Role Models and Ryan’s Story

So this improved way of delivering quality lessons to Ryan has really helped with his creative thinking and writing.  It allows for more outside of the box learning, not just memorization of facts.  It allows the student to apply what they have learned previously and what they are learning now to make it more of a way of learning and expanding how to think.  This is important for continuous learning to take place since we have an infinite amount of time to continue to learn throughout our lives (I am definitely still learning!)

For Music Tuesday (which we ended up doing the lesson today as Tuesday was jam packed),  we did a lesson on “Looking up to the Stars” which essentially was about celebrities as role models.  I like to use the site Readworks.org for lesson ideas.  This particular one was about Allen Iverson, the 76ers basketball player who wrote a rap album.  There were so many opportunities for Ryan to weigh in on different components of the lesson.  Here are some thoughts:

“How would you describe rap music to someone who has never heard it?”  IT IS WORDS WITH A BEAT TO THEM.

“Critics said it also promoted violence against women and others.  Can you use promoted in a sentence?”  SHE WAS PROMOTED IN HER LINE OF WORK.  I then explained to him that promoted here means supported or endorsed.

“What is your definition of a role model?”  SOMEONE WHO IS KIND AND REALLY IS SMART.

We then talked about the 76ers and a little about the team name and some brief history on Philadelphia.

We talked about Iverson defending the album because of the”rough life” he grew up in (I described Iverson’s childhood).  “How would you define a rough life?”  SO MEANINGFUL TO ASK ME.  TOO MUCH TO SAY.  IT SEEMS THAT PEOPLE WOULD HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS ABOUT THIS SUBJECT.  “What is your opinion on a rough life?” NOT BEING LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

“Do celebrities have a duty to be a role model?”  YES BECAUSE IT SEEMS THAT KIDS GET FIXATED ON PEOPLE IN CELEBRITY ROLES.

“Who do you consider one of your role models?”

ONE OF MY ROLE MODELS IS MEANINGFUL MARK.  HE IS ALWAYS CARING.  HE IS ALWAYS LEARNING MORE TO HELP ME.  MARK TOTALLY GETS ME.  HE DOES NOT MAKE ME FEEL TERRIBLE IF I MAKE A MISTAKE.  HE REALLY LIKES ME TO BE HAPPY.  IT IS HARD FOR ME TO SHOW HIM THAT I LOVE HIM BUT I THINK HE KNOWS IT.

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Ryan and Mark from a few years back.  Mark is often the photographer when we are around, so I could not find a recent picture of him and Ryan together!

Mark is Ryan’s step grandfather.  Since moving to Texas almost a year ago, we have gotten to see him and Granny (Ryan’s grandma Margaret) so much more.  Family is everything to us so this has been such a blessing.  Ryan is exactly right as Mark is ALWAYS trying to learn more to help Ryan and to understand Ryan.  It really means so much to me and obviously to Ryan too.

*****

Ryan completed his story today.  It took 4 days, writing a little bit at the end of each lesson this week.  I think that it is cool that he incorporated the Industrial Age (because the first lesson was about the first steam engines with a little history about the Industrial Age).  Here is the finished product:

I asked Ryan for a title for the story and his reply was MORE LIKE A CHAPTER OF A STORY.

ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A BOY NAMED CARL.  HE STOOD UP TO BULLIES.  ONE DAY HE LIVED ON THE EDGE AND DECIDED TO TIME TRAVEL BACK TO THE INDUSTRIAL AGE.  HE VISITED TOO LONG AND GOT TRAPPED THERE.  RIGHT NOW HIS PARENTS DON’T KNOW WHERE HE IS.  MORE TO COME LATER.

WE ARE UNDER FIRE DEALING WITH LIFEFORMS FROM ANOTHER PLANET.  HAPPINESS IS NO MORE.  CARL REALIZES HE NEEDS TO COME HOME.  CARL TRIES TO LEAVE.  THE TIME TRAVEL MACHINE BREAKS.  CARL NEEDS HELP.  HE USES HIS IPHONE TO CALL.  IT CALLS HIS CARING PARENTS.  HIS PARENTS ARE WORRIED HE WON’T FIND HIS WAY HOME.  CARL POORLY TRIES TO FIX THE MACHINE.  HE IS UNSUCCESSFUL.  IT IS LOOKING GRIM FOR CARL.

