Harry says… (The Sports Chat Edition)

Harry says… (The Sports Chat Edition)

H📱: Hit him with the Euro step!

If that line means nothing to you, I’m guessing that you’re celebrating Easter today blissfully unaware that it is in fact the NBA playoffs.

Welcome to my house, where excessive chocolate bunny and hot cross bun consumption is paired with 2 boys sitting on the couch, shouting at the TV.

Yes, 2 boys, both shouting – thanks to Harry’s new Sports Chat page on his device, he is just as capable as Jamie of whining about the ref and yelling basketball-isms that mean nothing to me, but are creating some pretty amazing dad son bonding.

Back of view of man and boy talking on a device

As a father who loves basketball, I know J was so excited to have a boy who would hopefully share his love of chasing an orange ball around a court. And whilst Harry certainly does, we hadn’t quite nailed the as important aspect of basketball fandom that is being a verbose and passionate armchair game day critic.

Harry’s device didn’t have all the appropriate basketball terminology that was also quick and easy to speak, to keep up with a fast paced game. And once you did create and speak a message, you then had to clear it before creating the next one or risk creating a long-winded disconnected rant along the lines of ” yes no no go referee foul nice one no good shot no yes go bucks he’s on fire”.

Enter, the Sports Chat* page. J created a pop up page off the sports folder on H’s device filled with basketball and generic sports chat, and with an important programming feature – when you press a button, the device immediately speaks the message pre-programmed to that button, but doesn’t put the message into the message window. It also keeps the Sports Chat window open instead of automatically closing after you select a button. This means that you can continually fire off messages without having to go in and out of the window and clearing each message from the message window as you go.

Process before:

  • Open Sports Chat
  • Select button “that’s a three”
  • Press message window to speak “that’s a three”
  • Clear message
  • Open Sports Chat
  • Select button “come on ref”
  • Press message window to speak “come on ref”

And so on and on…

Not an ideal set up for sports banter when 7ft guys are bolting across a court in 3 steps.

Enter newly programmed Sports Chat:

  • Open Sports Chat
  • Select and speak button “that’s a three”
  • Select and speak button “come on ref”

This has literally changed the game (pun intended) for both J and H. Now they can both shout at at the TV at the appropriate time with the appropriate message without slowing down the action – it’s such a special (and not too quiet) thing to watch. Harry’s delight at being able to easily join in with his dad and yell at the TV is evident from his ear to ear beam whilst the simple joy of watching a game with his boy and sharing in some game day banter is making Jamie’s eyes leak.

Sometimes the simplest little changes can make such a big difference. Having quick, easy pre-programmed messages ensures that H is part of the action right at the time that the action is happening.

Oh and for anyone who has no idea what “hit him with the Euro step” means, I’m afraid I can’t help you, but here is an image of some sort of interpretive dance that was apparently explaining it…

A man running with a large soft basketball while a boy and girl look on.And as the games continue, more quick fire messages are being added, so as I hear the crowd shouting “DEEEFENSE” I ask Jamie if he had added that yet…

J📢: We don’t cheer for defense

Cue hearty cackling from H and J that barely conceals a conspiratorial eye roll.

Alright boys, I get it, I’ll stay out of the basketball banter 🏀😍😂

*the programming set up of this Sports Chat page would work just as well for any sport, play or spectator activity where you’re likely to say the same things over and over again as quick fire messages. From ballet to basketball to boccia, let the banter begin!


Harry says… (no)

One of the first words that children learn is no.

Are you going to eat your peas?


Can you put a jumper on please?


Stop putting your finger in yours brother’s nose.


Harry has had a very clear and very enthusiastic “yes” for quite some time. He can say it with sign and with his voice. In fact he verbally has both a “yeah” and an “oh yeah”, each used rather specifically, see below…

Harry, are you coming for breakfast?


Harry, shall we go and play basketball?

Oh yeah!

But we’ve struggled with no. Physically, shaking his head is much harder than a quick nod, so all in all, a clear no has been tricky and not something that we were too concerned about.

After Harry’s first triumph of saying 2 words in a row, the very important “oh yeah”, I realised that it was definitely time to learn a clear “no”. I am not raising yes children, I want them to stand up for themselves and know when no is the right answer.

With guidance from his speechie we practiced and practiced and over the course of a few months Harry developed a wonderful sign, head gesture and verbal “no”.

What an absolute revelation it’s been! My previously, wonderfully agreeable son started making up for lost time with a barrage of even more wonderful “no’s”.

Harry, are you coming for breakfast?


Harry, come inside.


Harry, do you want to play basketball?

Oh yeah! (Basketball will forever trump all)

And a good, solid and undeniable “no” is never more important than when your parent forgets what being a school kid was like and attempts to make decisions on your behalf that could hold catastrophic loss of points in the school playground fashion arena.

