Finding a way out from the upside down – Communication in Autism

This popped up yesterday from 3 years ago and it really struck me how our current system can underserve our children. Up to this point the school had not even been willing to assess EJ for the use of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) which can be anything other than standard methods like speaking. So for instance, letterboards, iPad apps and dedicated devices are all part of AAC. We were lucky…he showed us he could read by matching pictures to words just a few months before this video. This was the day when I realized he could break down words into letters and type them. Looking back it seems nuts that I doubted that for even a millisecond but we were told he was just gonna learn life skills and probably would not be able to read or write.
Also yesterday I was commenting with a mom whose son started spelling to communicate with her by using his magnetic alphabet letters on the fridge. It reminded me of EJ showing us glimpses like this (it also reminds me a bit of Stranger Things, hence my blog title). These children were all able to find a path to show they were in there. Some…many children may not have those opportunities or motor skills so the current system just labels them severe and low functioning. It is us that need to function better to find the different ways to help people communicate and access everything the world has to offer.  We need to stop setting expectations so low and to presume the best in ALL.  We must do better.
Here’s my response to the mom whose child was able to show he could communicate by using magnetic letters…
“First, can I tell you how my heart just leapt for joy at the fact he started communicating through spelling to you on a magnetic board! He found a way to show you his intelligence at such a young age! My son loves letters and would trace them on signs etc but many in the current system wrote this off to OCD. I met another boy whose mom was told to stop sending him to school with the alphabet flash cards he loved because “he won’t be learning to read or write so they are just a distraction” (SMH) I am by no means an expert because we were able to pull my son out and homeschool him when we saw how detrimental our school options were. But my thoughts would be for you to train or bring a trained IA who can help with the regulation piece. Remind the school that it’s the SENSORY REGULATION part that will need a carefully thought out plan and not the ACADEMIC SKILLS or INTELLIGENCE part. Try to impress on everyone who has the honor of working with him that respecting his intelligence and speaking to him in a calm manner will help to build his confidence in them. It’s so critical to build that relationship and environment of not only awareness and acceptance but EMBRACING and ENGAGING confidence. With homeschooling we were able to cut out the non helpful ones along the way but you’ll have to be vigilant since he’ll be at school. It’ll go a long way that he knows YOU know his capabilities. Reach out to this community often. Best people on the planet IMHO 

Thanks for reading!  Next post will be more EJ writings.  I just did this one after bedtime so I wasn’t able to get his help.

Some of you remember that just about 3 months ago we discovered EJ could read. Today we got to see him type independently for the first time! Thank you #wapadh and Darlene Hanson for making this wonderful communication workshop available. I can't wait to put together events with you at #werockthespectrumwhittier

Posted by Sabrina Lu on Saturday, February 7, 2015