DEALING WITH THE BROKEN MACHINE PROVES TO BE CHALLENGING FOR CARL.  LEARNING TO MAKE IT WORK BY TRIAL AND ERROR BECAUSE HE CARED TOO MUCH FOR GIVING UP ON IT.  CARL PREVENTS THE LIFEFORMS BECAUSE HE WINS, FOR GOOD ALWAYS TRIUMPHS OVER EVIL.

THE END.

A Retreat, The Cruise, and Training

So I can’t believe that it is the end of June.  I knew that this would be a busy month, but sheesh.  This month started with me attending the first annual RPM Homeschooling Parents Retreat Weekend in Maryland.  This was my first time traveling without kids on an airplane in 10 years.  The weekend was a wonderful way to recharge my battery, connect with like-minded parents, and share ideas and strategies.

It was awesome.

*****

I came home and we got ready for our family cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.  We left five days later.

Ryan has been on two other cruises with us, but this one was different as this was the first time that we knew that Ryan clearly understood everything going on around it.  I was both nervous and excited about it.  I knew that the excursions would be amazing exploring and learning opportunities for both Ryan and Grace and that we would have a lot of family fun.

And we did have fun.

Ryan’s favorite activity on the cruise turned out to be rock climbing.  Ryan was up early one morning and I had gone out to the jogging track on the cruise ship before everyone started moving.  Once I returned, I took Ryan out and we explored the ship.  We went by the rock climbing area and I asked him if he wanted to try rock climbing (I had remembered that both Ryan’s friends Fox and Brayden both liked to rock climb).  He replied DEARLY WANT TO TRY ROCK CLIMBING.  We waited in line to check in when we met Ivo, the man behind the desk at the rock climbing station.  I explained to him that we had come on a whim and that Ryan was interested in trying it.  I also told Ivo that Ryan was autistic and that he could not speak but he understood everything.  I mentioned that he would likely need a lot of assistance in the beginning to try and do it as his motor planning and movement is poor.  Ivo was just as kind as could be and said no problem.  I also mentioned to him that we could wait in the line, but I asked if we could wait until it was Ryan’s turn in order to put the helmet and harness on him. Ivo said that we would not have to wait and that he would get Ryan started now.  One curveball that we ran into was that you had to have socks on to wear the special shoes to rock climb.  Ryan was in Crocs.  I had this idea that I would give Ryan my socks to wear (remember I had sneakers on from the jogging track) and Ryan agreed to wear them.

So Ryan endured my socks, rock climbing shoes, the harness, and a helmet because he wanted to try to rock climb so badly.  Let me tell you, this was hard for him but I kept reminding him to just focus on the rock climbing not the gear and that we would get it off of him as soon as he was finished.

Ivo was awesome.  He was patient with Ryan and Ryan did great.  He actually started climbing and Ivo shouted, “Ryan you are like Spiderman!” but he shortly lost his focus and came down.

He tried two more times and then he spelled:  EAGER TO TRY AGAIN TOMORROW.

So we tried it each day that we could while we were on the ship.  Ryan spelled that IT IS REALLY HARD but I mentioned to him that he would get better with practice.  I told him that he didn’t get great at the letter board overnight and that if he was interested, we would keep exposing him to it.

We did have two issues while we were on the cruise.  I share these because I think that it is important to be realistic about potential situations that could arise for any autistics on a cruise.

Grace is calling this incident, “Mickey’s Wild Ride.”

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Ryan has a strong impulse to throw things into pools, water, or off of ledges.  His beloved Mickey landed on top of one of the elevators.  Luckily, after alerting guest services to the issue, we found him at the guest services desk the next morning.