We arrived at school on Friday and I’d forgotten it was casual day. I jumped out the car, opened Harry’s door and apologised.

M📢: Sorry Harry, I totally forgot it was casual day. It’s no big deal though, you don’t mind being in your school uniform.

H☝️: no home

M📢: You want to go home? Seriously? Come on, it’s fine, let’s just get out the car. No one cares, there are other kids in their uniform.

H☝️📢: no (said with sign, gesture and his voice – the trifecta of “no”)

H☝️: home

M📢: You want to go home and change?

H📢: Oh yeah!

So, we turned around, went home, Harry selected a rather snazzy little outfit and we were back at school in time for the bell. And my once again agreeable Harry was only too happy to get out the car and head into class after knowing when to say “no”.


Harry says… (Chinese New Year)

It’s Chinese New Year today and H’s school had a super fun (and super loud) parade this morning to celebrate!

We’re on our way to school, H is wearing his touch of red and a delightfully noisy tambourine is packed for the celebration. As per usual, H has selected his tune of the day to accompany our journey to school – this morning’s school run was brought to you by Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars.

I remind him that it’s his Chinese New Year Parade and that T and I will be there to join in the fun. Realising that it’s not a word that he hears often I say Chinese New Year in PODD speak, meaning that I include the PODD pathway to the word.

M📢: Today is school special events Chinese New Year

Briefly after, H grabs my attention to turn down Bruno so that he can say something…

H📱: Chinese New Year it’s time

After almost 5 years of having PODD in our lives I’m now fluent in PODD and it’s so helpful to enhance H’s understanding and to ensure he has access to words when I can’t model to him, like when I’m driving, in the kitchen cooking, hanging up washing or any time really.

I highly recommend adding PODD to your verbal repertoire, although preferably only when your kids are there. I don’t think baristas are too keen on a “food and drink drinks coffee greetings and manners please” order!

Happy Chinese New Year!!!


Harry says… (big)

It’s day 4 of the first week of school and we’re happily settling back into our routine after a loooong summer holiday. Harry has bought his first set of readers home today and is keen to read them.

I love readers and find them brilliant for repetitive modeling as the first sentence of each page is usually the same. Sometimes I model, sometimes we just read. Sometimes I point to each word, sometimes H points. We just enjoy the quiet time together, although there is usually a nosy little 3 year old butting in, but that’s all part of the fun!

Today’s first reader was called “I am Big”. I popped it on my lap and knowing that Harry can say “I” and “a” sounds I pointed slowly to the first two words in the title and paused to give him time to say each word.

When Harry points to a word and makes a sound, we always assume that he has said the correct word and congratulate him. Just because verbally it doesn’t sound like the actual word doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know that word. For all I know it may sound perfect in his head, it’s just his muscles that aren’t delivering the word verbally the way we would expect. (Least dangerous assumption and all that good stuff.)

But of course I’m just human, and I’m also his mum, so when he does say a word that sounds close to what’s written, it’s a pretty thrilling moment.

As we’re on a roll with H saying “I” and an “a” sound for “am”, I point to “big” and do a nice Hanen-esq pause. And without missing a beat…

H 📢 : bigag

M: Harry, did you just read big? (I ask excitedly)

H📢: yea (delivered completely nonplussed with a not-so-subtle undertone of “obviously mum”)

And there you have it, we can never assume to know what our kids do or don’t know. It’s so much harder for them to show us all the wonderful things that they’re learning so we have no choice but to keep teaching them and keep believing that they are learning. The alternative is simply not an option.


Harry says… (what)

Using question words is not a forte of H’s. He tends to get his questions across using nouns and and a questioning expression. Totally fine and in classic H style, also quick and effective – his modus operandi when it comes to communication. But it’s still important that he learns question words and so we model them when we can. He hasn’t much taken to using them himself yet though, the H method is still his go-to.

A couple of weeks ago during a speech session whilst reading a hilariously silly book aimed at 6 year old boys, his speechie modeled “what” when H was laughing at a particularly silly moment. With the “what” accompanied by a vocal “whaaaaaat”! This made Harry crack up even more.

Yesterday we were playing basketball and I shot a shocker of a goal with the ball going right over the top of the hoop. Remembering our speech session, I quickly modeled “what” on H’s talker which he thought was hilarious.

Cut to later that arvo, we’re unsurprisingly deep into another basketball sesh, and H shot a goal even more atrocious than mine, with the ball ending up across the passage and in our bedroom. We both cracked up laughing and he immediately reached across to his talker…

📱: what?! (followed by H’s gorgeous cackling)

We both had a brilliant belly laugh and carried on playing ball.

