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Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Grocery List

Tony told Janey this afternoon he was going to take her to the grocery store.  She was quite happy, as she loves going to the store.  A few minutes later, she brought us the little notepad Tony uses for grocery lists.  We told her that was great---she had made the connection between the list and shopping.  But then she found a pen and grabbed the pad, and looked like she was going to try writing on it.  That was unusual---at home anyway, she has little interest in drawing or scribbling or any pencil to paper activities.  Then she stopped, put down the pad and started to scream.  She'd been having a banner weekend, and had been cheery for days, so we were startled.  She yelled for a bit, and then said "GREEN CANDY!"  Green candies are those striped round mint hard candies---she loves those.  And we figured it out, or we think we did.  She wanted to put "green candy" on the list.  Tony right away wrote it on the list, and drew a little picture next to the words, and showed it to her, and she seemed a bit calmed down.

The whole episode brought up a lot of questions and emotions in me.  First, did we interpret correctly?  Figuring out what Janey is trying to say is often a puzzle.  Did she just say green candy because she was trying to comfort herself when she was upset, maybe because she wasn't on the way to the store yet?  I guess I'm a natural skeptic, but I often default to assuming Janey isn't meaning to convey the more complex meanings that some of her actions could be interpreted as.  But assuming she was wanting to write green candy on the list---well, that's a little heartbreaking.  It would mark the first time we were aware of her being aware of her own disabilities.  She knew that people can write things down---the kids in her class write all the time.  And she knew that Tony wrote things on that paper to remind him to get them at the store.  So she got the notepad and then, boom, it hit her.  She couldn't write.  She had no idea how to put green candy on the list.  And that would be a sad moment for anyone.

Or I could do as I would like to do more often---see this as an opening, see it as a good thing.  She was making a cognitive breakthrough---getting what writing is all about.  That's a much cheerier way to look at it.   But it would be more cheery if I felt she was within any kind of reach of being able to write.  She has very few even prewriting skills.  Once in a while, she can make a J, or try at a circle or line, but that has taken years and years to get to, and it's pretty hit or miss.  I should, if I were being less of a negative person, think about technology---how she could use her iPad to make a list, how we could take a picture of the green candies and use them to start teaching more more iPad communication.  But she has shown huge resistance to any attempts at that.  Her calm, happy state lately has come about partly because of my realization about how much she gets stressed by my attempts to teach her---I'm going to write about that soon.  She is much more willing to learn at school, but even there, it's slow, slow going.

So I'll say honestly my main feeling today at her frustration was sadness, because she was sad, and because it seemed like she realized what she couldn't do.  Tony and I talked about how we had almost hoped that day would never come---the day when she realized she was different than other kids, and couldn't do the things other kids can do.  And it might not ever come fully, but today felt like a little bit of that knowledge had hit her, and it's hard to for me to see that, and I am sure, harder for Janey to feel it.


Sophie's Trains said...

It is hard to teach our girls directly,but I do think they learn when we don't think they are watching. Sophie has shown me over and over she was paying attention when I thought she completely wasn't
With the shopping list I think she's already got the idea. So I think maybe just writing it in proximity of her while she's doing her thing. Maybe talking to yourself like "hmm bread, milk, maybe green candy," and maybe printing a bit bigger than you would, and making a little picture next to key items. And she might look like she's not listening or whatever. But I think she is.
I think teaching our girls turns everything we think about teaching on its head. We have to be sneaky. But I think she brought the pad because she very much wanted to put the green candy on it. And I wouldn't worry so much if she thought of herself as disabled or not. Maybe she was just frustrated. My 7 year old girl's writing ability makes her cry sometimes too when she wants to write something she doesn't know how. The fact she wanted to write, she knew it needed to be on the list, that's a big thing. Shopping lists are good motivators for food-loving girls like ours :)

Simone Blanchard said...

I would see it as a positive -- that she is making connections -- and that they are connections you can work with. I think the 'visual list/ipad' idea sounds brilliant too. Or making icons on your regular list.

audball said...

Sounds like a positive to me! Along the lines of what Sophie's Trains and Simone have said, do you think she would enjoy putting a "grocery list" together with her favorite items? Maybe making a felt board that looks like a grocery bag and creating felts of her favorite foods? Then when she sees someone grab the shopping notepad, or talk about shopping, she can put together a list for herself?

It may be a sneaky way of tricking her into associating tasks/asking for things. I bet she would like knowing she has helped create a list from what is missing in your cupboards or refrigerator :)!