The second incident was a casualty and it was definitely an accident.  Ryan dropped his iPad while he was carrying it near the stairs.  Our stateroom attendant had a question for me and the nanny that was with us and Ryan slipped too far from us in that instant and the iPad dropped three flights of stairs and cracked.  If you know Ryan, you know that he is extremely attached to his iPad, especially for background noise and for comfort.  He spelled I AM SO SORRY.  We were not mad at him, we were just worried and sad about the situation.  He then spelled:  I AM TOO DEPENDENT ON MY IPAD.  We told him that this would be a good opportunity to try and wean him off of his dependence.  He actually did great the rest of the trip and did well on the plane ride home (which I was worried about.)

Here are Ryan’s thoughts on the cruise:

I LIKED ROCK CLIMBING THE BEST.  IVO REALLY TREATED ME WELL.  IVO IS A KIND PERSON, PICKING UP ON MY NERVES AND MAKING ME FEEL COMFORTABLE.

THE HARDEST PART OF THE CRUISE WAS NOT BEING ABLE TO LEAVE THE SHIP A LOT.

THANK YOU UNCLE OWEN AND AUNT LINDA FOR TAKING US WITH YOU.

*****

The reason that this post took so long to write is that not even two days after we got home, I drove down to HALO in Austin, Texas for specialized parent training in Rapid Prompting Method by Soma Mukhopadhyay.

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This was a four day, intense training about the origins of the method and the execution of it.  It was amazing.  I have been doing RPM with Ryan for over 2.5 years now and I learned so much.  And a wonderful added bonus was that I got to spend the week with Fox’s mom Lisa, who has become one of my best friends over the past year and a half.

I also got to spend it with several of the moms who attended the retreat two weeks prior (whom I adore too).

 

So be prepared for some changes and improvements to upcoming posts from Ryan and me.  I have already started incorporating several of the things that I learned this past week and it is going well.  Soma said to expect that there will be some steps backwards before improvements.  One of the things that I have already begun to do is to ask Ryan to correct or rephrase his sentences if they sound too poetic or unnatural for normal speech.  He has taken to this very well already, coming up with the rephrasing on his own.  The structure of our RPM lessons has changed to include more opportunities for creative thinking and writing.  As a result, Ryan is currently writing his first story with me!  It is awesome and I can’t wait to share it with all of you once it is done.

New Field Trips and the Last Day of School

Ryan has still been very interested in talking to employees in stores.  The problem was that when we got to a store, it became hard to think of questions on the fly and all of the distractions made it harder to organize his thoughts in a new environment.  We decided that it would be best to come up with 5 interview questions beforehand that could be tailored to most places that we would be talking to employees at.  Ryan came up with these questions:

1. REALLY WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT WORKING HERE.

2. UNDERSTAND I AM INTERESTED IN WHAT A TYPICAL DAY IS LIKE FOR YOU.

3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR EAGER ACCOUNTABILITY ABOUT YOUR JOB?

4. CALLING IT CARING TO KNOW THE WORST PART OF YOUR JOB.

5. REALLY WISHING TO FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR IDEAS FOR IMPROVING THE STORE.

On a whim, we went to another Home Depot store (still his favorite) and since it was not too busy, we were able to ask some employees his questions.

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Ryan with some of the employees the he interviewed at Home Depot.

I was still a teacher on a mission to get Ryan some more behind the scenes tours.  I approached our local Kroger store and asked if it would be possible for Ryan to get a tour of the store and to find out how a grocery store works.  When I spoke to the customer service desk, I was then referred to a manager.  The manager informed me that I would have to talk to corporate.  Well, anyone who knows me realizes that I am not so good at taking “no” for an answer (when it is a worthwhile cause), so I got home and called the corporate office.  We eventually scheduled a tour for Wednesday, June 1st at 10am with an employee named Stephanie.

Ryan was very excited about the tour.  We arrived and went to the Customer Service counter.  We explained why we were there and told them we were here to see Stephanie.  We were then told that Stephanie was not working today and that another manager could take us around (and he seemed very nice but he was the only one there and I didn’t want Ryan to not have the full experience) so we left our contact information and left disappointed.  Since it was Wednesday and I had the cleaning service at our home, we had to kill some time.  We went up to Keller Pointe to sign Grace up for Basketball Camp.  I had tried to do it online but couldn’t figure out how (I learned that you had to have an account) and the phone lines were busy.  It was something to do to kill time, so we went.

