One thing that we have not yet shared with our readers is that Ryan joined the Boy Scouts this Spring. He is having a great time so far and we will be sure to blog all about it in a separate post. Here are a few pictures of him in action.
Ryan finished up sixth grade and then our family made a trip down to see Soma Mukhopadhyay at HALO in early June. The whole family went and we turned it into a mini vacation in Austin, Texas. Ryan worked with her two days in a row and on the second day, did the entire session with the letter board flat on the table. This was great progress.
Later in June, Katie Anawalt, another RPM Certified Provider, came into town for a 3 day workshop that I helped to organize here locally. She is a Speech Therapist as well and she has many students who use a bluetooth keyboard during RPM lessons. She immediately tried it with Ryan and he was ready. He took off with it! The first day, he was very engaged and caught on quickly. He was hovering over the spacebar as if he was stuck but Katie encouraged him and he got it. By the second day, he was more confident. By the third day, he was making funny comments and doing open ended on the keyboard!
I wanted to practice with him at home because with most new skills with Ryan, especially RPM stages, I have had to practice with him considerably in order to replicate the progress that he had with a certified provider. Well, he caught on with me right away and now he types with me everywhere. In fact, he uses less repetitive words and phrases with the keyboard vs. the letter board!
In the RPM process, Soma does not recommend introducing a keyboard until the student is independent with the letter board (meaning the student holds his or her own board or the board is flat on the table). She explains that it is not much different whether you point on a letter board or a keyboard. I understand and respect this way of thinking, however, this introduction of the keyboard has reinvigorated both Ryan and me. I believe that the new visual field has made him concentrate more and that has helped him to better compose his thoughts. Also, the addition of the space bar and the physical pressing of the keys is amazing. I don’t have to guess where a new word ends or begins. I don’t know how to explain the pressing of the keys, but because of the tactile feel and the auditory feedback, I think that it is a game changer. Ryan has been spelling open ended on the letter board for four years now. It was time for this.
I also believe that technology makes him appear cooler or more legitimate. I hate to phrase it that way, but it is the truth. We have an app called Assistive Express, that has voice output technology. We loaded that app on my phone and it goes everywhere with us. Ryan loves that piece of it too. He can press the enter key and everything that he has typed is read aloud for him. He has had conversations with other kids, including other scouts, and adults and they watch the screen to see what he types.
Another thing that I have noticed is that Ryan actually initiates conversation now. He picks up the keyboard and brings it to me to initiate a conversation. He sits down in the spot at the kitchen table and will get my attention and wait until I bring over the keyboard. When we are in the middle of a lesson or a conversation, he will tap at the keyboard when he wants to say something. It is absolutely amazing to witness this initiation because as most parents of kids with autism know, initiation is extremely difficult.
Randy and I asked Ryan if he would be okay if we videoed him typing a message to the readers about his transition to typing. Ryan and I were both nervous, but we captured a good clip that we wanted to share with all of you.
Ryan had this to say after we finished taping him:
Ryan will continue to work on speech, handwriting, and the letter board flat on the table. We have plenty to work on and we will continue the hard work. For now, I am enjoying the conversations we have each day with the keyboard. It is like getting to know Ryan all over again.