On Monday, we had the privilege of speaking to a Child Psychology class at Tarrant County College (TCC) in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Angela Williamson had seen us speak at the DFW Autism Conference in February and reached out to me after it. Ryan loves any chance to educate people about autism, so we gladly accepted the opportunity.
Speaking of educating people, Ryan and I designed business cards to pass out while we are in the community. There are a lot of instances where people are interested in Ryan and how he learned to communicate and many people ask about Freckles too. We thought that these would come in handy.
Back to the presentation–Angela had asked if Grace would be able to come too so that she could give the sibling’s perspective. My mother-in-law, Margaret (called Granny by the kids) joined us as well. We arrived at TCC close to 12:15 (my goal was to get there earlier, but that did not happen) and we rushed in to get Ryan to use the restroom and get everything set up in the classroom. Angela and I had discussed the technology set up there and she sent me pictures so that I knew what to expect. Of course, we still had an issue. I began the presentation without the Power Point, and she called for help from the tech department.
Ryan has now participated in this presentation 4 times. I like to start out by introducing myself and Ryan, and allowing him to say a few words to the audience so that they know how he communicates and that quite possibly they are drawn in by this fascinating method of communication. Our presentation is about our family’s journey with RPM over the past 3 years and I include videos from Ryan and me working in our first session ever together, a video a few months in progress, a video with Soma, and what an RPM lesson looks like today.
The students were informed about some of Ryan’s behaviors that might appear during the presentation. One of them was how he might try and grab their water bottles and cups. Well, this still happened several times and the students were very gracious about it. Ryan is so fast and sneaky, it is hard to stop him.
Despite doing the presentation several times now and Ryan wanting to participate, he still tried to escape the room. Luckily, Angela brought her husband Vaughn, a Dallas firefighter, with her to class and he acted as Ryan’s bouncer/enforcer. Instead of bouncing people out, he brought Ryan back in each time that he escaped. Now picture it, Ryan who is now about 85lbs, being carried back in different ways every time he is brought back to the room–first cradle style, then on his back–you get the idea. Ryan was having so much fun (which is one of the reasons why I think that he continued to try and escape!)
The class was from 12:30-1:50 pm. The presentation, including the videos, lasted a bit longer than an hour so that left some time at the end for questions. Angela had given us some questions beforehand for Ryan and me to answer and he answered several of them at home for time purposes, but I left a few unanswered so that he could answer them on the spot. We did not get to all of the prepared questions. He also answered some questions that were asked by the students who were in attendance.
Here are some of the questions we answered at home:
Does your family follow a routine on a daily basis? SORT OF. WE DO SOME OF THE SAME THINGS. REALLY LIKE ROUTINES. ROUTINES ARE GOOD. LIKE TO DO PREDICTABLE THINGS. (In response to school days and having a list but not necessarily doing it in the same order each day) TOO LOVING HOW WE DO IT.
What’s your (Ryan) favorite part of your day at school? DEARLY LOVE HOMESCHOOL. MY FAVORITE PART IS REALLY THE IDEA THAT I HAVE CONTROL, FITTING TOO MUCH COOL STUFF IN MY DAY.
What’s your favorite subject in school? (and one student wanted to let Ryan know that history is her favorite subject) LIKE TO ALWAYS LEARN ABOUT HISTORY.
What is your favorite activity to do? BOOKS ARE MY LIFE.
What strategies do you use to help yourself focus on the task at hand? GOOD TO THINK THAT I AM MOTIVATED TO LEARN SO I DON’T NEED STRATEGIES.
Are you an artist? Do you draw, paint, sculpt, write stories or poetry, or play music? If so, what inspires you? MORE LIKE A WRITER. STORIES ARE FUN TO WRITE.
Do you think you have any different feelings or thoughts than what you think other 10 year old boys have? NO.
Do you like to play any sports? GEARING UP TO TRY SWIMMING. TOO WISHING. I AM DEARLY CHALLENGED. CARING TO WORK ON, CALLING IT, MOTOR MOVEMENT.
He answered these two in class:
What makes you happy? GOOD TO SAY, PREACHING TO THE CHOIR, BUT BEING AN AUTISTIC ADVOCATE.
What is your favorite food? CHICKEN
And a few more by students like:
I know that you visited Wisconsin. Are you a fan of Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers? NOT LIKING FOOTBALL AS MUCH AS I PREFER BASEBALL.
Do you have a favorite comic book character and if so, who is it? YES, CARING TO SAY BATMAN.
And then we had to wrap it up because the class was almost done. Grace was our helper and passed out our handout and Ryan’s business cards.
And once we were home, Ryan had this to say about the experience.
LIKE TO THANK ANGELA AND VAUGHN FOR ALLOWING US TO REALLY SPEAK. TOO IMPORTANT TO ME TO DO THESE THINGS.
“Ryan, if you want to do these things, why do you try and escape the room?”
CARING TO SAY TOO HARD TO STAY.
“I think part of the reason might be because it was fun for you to be picked up.”
REALLY LOVE VAUGHN FOR PICKING ME UP. HE SEEMS SO FUN. WILL YOU ALLOW ME TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH HIM?
“They did invite us over to see their donkeys and feed them french fries (Vaughn told Grace and Ryan all about this.) I think that they are really good people and I would love to spend more time with them.”
LIKE AGREE WITH YOU.
“Anything else that you want to say about the experience?”
TOO GOOD TO PREACH ABOUT AUTISM ACCEPTANCE. MOM I AM WISHING TO DO MORE PRESENTATIONS.
“Is there anything that you would change or like to do differently?”
SOMETHING I WOULD CHANGE IS TO HAVE DAD THERE.
HE IS PART OF THE FAMILY AND HE GIVES A DAD’S PERSPECTIVE.
“Well Ryan if we do these, we do need to bring Dad because we were lucky that Vaughn was there to chase after you. Dad had to work and next time we will try to schedule it when he can come with us. Anything else?”
GIVING GRACE ALWAYS A THUMBS UP. LIKE TOO LOVING GRANNY. FOUND AN AUTISTIC ADVOCATE IN GRANNY.
HAPPY TO SAY I FOUND A NEW FRIEND IN VAUGHN TOO.
**Just a quick follow up to say that we received the results from Ryan’s EEG and the results were unremarkable, meaning that the EEG was normal. This is probably the best case scenario as Ryan won’t have to do an EEG again for a while, he will not need anti-epileptic medication, and we have ruled out one thing that may be interfering with speech. Now, this was only a 24 hour EEG, so it cannot completely rule out the possibility of seizures, but we don’t suspect that he is having any right now, so we can be pretty sure that this is accurate.**