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!
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.
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!
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….
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?!)
With the number of food related ‘Harry says’ blog posts it really shouldn’t come as any surprise to me that he really is my child when it comes to meals. I am the type of person who will enthusiastically be discussing dinner plans whilst still making my way through my morning oats.
And a trip to the zoo with all the exciting sights, sounds and smells certainly didn’t shift Harry’s focus off where and when the next meal would be. It didn’t shift mine either mind you, I just manage to (occasionally) keep it under wraps.
Whilst discussing over dinner the night before what animals we were excited to see at the zoo, Harry told us he was excited about…
H: picnic area
The zoo does have a rather pretty picnic area, so I’m with him on that one.
Once we were at thew zoo and had ticked off the big guys – hippopotamus, giraffe and lion – H was quick to remind us…
H: shop food
Ha! This guy has a memory like an elephant!
I was also internally high-fiving about his nice little combination of the words ‘shop’ and ‘food’. H is excellent at getting his point across with only single words, so it’s always a great thrill to see him creating more specific messages.
Later, as a treat from granddad, T and H each got to choose a pressie from the zoo shop. T’s search was quickly over as she bolted toward the back of the shop with the words “PINK MONKEEEEEY” drawing my attention to a lurid, does-not-exist-in-nature pink sloth. Fabulous. It’s name is “Girl” FYI.
And H once again thrilled us with his wonderfully specific two-worded message…
H: buy hyena
…whilst grabbing an African Wild Dog.
And home we traipsed, our hearts filled with a day together, our tummies filled with snacks in the picnic area and our arms filled with exhausted children, a hot pink monkey and a fuzzy-eared hyena.
We’ll leave the animal-naming lessons to another day…
As you might have gathered, H is pretty stoked about the whole school situation. He loves his uniform, his teacher, his class, going to school and even doing his homework (long may it last).With school being just around the corner from home it does also mean that we drive past it a lot, even when we’re not going to school which can lead to some problems…
Whilst figuring out the school and child care drop off scenario, we decided to try dropping T off at childcare first and then heading back to school with H as it would be more time efficient. However, in hindsight we didn’t take the time to explain to H what we were doing the first time we switched up the routine.
We jumped in the car and drove past H’s beloved school to take T to childcare. Let’s just say it it did NOT go down well. And fair enough, poor H was not part of our planning and all he saw was us zooming past his school and him still stuck in the wretched car.
Over the next couple of days we made sure that we chatted it through properly with him and explained that he would still be going to school after we dropped off T. This was all supported by lots of modelling on his talker to ensure he had a good understanding and could chat about it if he wished.
A few days later, same drop off scenario and no complaints from H. Phew, my explanations were obviously enough I thought, what a relief.
We arrived at school and I opened the door to get H out and there it was, the rather smart coping mechanism that had helped him get through it…
H📱: Tallulah school Tallulah school
He had utilised self-talk (AAC style) to keep himself calm and reassure himself of what was happening. We all use self-talk in lots of different ways don’t we? In front of the mirror before a presentation to calm ourselves, lying in bed to motivate ourselves to get out and get that gym gear on or, in the case of a 5 year old school-loving boy, in the back of the car to reassure himself of the morning’s routine.