We were greeted by some employees at the front desk.  I explained to them about signing Grace up and then an idea popped into my head.  The employees seemed kind so I explained to them about what happened at Kroger and asked them if Ryan could interview them.  They enthusiastically agreed and we spent about 20 minutes with them.  Ryan really enjoyed it and took to a young lady named Paige who was very interested in how he was communicating.

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Ryan behind the desk with Paige and Kristina at Keller Pointe.

While we were there, I had gotten a phone call from a local number but I didn’t answer it because we were busy.  As we were driving around, I listened to the voicemail, and it turns out it was Stephanie from Kroger!  Apparently, she was there the whole time, but the front desk thought that I was talking about another Stephanie (apparently there are like 5 Stephanies that work there…)  She wanted to see if we could come back that day for the tour.  By this time, it was close to lunch time and I knew that Ryan was hungry, so I told her that we would stop for lunch and then head that way.

We got there and Stephanie greeted us.  She began the tour and we started in the Bakery where we spoke to Dionne.  She was very kind and I shared with her Ryan’s five interview questions.  We then spoke with Shaun in the meat department and interviewed him too.  I mentioned to Ryan that we should ask Shaun about his favorite meat to grill.  Ryan’s reply was: NOT SURE.  I REALLY LIKE CHICKEN.  (He is on a chicken kick for now because he had just asked for and eaten chicken for lunch.)

We then met B.J. in the specialty cheese area.  She offered Ryan some samples (even one that tasted like pizza) but he has some issues with texture and temperature and although he wanted to try them he just wasn’t able to overcome the sensory issues.

Stephanie took us in the back to the storeroom.  I was thrilled about this because ever since Ryan was little, he has been fascinated with storerooms and their doors (the swinging ones).  I was sure he would be excited, but he was actually acting nervous and scared.  He had a death grip on my hand and was walking on his tip toes.

I did ask him today about it and he spelled:  HARD TO SAY.  REALLY UNSURE IT WAS SAFE TO BE BACK THERE.

“But there were other employees back there and I was with you, so I don’t think that there was a need to be nervous.”

KIND OF CAN’T HELP IT.

We finished going around the rest of the store and we asked Stephanie his interview questions too.  It seems that most of the employees at Kroger feel as though more staffing is what is needed for the store to improve.

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Ryan and Stephanie in the entryway at Kroger.

We went upstairs and checked out the view of the entire store from the offices and we saw the conference room, the break room, and the training room.

Ryan was pretty tired by the end of the tour and he spelled: REALLY TIRED OF SPELLING. So we called it a day.  He spelled CARING TO SAY THANK YOU.

He wanted to talk about his day after we got home, but he seemed too tired as he was just spelling repetitive words.  I asked him about it today.

Ryan spelled:  CALLING IT A BIT LIKE ACADEMICS SUFFER WITH THESE TRIPS.

I told Ryan that Soma says that we need to work on other skills besides academics and that it is important that he can function in the community and speak to others and that he had to come up with the interview questions (which was an assignment) and that he learned a lot about a grocery store.

CARING TO SAY THAT YOU ARE CORRECT.

 

*****

Since it was the last day of school and Grace had a short day, we had a short day too.  We had Best Friends Book Club, CNN Student News, and then a lesson on poetry.  I selected the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I chose this poem for a number of reasons.  We talked about it and did our lesson and I asked Ryan why he thought that I chose the poem.  He spelled:  NOT SURE.
I explained that my seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Deeds (who I am friends with on Facebook!), had us memorize this poem.  I really love it and that I thought that it was appropriate for our school year as we “took the road less traveled” by homeschooling.  I told him that he could have easily gone to school and zoned out and just done babyish work and I could have easily allowed that and focused on other responsibilities, but we chose to homeschool and to challenge his mind.  We had to figure out our path along the way for what worked and what didn’t.
Ryan’s response:  CALLING IT BRILLIANT.
I asked, “Any last thoughts for the school year?”
GEARING UP FOR SUMMER SCHOOL.

