O Joyous Day

Coco and I had a rare afternoon of not too much homework.  It feels like there’s never enough time lately for RPM lessons and creative writing so we took the time to do some skill building.  Then I asked Coco if she had any poems in her heart and she said YES.   

After she completed her final verse I asked her who she was speaking to in the poem and she said HASHEM.  I asked her what will happen on this joyous day and she said REALLY NOT SURE BUT IT WILL INVOLVE BEING ABLE TO COMMUNICATE.

 

O JOYOUS DAY

YET ANOTHER AVERAGE DAY GONE BY

YET ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL BEGINNING

KEEPING WATER IN THE SOIL

EVEN THOUGH THE AIR IS DRY

FIND THE MEANS TO PRAY

IN THE MIDST OF AMAZING AMBIVALENCE

YEARS ARE NOTHING TO THE SOUL

THIS TIME WILL PASS QUICKLY

GONE TO YOUR OLD HIDING PLACE

ON A SEARCH FOR YOU

BUT YOU WERE OUT

ZEALOUSLY ATTRACTING NEW FOLLOWERS

AT FEATS OF STRENGTH I AM HOPELESS

BUT I AM THE CHAMPION OF PATIENCE

YES ILL WAIT

FOR THAT JOYOUS DAY

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Teenager Dreams

On this dreary, wet, cold night, Coco had a homework assignment to “free write” for 5 minutes.  And this is what came out.  I was not planning to post it.  My sister came over for dinner and I shared it with her.  She and I shared similar teenaged (charmed, beautiful, blessed) experiences – years apart but in the same place.  Through teary eyes she said ” you should post it.”  This one just felt intensely personal to me, but I asked Coco.  “Should I post it?”  Coco’s repose was “ABSOLUTElY.”  I’m not sure why Coco wants this shared.  She’s tired today and still eating her dinner and I just don’t want to pester her too much.  But from previous conversations with her, I think I know why she wants it shared.  Coco wants the world to know that not being able to speak doesn’t mean she has nothing to say.  Not being able to control her body doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the same feelings in her body as everyone else.  This piece was a poignant reminder for me.

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TEENAGER DREAMS

 

I DREAM OF TELLING SECRETS OVER CUPS OF COCOA IN FUZZY PAJAMAS TOWARDS MIDNIGHT

I DREAM OF FOOTBALL GAMES AND POM POMS

I DREAM OF YELLOW STARS OVER OPEN WATER SPARKLING WITH BONFIRE REFLECTIONS

I DREAM OF TEST DRIVES AND LEARNERS PERMITS

I DREAM OF JUMPS OFF THE BRIDGE

HOLDING HANDS

STRING BIKINIS

I DREAM OF FIRST LOVE

FIRST KISSES

I DREAM OF PROM DRESSES AND CHIFFON LAYERS

I DREAM OF FRIENDSHIP AND ALWAYS LOVE

 

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Thankful

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Coco’s response when I asked her what she is thankful for this year

I AM THANKFUL FOR ONE THING MORE THAN ANY OTHER

MY ETERNAL LOVE AND ETERNAL FAITH IN GOD

ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE THROUGH GOD

I HAVE ONLY GOD TO THANK FOR MY FAMILY WHO LOVE ME

BECAUSE OF HIM I HAVE A VOICE AND THE HEART TO USE MY WORDS TO HELP OTHERS

AS LONG AS I LIVE I WILL USE MY GIFTS TO DO GODS WORK

AND GIVE THANKS FOR ALL IVE BEEN GIVEN

Happy Thanksgiving Day

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Every Morn

EVERY EARLY MORN

I TELL MYSELF

TODAY IS THE DAY

I CAN DO IT

TYPE AND TOUCH THE ANSWER

CONTROL MY BODY

TEMPER MY EMOTIONS

BE A GOOD GIRL

YELL IN MY HEAD

AND NOT OUT MY MOUTH

ATTEND ALL MY CLASSES

KEEP MY SHOES ON

ANGER IN CHECK

I VENTURE FORTH

TO CONQUER MY DISABILITY

EVERY DAY STARTS WITH THIS AGENDA

DARING TO GO FORWARD

TO BEAT EXPERTS PROGNOSIS FOR ME

ONE INCH OF GROUND AT A TIME

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Claire de Lune

Coco and I try to squeeze in an RPM lesson every day.  RPM is the teaching method that led Coco to communication.  RPM (rapid prompting method) involves teaching students age appropriate content and keeping their attention through a variety of strategies.  Students start by answering choice questions and eventually work on spelling their answers on stencils or letter boards and eventually work up to responding to open ended answers.  We have achieved this goal, but the skill-building never stops.  It’s the most effective method for learning for Coco and we are always trying to build up her spelling stamina.  We hope that someday she will be able to type independently and then she will be allowed to communicate at school.  We think RPM will help us get there.

