the complexity of language available on it isn’t the same as on his talker or more complex 90 location PODD book. To use an analogy I’ve used before on our Facebook page, Green PODD is like a comfy old pair of slippers that your gran bought you; not too flashy and not too fash-forward, but wow, they fit like a dream.

Green PODD arrived and we started chatting. Then we chatted some more. And we kept chatting. And chatting. And chatting. Harry was saying all sorts of wonderful things and, without flicking in and out of screens or taking his turn away from him, we were easily able to expand on what he was saying or model other options available. It may not have the language complexity that we sometimes need to model and that I know H is ready to learn (and probably already knows), but we have his talker and more complex PODD for that.

Green PODD has given us, and H, something wonderful back – the joy of easy communication. Without the big cognitive demands on H of a system that he’s still learning, he can navigate through this Green PODD without too much extra thought whilst being involved with challenging cognitive tasks and new learning. I’m imagining it like my Lovesick (very fluffy Netflix TV series) binge. Yes, I could watch a documentary, but the green task of Lovesick matches perfectly with eating ice-cream, paying the bills and having a chat with J.

And as the chatting continues with H and the positive feedback from school comes in, any concerns that I might have had about incorporating an older PODD book back into H’s communication toolkit disappear. Using this PODD is not a step back at all, it’s a green light allowing us all to move forward.

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