And hey, who wants to learn boring old questions words when you can be cracking jokes and learning fun, entertaining question words!


Harry says… (oh yeah)

It’s term 3 of school, we’ve all found our groove and things are cruising along pretty nicely. It’s a busy Tuesday at work and my phone beeps… it’s Harry’s SSO. She has sent me a very excited text saying Harry has said 2 words together.

A bit of background on Harry’s verbal speech. Harry has about 10 words that he can say verbally. Coordinating his muscles is really tough for him so they’re all single words and all require one mouth movement. They’re all pretty functional words too, smart kid, things like “up”, “help” and “ball” (essential in H’s basketball-centred world).

We’ve done PROMPT therapy (a tactile therapy where the speechie uses their hands to touch his mouth and jaw to prompt him about which muscles to use to form a word) in the past and we still praise and encourage him when he’s trying to say something verbally. He’ll sometimes even prompt himself but, to be honest, it’s not really something that we ‘work’ on. It’s not that we don’t want him to use his voice, but I can see how incredibly difficult it is for him and how hard he tries and so that’s enough. He has his talker, his PODD book, his signs and his verbal words in his conversation toolbox so he doesn’t need to rely on only one form of communication. If he isn’t able to get his meaning across with one method, he can try another. Frustration is never the goal.

Anyhoo, I arrive at school that arvo feeling rather intrigued about Harry’s 2 words. As the classroom doors open and I walk in, I am surrounded by a bunch of excited 6 year olds all talking at me; “Look what Harry can say”, “Harry can say oh yeah”, “say oh yeah Harry”.

Harry is beaming! He looks at his buddies and, as clear as day, he says “oh yeah”. “Say it again Harry” says a friend who then reaches out to touch Harry’s face in exactly the way a speechie would PROMPT a child to make an “o” sound. “Oh yeah” he says filled with pride. “I showed him how to say it”, says one of Harry’s best buddies. (I later find out that he’s been determined to teach Harry to say “oh yeah” and the two of them had been working on it for about 3 weeks.)

Look, let’s be honest, if Harry’s speechie or I were to really focus on getting him to say 2 words together, would those 2 words be ‘oh yeah”? Probably not, Actually, make that definitely not. They’re not the most functional of words really are they? Or are they? I don’t know, maybe “oh yeah” is all the rage with Aussie 6 year olds, what do I know?

And what if I had been working for weeks on getting Harry to say 2 words – would we have gotten there? Perhaps. Would the motivation for him have been as high as with his buddies? Almost certainly not.

As I’m surrounded by all his excited friends and a delighted Harry, I blink back a few happy tears. Harry said 2 words together and he learnt it without me, without my involvement in every little step of his therapy. In fact I had no idea at all that this was going on and it wasn’t “therapy”, it was fun and learning with his friends. What a wonderful step towards independence, what a wonderful glimpse of what could be….


A black and white cropped imaged of H and his buddy who helped him to say “oh yeah”. They’re wearing their matching dinosaur vests – the fashion staple of 6 year old boys.

Harry spells… (walker)

Oh how I love to eat my own words… At the presentation I did at the 2017 AGOSCI conference, I talked about how the first time Harry combined 2 words in his PODD communication book, “drive” and “park”, we were SO completely beside ourselves that we drove immediately to the park despite the fact that it was 7am on a freezing cold Sunday in June. I followed this delightful memory up with explaining that we no longer jump to his every desire just because he’s used his book or device to communicate. It’s simply his voice and so, as I’ve also shared in ‘Yes, you can say no’, sometimes the answer is no.

Yes, the answer sometimes is still no, right up until he changes the goal posts…

Once again, our story begins on a cold, wet and wintery Sunday, this time in late May. I’ve set up a Super Awesome Fun Obstacle Course (read: desperately seeking ways to expend energy in our kids whilst being trapped indoors) and we’re at the basketball component so whilst Harry is in his element, he’s still full of beans and bouncing around.

I turn to Jamie and, in super-stealth-parent-mode, say; “It looks like he’s really keen for his W-A-L-K-E-R.”

Harry’s snaps his head around to look at me.

He squeals. I furrow my eyebrows. Hang on a second…

“Harry”, I say. “Do you know what I just spelt?”

He squeals and jumps excitedly on the spot.

J helps him down and H beelines for the laundry, grabs hold of his walker and looks up at me with those big, blue eyes that turn my heart into a puddle of smooshy love.

Oh my clever, clever boy.

And you know the rest… we rugged up, popped him in his walker and went straight outside to play with our chuffed little boy.

I guess spelling is the new combining! (And we’re definitely going to need an updated version of super-stealth-parent-mode… time for Spanish lessons perhaps?!)