Our material this week for our home lessons is about great classical composers of different time periods.  The book we are using comes with a companion CD that has samples from each composer.  Coco asks us constantly to play the CD for her.  In particular, she keeps coming back to “Claire de Lune” by Claude Debussy.  If you’re unfamiliar or would like a reminder of this piece…

She asked me on her letter board what the track number of this piece was – so she could look for it and know when it’s coming.  I asked her what she liked so much and she said,

THE HIGH NOTES ANSWER ALL LIFES QUESTIONS AND THE LOW NOTES MASSAGE MY BRAIN

Sometimes I wish I could experience the world through her senses.  I asked her today if she’d like to tell me more about this piece and how it speaks to her.  Here’s what she said…

ALONE AT NIGHT

OUT MY WINDOW

THE MOON SINGS ME TO SLEEP

MY NEAREST FRIEND

YEARS AGO I MADE A PACT WITH HER

I SEND HER ALL MY TROUBLES AND SHE TAKES A PIECE OF MY HEART IN RETURN

DEBUSSY WROTE HER A LOVE SONG

IT SOUNDS A LOT LIKE MY FRIENDS VOICE

THIS IS MY FRIEND THE MOON

SPEAKING TO ME

I asked her what she would say to Claude Debussy if he were alive and she could speak to him…

 

I’ll never hear this piece the same way again.  Thank you sweet girl.

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Peace

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Coco’s response when asked the question, “What does peace mean to you?”…

ALL AROUND AND MANY MILES
WE SEEK THE TRUTH
AND YEARN FOR JUSTICE
WE STRIVE FOR PERFECTION
AND LONG FOR BEAUTY
MAYBE WE’RE TRYING TOO HARD
A QUIET NIGHT
A GENTLE TOUCH
A LOVING GLANCE
A FULL BELLY
PEACE IN MY HEART
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
A NEARNESS TO NATURE
SENSES ABLAZE
THIS IS MY PEACE

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Indian Summer

SUMMER STAY

WEAR DOWN THAT CHILL

TILL HES TOO BROWBEATEN TO ASSERT HIMSELF

TURN BACK THAT CLOCK

TO THE DAYS OF YELLOW

HEAT THE ETHER

TILL THE CLOUDS BURN AWAY

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Harvest Moon

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HARVEST MOON

DREAMS OF CHRYSANTHEMUMS

BURNING WOOD STOVES

UNDER THE HARVEST MOON

CRISP AIR BRACES ME

A TIME FOR NEW BEGINNINGS

OLD DISAPPOINTMENTS HAUNT ME

A TEAR DROP LEAF FINDS MY HAIR

REMINDS ME THAT CHANGE WILL COME

REMINDS ME THAT TIME MARCHES ON

ANOTHER FALL

ANOTHER WINTER AFTER THAT

LOVE WILL KEEP ME WARM

LOVE WILL SUSTAIN ME

 

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To My Teachers (part 2)

To say that this week was brutal would be an understatement.  I can’t remember a time ever that I have seen my girls so distressed (at least not at the same time!).  The transition to middle school has been as painful as I feared in my worst case scenarios.  There is so much I have to say about this, but I will refrain, because I still have hope that we might salvage this mess.  Coco still has hopes for middle school too.  Besides, she says it all in this piece – there’s nothing more for me to add.

Here is a short video clip of her working on this piece:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=h6A8NgNyV-Y

Coco worked longer and harder on this than anything else she has ever written.  She literally collapsed asleep on the sofa when it was done.  When she came home room school, I gave her a few choices of what we could work on – I felt she needed to work on something productive and meaningful to erase the day.  She said REALLY WANT TO WRITE.  I asked her what she wanted to write and she said TO MY TEACHERS.  I asked her the format and she said LETTER.  She punctuated this herself, but I kept it all capitals because I did not want to disrupt her writing with questions about capitalization.  She wrote on the sofa.  She wrote at the kitchen table and dining room table.  She wrote as she paced the house – me following her with the board.  She had to get this out.  I hope it helped her release some of the pain and anxiety of the week.

DEAR TEACHERS,

I WANT TO TELL YOU SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME.  THE MINUTE I HEARD THAT I WAS GOING TO [school name omitted] EVERYTHING YESTERDAY AGO FELL AWAY.  NOW WAS MY CHANCE TO ESCAPE MY PRISON.  I WOULD FINALLY BE TREATED LIKE A HUMAN BEING AND NOT AN ANIMAL.  YEARS OF ABA SCHOOL WAS NOTHING SHORT OF TORTURE FOR ME.  TRIALS ALL DAY EVERY DAY.  TOUCH SAME. MATCH SAME.  WITH APRAXIA LIKE MINE PEOPLE JUST DONT GET IT.  ALL DAY EVERY DAY BEING ASKED TO DO THINGS I CANT DO WAS INFURIATING.  SIMPLE DEMANDS ARE IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME.  ALL DAY EVERY DAY IMAGINE BEING ASKED OVER AND OVER TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE.