Ryan’s Music Playlist & Music Homework (Spoiler Alert: One is a Song About Grandpa Bob)

Over the past 7 months, we have discovered that Ryan is a big fan of ballads and love songs.  With Music Tuesdays, we either have a lesson about an artist, a genre of music, or anything else musically related.  We also listen to a lot of music, especially via YouTube and Pandora.  Ryan’s music teacher, Ben, also comes to the house for a lesson.

Ryan has come up with a list of his favorite songs and they follow below.  The first two are his absolute favorites and the rest are in no particular order.

  1. Because You Loved Me, Celine Dion
  2. You’re Beautiful, James Blunt
  3. You Light Up My Life, Debby Boone
  4. Amazed, Lonestar
  5. Apologize, One Republic
  6. Marry Me, Train
  7. My Heart Will Go On, Celine Dion
  8. From this Moment, Shania Twain

Ryan told me to add:  ANY CELINE DION SONGS.  He absolutely loves her music.

*****

Ryan usually has a writing assignment each week as a part of his music lessons.  This is to get his juices flowing for writing song lyrics.  I wanted to share with all of you two recent writing assignments.

Ryan’s most recent music assignment was to come up with a list format for a song (inspired by The Sound of Music, My Favorite Things)

Annoying/Bad List

  1. UNDERSTAND IT GRIPS ME WHEN LOUD NOISES APPEAR SUDDENLY.
  2. REALLY BOTHERS ME WHEN IT MEANS A LOT TO ME BUT NOT TO OTHERS.
  3. WISHING TO GO IN THE POOL BUT I HAVE TO WAIT.
  4. BEING TREATED LIKE A BABY—WORST THING EVER.

I asked him, “Has this gotten better?”

REALLY CARING TO SAY BETTER

5.   FALLING ASLEEP EARLY.  DONT WANT TO MISS OUT.

6.   WISHING TO GO OUT BUT HARD TO CONTROL.

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Ryan out on a hike.

Good/Happy List

1.   UNDERSTAND I LOVE ROLLER COASTERS.

I had to interject.”I don’t like them at all.  I don’t like anything that makes me feel sick or motion sick.”

US TOO DIFFERENT IN THAT WAY.

2.  LIKE CARING PEOPLE.

3.  GOOD UNDERSTANDING.

4.  A COOL BIKE.

5.  MUCH FOUNDATION IN HISTORY.

6.  WISHING TO DO ANYTHING FOR CARING FAMILY.

****

The other assignment that I wanted to share was tweaking some words that he had written for a song about Grandpa Bob.  He had originally written some lyrics in January but we had not revisited them for a while.  Here is his song about Grandpa Bob.  The title is TO MEET YOU AGAIN.  For the record, we have not recorded it yet because he would like for it to be sung by a female singer.  Any volunteers?

DEARLY HARD TO SAY
REALLY WORRIED ABOUT YOU
I AM LIVING IN SO MUCH PAIN
REALLY WISHING TO GET YOU HOME

MEANINGFUL TO ME IN SO MANY WAYS
MISSING YOU FOR SO MANY DAYS
GEARING UP TOO MUCH FOR YOUR RETURN
TO MEET YOU AGAIN

BECAUSE OF YOU
I CALL INTO MY HEART
REALLY WISHING
WITH ALL OF MY HEART

PRAYING FOR YOUR RELEASE
SEEING PICTURES OF YOUR FACE
GIVING UP SO MUCH
YOU’RE A REAL LIFE SUPER HERO

MY WORLD COMES TO A HALT
WITH ALL CONSUMING THOUGHT
MUST DEARLY FIND A WAY TO GET YOU HOME
TO MEET YOU AGAIN

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Grandpa Bob and Ryan

**When I read this blog to Ryan for his approval (like I always do), he spelled TOO TOTALLY HARD TO LISTEN TO THOSE LYRICS.  We had not reread them in a few weeks.**

The Graduation and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

This past weekend, Ryan, Grace, Randy, and I traveled to Tallahassee, Florida for Uncle Doug’s college graduation from Florida State University.  We met up with the family on Friday afternoon and spent some time with each other and then all of us headed back to our hotel in Bainbridge, Georgia (which was about 50 minutes away).  Unfortunately, since it was graduation time, we were unable to get hotel rooms close to the university.

