Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lesson 179: Update

Mystery Solved!
Remember this from Friday's post?  It is Natalie's code she's been writing over and over again for the last month:

I believe the mystery has been solved by Sarah Cavalline, Assistant Professor of Autism Education at Harbor Creek Jr/Sr High school.  

Jenn (L) and Sarah (R), shown in this picture, are the Assistant Professors in Natalie's classroom.  In this photo, they dragged their butts out of bed one damp, April morning this spring to support Natalie and her peers in the 11th Annual Walk for Autism.

Here is the Professor.  His name is Mr. Fritts. He dragged his butt out of bed, too.

Together this trio works tirelessly with some of the most challenging students in our public school system.  Children with autism not only have severe communication impairments, but also are highly temperamental, overly sensitive to stimuli, and are sometimes physically reactive by means of throwing punches or biting.  The job is no picnic.  However, the rewards are great when breakthroughs come, like this one.

Here is the response I got from Miss Sarah via the comment section of Lessons From the Lamp Post:

Sarah Cavalline has left a new comment on your post "Lesson 178: Hard to Handle": 

Well, I have half of your coding puzzle solved. The ABC blocks are absolutely from Starfall's ABC page (down to the same colors, or a color very similar!). I didn't see where the other letters came in on that page, but I haven't investigated thoroughly:-) Needless to say I will be back to see if the code has been cracked! Hope this helps!

-Miss Sarah 

And then, this one a few minutes later:

Sarah Cavalline has left a new comment on your post "Lesson 178: Hard to Handle": 

...after more pondering (and on to the reading page of Starfall). One of the stories she would read during the year was "Gus the Duck" and that looks almost like the first line of letters (I can't see them very well on my computer). Perhaps the sharpie was running together? I hope you're feeling better! 

I checked Starfall's homepage and I found the blocks.  Natalie had the colors almost exactly right.

When I clicked on Learn to Read, I found Gus the Duck.  This is him.  He's my new hero:

I did my own research first, and determined that Sarah may be right on the money.  You can see that GUSTHEDUCK is written after the ABC blocks.  I then called Natalie to the couch, where I was still laying with my laptop, not yet fully recovered from my poisoning by a hater stomach flu.  

"Natalie, bring me your notebook.  I think Miss Sarah figured out what you are trying to tell me."

Natalie smiled and repeated, "Miss Sarah, Miss Sarah, Miss Sarah," in her monotone voice as she went to fetch her notebook.  

"Natalie, is this Starfall?  Do you want Starfall?" I asked with a forced inflection so that she knew I was asking a question and that I was needing an answer.

Her eyes lit up.  "Yes," Natalie said.  "Yes.  Miss Sarah.  Yes.  Starfall.  Yes.  Miss Sarah Miss Jenn Mr. Fritts."

"Natalie," I continued, "do you want to read Gus the Duck?" 

"Gus the Duck.  Zac the Rat.  Ooooohhhhhh.  Good girl!" she prattled on and on as she twirled on her toes and flapped her hands.

And together, while still lying flat on the couch in semi-misery, I got my ray of sunshine.  I read Gus the Duck and Zac the Rat with Natalie.  "Natalie read yes," she said over and over.  It was the best dose of medicine I could have ever asked for.

Oh, Readers, how I wished I would have been sharp enough yesterday to think to get a video recording of that for you.  It was one of those very rare moments of connection between mother and child that many of you take for granted every day.  You would have been able to see Natalie's eyes. In them you would have been able to see her moment of triumph.  We all saw similar looks in the eyes of the Olympians as they stood atop of those podiums, receiving their medals while the anthems played.  That proud, proud moment when all things come together for the greater good.  The moment of completion.  The moment of inner peace.

Kenyan and I don't get that too often with Natalie and Erik.  For me, it's maybe once a week I can figure out something new Natalie is trying to communicate, and even just that much I consider myself lucky.  For Kenyan and Erik, it's been only a few times in his fifteen years of life.

Erik has had some ups and downs lately.  He had a crying jag that lasted for most of the day yesterday that left Kenyan, and his helpers flabbergasted as to what he wanted.  Some severely autistic children have only a few ways to communicate, through sign language or communication boards.  Potty, shower, pool, and pop were the things he was repeatedly asking for, yet when given them, he'd cry all the harder.  What connects the things he was asking for?  Aunt Eloise could not let go of the fact that all four things involved water or were wet.  

If you know Erik, the boy loves to be wet.  He can swim like a fish and takes five showers a day in the summertime.  I once read about children with autism enjoying water through an account of a boy named Tito.  

Tito is Indian, and is currently 19.  He has been raised by his mother, who now lives in the United States.  This is Tito and his mother:

Tito's mother, Soma Mukhopadhyay, worked with her son tirelessly and developed a means of communication for him through writing and typing on a keyboard.  Her method has become known as the Rapid Prompting Method and has been studied by scientists and behavior analysts.  Tito, who reminds me very much of my nephew, as written several books.  His first was titled Breaking the Silence.  It is a fascinating read if any of you are interested.

When Tito was asked by a group of parents to explain why he rocked and flapped his arms, he responded this:

"When I was four or five years old, I hardly noticed that I had a body except when I was hungry or when I realized I was standing under the shower and my body got wet.  I needed constant movement to get the feeling of my body.  Every movement is a proof that I exist."

Connected to Erik, yesterday or not, we may never know, but it certainly is something worth thinking about. 

And for some further updates:
#1--I held down Gatorade and a piece of toast yesterday, so things are on the upswing with nearly fatally poisoned flu-stricken Eloise.

#2--The big poop clean up truck showed up on Saturday with the giant drying fans and hoses full of disinfectant.

One of the more humorous parts of the day was that many people stopped by the house to inquire if we were having a yard sale as so many of the basement contents were lying outside in the west lawn of the Lamp Post.  I don't think anyone would have wanted to purchase any of my poop-laden personals.  

The septic system has been relatively been functioning fine for fifteen years.  This past year, however, the Lamp Post is under a bit of a drought.  2011-2012 winter was one lacking of snow, therefore not refilling the earth with much needed ground water upon its springtime melts.  The spring brought beautiful weather for Ellen's softball and I never once had to scrub the mud out of her sliding shorts.  But traces of snow and no spring rain makes for a dry water well.  

It was time for some updates at the Lamp Post, so we put in new water saver toilets.  Boasting only 1.5 gallons of water use per flush, they are a good thing for the environment.  But for those of us with touchy septic systems, 1.5 gallons of water isn't enough to push the paper through.  Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless rudely suggested that I was using too much toilet paper.  I suggested that perhaps we'd use less toilet paper if one less person lived in this house.  End of conversation.

This goes to show you that a remedy for one problem, sometimes only causes another.  I guess that is why I try to stay away from medications if at all possible.  They spot fix one problem, only to cause a laundry list of new symptoms, which of course you need more medication for.  If you think illegal drugs are a big business in this country, think about the legal ones.  Drug companies have enormous power in this country and are growing stronger by the day.

I ended the night yesterday at the lake shore where I feel the very best.  Me and this Canadian goose, en route to a warmer place to winter, spent a quiet moment together in the setting sun.   I couldn't decide which photo of him I liked better:

The one of him looking at his past,

or the one of him looking toward the future,

so you got them both.  There is merit in each of the views, I suppose.

Have a great day, Readers.  And thanks again to Miss Sarah for helping Natalie communicate.  It really does take a village to raise a child.


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