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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Sun Did Not Shine

Yesterday was a snow day here, a start of spring unwelcome snow day.  Janey and I were home together all day.  I spent the day working on keeping her happy and occupied.  It went fairly well, overall, but by the end of the day, waiting for Daddy to get home, Janey started some screaming.  Then she said "The sun did not shine.  It was too wet to play.  So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day"  As most of you probably know, those are the starting lines of "The Cat in the Hat", one of Janey's favorite books.  It took me a minute to realize how appropriate the quote was, and just what Janey was saying.  It certainly was a sit in the house all day type of day.

Talking through quotes is just one of the ways Janey communicates in what could be called non-standard ways.  It's fascinating, but it's also very frustrating.  As she gets older, and some things get easier, the communication doesn't seem to be getting smoother, and more and more, I think it's a piece we have to work on.  I can figure out much of what Janey is trying to tell me, but I am not always going to be with her.  I wish so much we could find a way to help Janey talk to the rest of the world, and talk more easily to us.  I think so much of her frustration and anger could be helped by being able to tell people more easily what she is thinking.

On a day about a week ago, a day that featured much screaming, out of desperation I found an iPad app called GoTalk Now.  It was free and easy to set up, and looked like something Janey would be able to figure out.  It let me create 3 pages (in the free version) of touch screens with words or pictures or phrases, with up to 25 per page, that Janey could touch to hear out loud.  I hoped she might use this especially for emotions.  I made a page with my own face showing nine emotions, and my voice saying the words.  Janey understood easily that she needed to touch one of the faces to get the emotion spoken, but like almost all attempts of this kind, she wasn't interested in using it to communicate.  She did, though, take to one of the buttons, me making a silly face and saying "Silly!"  She hit it over and over, and each time since then I've tried to get her to use the app, which I expanded with a page of phrases she might need and a page of names, she quickly and easily goes to the feelings back and hits the silly button.  No matter how often I try to use the other pages or the other feelings, she is interested only in hearing "silly" over and over.

Janey watching TV
The way Janey communicates which TV show she wants is illustrative of the joys and frustrations of talking with her.  If she wants a show, she brings us the remote.  We ask her what she wants, and she says the name of the show.  We put on the TV and go to the Amazon Fire TV menu, which lets us access Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime shows.  If she has asked for a certain show, we go to that show, and I ask her what episode she wants.  She knows the names of a few episodes of a few shows, but usually, I wind up scrolling through all the episodes and saying their names out loud.  Janey points at the TV until we get to the episode she wants, and then she points to herself.  I confirm the episode name, she repeats it, and we put it on.  If I go past the episode in the scrolling, she points to the left, to show me to go back.  It all works most of the time, but it took literally years to get to this point, and still, now and then, we don't get what she is asking for.  She'll sometimes quote a line of dialogue from the show she wants, and if we don't recognize it, she's very upset.  Or she'll say something that is in the little picture illustrating the episode.  Our favorite example of this is an episode of Kipper, which shows Arnold, Kipper's little pig friend, with his head poking out of a box.  That is called "head in a box" and the first time we figured out that one, we laughed for a good long time.

As we get through our days, figuring out if we can what Janey is asking for, guessing at her sometimes cryptic way of getting her meaning across, I worry.  I worry because Tony and I will not live forever, and I want Janey to be able to talk to a wider world.  I want her to have a way to tell whoever she needs to tell what it is she wants and needs and thinks and feels.  There is so much she has to say---I am sure of it.  There must be a way, some way, somehow, to help her communicate in a way that is more universally understood than the way she does now.

1 comment:

Kirsty said...

I left a comment on another one of your blogs earlier, but this was the one I was originally meaning to comment on. I started replying again just now, but I realized that my comment was longer than your blog! So, yeah, this is probably something for my own blog haha.

I was actually looking for a post where I thought I had seen you mention a communication app that worked well for Janey, but it may just have been a different educational app.

The short version of what I started to write here, is that I think there might be a lack of iPad apps or maybe just iPad app/device/accessory combos which are properly designed for a certain group of autistic children who need more than a dull-looking app screen/touch screen (coming from the perspective of an autistic woman who remembers my childhood well, and also someone who works in the tech industry).

But then I have to remind myself, these apps seem to work well for many children, and I have no formal education in autism or child development etc... so my guess is that if something doesn't exist, some smart people somewhere have figured out that it’s either impractical or not useful :(

Still, I've had a vaguely relevant experience which has left me unconvinced that enough of these apps/devices etc work well enough for a certain group of autistic individuals. I have read about what Janey can do. I believe that she could learn to use a communication app/device. Even though many have been created with autistic children in mind, and I know she's great at using the iPad, I just don't think the right app is out there yet. Maybe this is another one of these annoying things where autistic children like Janey have been left out!

Anyway, if I somehow ever become involved in the creation of a communication app or device which I think might help Janey, I'll let you know. Hopefully someone will beat me to it. *fingers crossed* Ideally, it's already there and she's got it and I'm just horribly out-of-date at reading your blogs, haha. Best wishes!