This morning, Janey was in a talkative mood. She danced around the house, repeating anything we said and bringing in her own quotes and songs. It's fun to listen to her when she's like that. Then, she stopped and sang "Is he dead or evil?" over and over and over. For those of you who might not be as familiar with heavy metal music as I am (and you are lucky indeed), that was a parody of a part of "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath. The actual line says "Is he alive or dead?" but Janey certainly captured the essence of metal music. She hears it all the time, due to William being an extremely devoted metal fan and also a budding metal artist, who has recorded three of his own metal albums full of his own songs.
It struck me that although that was cool to hear, it wasn't totally unusual for Janey. She often plays around with songs and gives them different lyrics. It's something we all do a lot around the house, for whatever reason, and it's something I do to teach her things---put the steps to a song, or the take-home message to a melody. Janey can play with music with ease.
That contrasts with some other skills, skills the school and us at home have worked with her on for years, and which she still has trouble with. She can usually name a circle, now, and her ABA specialist, Mr. Ken, is going to start working with her on generalizing that skill, to name things that are circular, like pizza or cookies or a full moon. I'm glad she's learning this, and its great to see her achieve. But it's slow going. She's been learning shapes for 6 years now, and she hasn't mastered them. However, some things she learns in an instant, or quite easily. She learns a new song upon hearing it once or twice. If I put a new app on the iPad she likes, she immediately knows where the icon is, how to enter it, and either knows or quickly figures out how to play it. I never sat down and showed her how to raise the sound on the iPad, or to pick shows on Netflix, or how to do many other things she does on a daily basis. How is it that some things are so easy for her to learn, and some so hard?
Motivation is part of it, but not all of it. She can be incredibly motivated to earn a reward, but still not be able to do the task that earns it. And her limited speech skills are also not something that can explain all of it. Limited verbal skills don't usually lend themselves to parody songs. It just seems like her mind is a patchwork of ability and lack of ability. It's what makes her mysterious, and what I think makes intellectual disabilities different in people with autism than in other people. Other kids seem to be able to learn with a slow and steady approach. It takes them longer, but they get there. Janey seems to learn in jumps, or not at all. It feels like I can't teach her, because she doesn't learn what I ask her to learn. She learns what she decides to learn. It's frustrating, but at times also fascinating. I don't see it as there being all kinds of unlockable areas of her brain, particularly. I see it more as a very unevenly planted garden. You can water and water, but you're not going to get flowers where none were planted. However, where they were planted, sometimes they will grow just on their own, without a bit of help from you.