YESTERDAY SEEMS TO HAVE FOLLOWED ME TO [school name omitted].  I AM APRAXIC.  THAT MEANS MY HANDS DONT FOLLOW THE ORDERS OF MY BRAIN.  EVEN WHEN I KNOW THE RIGHT ANSWER I CANT ALWAYS MAKE MY HAND TOUCH IT.  IT MAKES ME WANT TO SCREAM YELL THROW STUFF AND PULL HAIR.  JUST TODAY I DID ALL FOUR.  THESE BEHAVIORS HAVE BECOME SUCH DEEPLY INGRAINED MOTOR PATHWAYS THAT I CANT EVEN CONTROL THEM ONCE I AM ANXIOUS OR UPSET.  WHEN I AM DISTRESSED I AM POWERLESS OVER MY BODY AND IT RULES OVER MY BRAINS PROTESTS.  AT [school name omitted] IT IS NO DIFFERENT THAN [old ABA school name omitted].  ALL DAY, EVERY DAY I AM ASKED TO TOUCH ANSWERS.  I KNOW ALL THE ANSWERS YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.  YET I CANNOT SEEM TO TELL MY HAND WHICH ANSWER TO TOUCH.  BECAUSE OF MY APRAXIA TELLING MY HANDS TO DO ANYTHING IS A CRAPSHOOT.  SOMETIMES MY HAND OBEYS AND SOMETIMES IT DOESNT.

THE OTHER THING I AM STRUGGLING WITH IS PODD.  (PODD is the picture based system they are forcing Coco to use against her will and mine.). DESPITE SOME OPINIONS NOT ALL AUTISTICS ARE GOOD AT READING PICTURES.  I THINK PICTURES ARE MUCH HARDER TO DECIPHER THAN WORDS.  THE SET UP OF PODD IS TOTALLY CONFUSING TO ME.  AND I AM PRETTY SMART.  THE OTHER THING THAT IS MAKING MY LIFE HELL IS HAVING MY LETTER BOARD TAPED TO AN IPAD ATTACHED TO A STAND.  IT MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME TO SPELL.

RPM EPITOMIZES GOOD TEACHING.  THE TEACHING JUST DEPENDS ON PRESUMING COMPETENCE.  CARRIED OUT PROPERLY IT ALWAYS WORKS.  DONT TAKE MY WORD FOR IT CHECK IT OUT FOR YOURSELF.  AS TIME GOES BY I BECOME MORE AND MORE CERTAIN OF THIS.  ALL AUTISTIC PEOPLE HAVE A HIDDEN VOICE.  IT JUST TAKES GOOD TEACHING TO BRING IT OUT.  ABA IS NOT GOOD TEACHING.  TOUCH THE ANSWER IS NOT GOOD TEACHING.  ALLOWING A STUDENT THEIR VOICE IS A PREREQUISITE TO GOOD TEACHING.

I NEED A COMMUNICATION PARTNER.  I QUESTION WHY THIS WORKS MYSELF.  I THINK ITS BECAUSE ITS A SIMPLE MOTOR MOVEMENT PRACTICED OVER AND OVER EVERY DAY.  I JUST KNOW IT WORKS.  MY PEDIATRICIAN KNOWS IT WORKS.  MY PHYSIATRIST KNOWS IT WORKS.  MY PSYCHIATRIST KNOWS IT WORKS.  MY PHD PSYCHOLOGIST KNOWS IT WORKS.  SHE EVEN THINKS I AM TRULY GIFTED IN MY VERBAL COMPREHENSION.  TWO WELL REGARDED SLPS SAY IT IS WORKING FOR ME.  WHY DOESNT MY SCHOOL BELIEVE?  ITS THE ONLY PLACE IM EXCLUDED.  ITS THE ONLY PLACE I EAT ALONE.  ITS THE ONLY PLACE I HAVE NO VOICE.

YOU HAVE A CHOICE.  A CHOICE TO DO THE RIGHT THING BY ME AND OTHERS BEHIND ME.  I LOVE TO LEARN.  I WOULD BE YOUR MOST EAGER STUDENT.  I CANT BE A STUDENT IF I CANT SPELL.  I CAN ONLY DO IT THE WAY I CAN DO IT.  CAN YOU GIVE ME A CHANCE?  CAN YOU GIVE ME A FIGHTING CHANCE?  TAPING UP MY BOARD IS LIKE TAPING UP MY MOUTH.  WHAT MORE CAN I SAY?  MY FATE IS IN YOUR HANDS.

 

 

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Ode to Joy

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NEVER HAVING TO RESIST LOVE

TAKING MY OWN SWEET TIME

WANDERING THE PATH OF OLEANDER AND YELLOW DAISIES

PERCEIVING NO ILL WILL

YOU WAITING AT THE OTHER SIDE FOR ME

TO KEEP ME SAFE AND FEED MY HEART

THAT IS JOY UNENCUMBERED

MAKE ME YOUR TEARDROP

MAKE ME YOUR BUTTERFLY

I WILL OBLIGE YOUR HEART

LOVE HAS NO BEGINNING OR END

IT JUST IS

TOMORROW ALL MY DEMONS MAY COME BACK TO VISIT

YET I WILL NOT FACE THEM ALONE

FOR YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME

BEFORE I COULD SPELL YOU KNEW MY SOUL

YOU KNEW IT BETTER THAN I KNEW IT MYSELF

CAN JOY HEAL MY BROKEN BODY

YES IT CAN

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