Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Flicking those switches
After my last blog which was rather negative and self pitying, I’ve decided to tell you about something which happened at the weekend which sums up Dr. Destructo’s progress since he began his early intervention in the last week of October. On receipt of the diagnosis, we immediately contacted the SENO to secure either a preschool place or home tuition for the Doc. At first we thought that an ASD playschool was the ideal solution and were delighted to find out that there was a very good possibility of a place in one locally. We cursed our luck when the four places were taken and the Doc was number five on the list. I was really devastated; I thought this is just typical of our luck. So we changed tack and began searching for a tutor. We advertised anywhere we could think of and got some replies but it was very difficult to find someone who could provide the tuition hours that suited. Our best option was three separate tutors from a local ABA school who would provide the ten hours between them in the evenings after school. It was far from ideal, from 6pm on the Doc is usually tired from the day and we spend the last hour before bedtime chilling or wandering around outside, nothing too hectic. I had no faith in this setup, but seeing as we had no other suitable alternatives I thought we would have to just put up with it.
And then our luck changed. I was checking the Special Needs board on Rollercoaster.ie and noticed a post from a parent looking for a Tutor in our area. Over the course of the virtual conversation it became apparent that the hours the Tutor could provide did not suit the original poster. So I private messaged the Tutor and she agreed to come and meet up. When K arrived in our home, it was like one of those magical movie moments where everything just clicks into place. We loved her immediately. She was warm and friendly, years of experience and very professional. Dr. Destructo of course never even looked at her, but we knew we had to do everything we could to get this Tutor sanctioned from the DOES. We got some great advice from Petunia about how to play the DOES at their own game and after some ‘reservations’ from the DOES, this angel was given the seal of approval. I pictured some hairy old crone bent over a dusty desk with gnarled fingers holding the stamp and eventually after some ego satisfying power wielding, grudgingly stamping our application form.
And so began the Doc’s home tuition. Ten hours until his birthday in January and now on 20 fantastic hours of learning, fun and life experience. We are constantly amazed at how much the Doc has improved. It is literally like several switches have been flicked on and the lights are now shining through. The big issue at the start was to find a suitable reinforcer. The Doc is not overly motivated by sweets, he can take or leave them. Because he used to have such fleeting attention, no toy held enough attraction for him to engage in a task. And then we came up with the idea of a DVD player and to this day, this is his main reinforcer. He started working for one token which gave a couple of minutes of a DVD. The Doc quickly progressed onto a token board and has to complete a lot of tasks now to get his DVD fix. K is constantly challenging the Doc and once a task has been mastered it is removed and a more difficult one introduced. At the start when we were working on the Doc’s IEP I thought he would never master any of the tasks but only last week we had a meeting and rewrote the IEP. More and more switches are being flicked every week and we are certainly enjoying the rewards. And it is not surprising that the Doc’s first word seems to be D V D.
Last week myself and the Doc went on one of our rambles around town. We usually park in the local shopping centre and if it’s fine, I pop him into his buggy and we potter around the shops and pick up some bits and pieces for his classroom. We are in the local Educational Supplies shop getting some posters and a frieze and then headed across to Mothercare. The Doc spotted a magnetic letter centre and spent ages playing with it. I’m not sure why I didn’t just get it for him but we left and headed home. That’s another benefit to his early intervention, his concentration levels have improved so much that he will spend a good bit of time on a single toy once he is interested in it. On Saturday, myself and my sister in law were in town and again in Mothercare. The shop assistant put some Early Learning Centre brochures into our bags. We headed home and the Doc was fast asleep after his exertions in the Fun Factory. When he woke up he had his usual root in the shopping bags looking for hidden treasure and he was delighted to find the catalogues. For a while he flicked through pointing things out and enjoyed looking at all the toys. Eventually he came upon the picture of the magnetic number centre. He was thrilled and keep showing it to us and doing one of his funky dance routines looking at it. I was laughing telling P about how he had been fascinated with it in the shop. For the last while, the Doc is amazed by letters and words. So he carried the catalogue around for an hour or so and as we were getting ready to sit down to look at the match, he started to wave bye bye to P and was pushing him to the door showing him the catalogue. Because the Doc is such a visual learner he has really taken to PECS. And he improvises using pictures in newspapers or on posters to request things from us. It dawned on me that he wanted to be brought to Mothercare to play with the letters. I asked him if he wanted to go and he approximated yes and went for his jacket.
On the drive into town, he kept on looking at the picture in the catalogue and only gave out when I drove past Mothercare to find a parking spot. I explained we had to park so he happily went back to the catalogue. We got out of the car and he marched, and I mean marched down the path and straight down the back of Mothercare to where the toys were. He sat down and began playing so I picked up one in a box and showed it to him. He started to carry it out of the shop but I bent down and explained we had to pay. He understands the concept of paying for things before he can have them because I have explained it to him each time we are in a shop. Of course there was a bit of a queue but he just stood beside me and waited. The Doc waited, how brilliant is that? I was bursting with pride that he understands so much now. We paid for the centre and then back to the car. He made the lamh sign for open but I just said we need to wait until we get home, which he did. Not a peep out of him and as soon as we pulled into the driveway he let me help him carry it in and he sat at the table and played with it for ages.
It seems like such a mundane and ordinary event but to us it was huge. It demonstrates how many of the switches have been flicked by his early intervention. Myself, P and K are all members of Team Doc and we will continue under the wonderful guidance of K to provide the Doc with the interventions which have awakened our little man’s consciousness, awareness, sense of fun, learning abilities, understanding and communication skills.