Sunday, October 11, 2009

Development and Decisions; Seeking Opportunities

In August, my suspicions were confirmed. I was not imagining things. Our RDI(r) Program Certified Consultant confirmed what I knew. (We saw our consultant in August for a few days of assessment and treatment planning. We see her in person every few months and communication via phone and internet in between.)

My 10-year-old who was diagnosed w/ an autism spectrum disorder just after her second birthday, is closing the gap, developmentally.

In two-and-a-half years, we've made approximately four years progress by focusing on changing ourselves as parents, in a "do-over" of the parent/child relationship, by giving her opportunities to experience communication with others on the same developmental pathway that babies travel.

We learned the hard way that giving her words via a behavioral program didn't bring with it reciprocity, interaction, dialogue or conversation. For too many years, she was a one-sided word machine and a bit robotic and prompt dependent, too.

We learned to slow ourselves down (sometimes I am still learning) and give her both processing time and reaction time, so that she could take her own unprompted, unscripted action in reciprocity with us, with a heavy non-verbal focus for a long time.

Non-verbal interaction and reciprocity are prototypes for dialogue and conversation. And giving a child experience in non-verbal interaction and reciprocity will bring conversation and dialogue naturally, without directly working on conversation and dialogue. (Who knew?!)

So, my princess is interacting a lot like a typical four year old now. She's a fifth grader by age, but her same-age peers have had more experience communicating, processing non-verbal and verbal simultaneously, and same-age peers process the back-and-forth of interaction much faster than a four year old. She can't keep up with it all when immersed in a setting with fifth graders.

I have spent the past year using products marketed to homeschoolers and reviewing them here on my blog. In that year at home with my princess, I have gotten a hands-on education in where she is, developmentally and academically, along with a hands-on education about some products that work for her because they keep me teaching her where she is, developmentally. I've made a lot of discoveries about myself and about my child.

One of the reasons I withdrew her from public school is the public school's insistence upon putting her with same-age peers when she isn't processing information the same as a same-age peer. She's not processing academics at a same-age level, nor is she processing interpersonal and intrapersonal interactions at a same-age level. But she's doing quite nicely in her do-over, right on track, as she's closing the gap, at a pre-K level.

She's ready to add peers and a teacher to the mix. There's more attention shifting and attention sharing there, more perspective taking, more self-regulation and self-control required. But she needs a place where she can be competent in all areas. Competent understanding the material that is being presented. Competent interacting with the teacher and the peers. Competent comprehending directions and non-verbal cues.

Now we need opportunities for her to practice and interact with peers at her level. That's what we do with preschoolers -- we plan play dates and find a good preschool. Mostly, I want her at home, with her dad and siblings and me. No, I'm not considering a return to school.

But what do we do with a 10 year old who needs that same experience in a do-over?

She needs information presented to her at a pace and educational level that she is able to process successfully. She needs to be with peers who are "possible" for her. ("Possible" is a Dr Jim term, from Communicating Partners.)

She needs groups and organizations who are willing to adapt to her needs, instead of expecting her to adapt to their rigid ideas and programs that mimic grade levels in public school systems. Flexibility. Thinking outside the box. That's what we need. Slowly, we're leaving behind programs that are rigid and unwilling to adapt.

I'm looking for those opportunities -- homeschooling is giving us some possibilities. Some churches are more open to allowing a 10 year old to attend a much younger class. Some are less open to that idea, expecting the child to adapt to their "box" of a program. Art, music, some sports may offer opportunities, too.

I'm looking for those opportunities and for the people to allow the opportunities to happen.


walking said...

You got me to thinking . . . in a one-room schoolhouse, do-overs would have been possible . . .

Penny said...

Tammy, I told my 12 year old almost the same thing yesterday when we were discussing how Sunday School programs are often modeled after public school grades. I told her we need more multi-age groups at church and she asked HOW we could do that, and I told her they did it all the time in a one-room schoolhouse.

poohder said...

I have been telling my husband that for years! There is a Lutheran one room schoolhouse about 10 miles from my house. I SERIOUSLY considered putting my dd in that school this year. UNFORTUNATELY, they decided to "divide" into a two room schoolhouse
and now they have division that wouldn't work for my dd. So much for progress. Rhonda

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