Doug’s graduation was at 9:00am in the morning.  We got up early and drove to the convention center (and we made it on time!)

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The Curry Family before the Graduation Ceremony.

Ryan was very well behaved during the graduation, even with the noise and very large crowd.

We took pictures and then we headed out for the drive down to Orlando Florida for the family celebratory dinner.

And then we hit traffic.

A lot of traffic.

So we left around noon and got to Orlando around 6:20pm with our dinner reservation at 7pm.

That was a total of almost 7.5 hours in a car and then we expected Ryan and the other kids to sit through a nice sit down dinner.

Grandma Chris to the rescue!  She had gotten us a private room for our party of 19.  Ryan and the other grandchildren, all 9 years and under, did great.

At the beginning of the meal, we had a champagne toast to Doug and all of his siblings made a special toast in honor of him.  Several other family members did as well.  Ryan was sitting next to me and I held up his board.  He spelled:  CARING TO SAY SOMETHING TOO.

So everyone quieted down and he spelled:

DEARLY HAPPY TO CELEBRATE YOU UNCLE DOUG.

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

CARING TO BE LIKE YOU WHEN I GROW UP.

*****

One of the things that several of us were looking forward to was our big trip that we had planned to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.  Ryan and I have read all seven books and we loved them.  This was a big deal.  Randy had to return to Texas for work, but the kids and I joined a lot of my family to do the parks.

It was 90 degrees, but we still brought the robes and of course the wands.

We had a great day.  We spent a majority of time in Diagon Alley (in Harry Potter World in Universal Studios), but we did see some other attractions and we took the Hogwarts Express to Islands of Adventure and spent time in Hogsmeade too.  And we got to do it again the next day, but we were down to a party of six (and Grandma Chris joined us for a while to make seven).

We had Butterbeer (okay the kids wouldn’t try it), Chocolate Frogs, Bertie’s Every Flavor Beans, Fizzing Whizbees, and Pumpkin Juice.  We walked through the stores and shops and went on all of the rides.  I even braved some of the ones that I wouldn’t normally go on just because it was Harry Potter!  My kids love rollercoasters though.

When we got to the park, one thing that was beneficial was to get an Attraction Assistance Pass.  Ryan can have a difficult time waiting, we thought that it would be best to get this just in case.  Since we went on a Monday and a Tuesday, it wasn’t so crowded, but because of the pass, we were able to get right on to most rides.  This was extremely helpful, especially since the heat was killer.

It was a great two days and it went by very fast, but I also want to be candid with all of you.  Some times were hard. Ryan’s impulses still get the best of him and we lost a wand (it was tossed in the water) and some ribbons (dropped down a sewer).  He is so fast and I was unable to stop him.  He does regret these things after he does them, but it is hard for him not to.

Ryan and Grace were amazing though.  Throughout all of the travel and waiting and heat, they were so well behaved.  I am always proud of them, but really they were awesome yet again.

We FaceTimed Randy when we got back to the hotel after the first night and Ryan spelled this:

CARING TO SAY BEST DAY EVER.

DEARLY LIKED ACTING LIKE HARRY POTTER FOR A DAY.

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Ryan in Hogsmeade.

Here are Ryan’s thoughts on the trip once we got back home:

REALLY LOVED THE TRIP.  MY FAVORITE PART WAS HARRY POTTER WORLD.  LIKED ALL OF THE RIDES TOO.  REALLY WANT TO TOTALLY GO BACK AGAIN.

 REALLY TOO MUCH FUN BEING AROUND THE LEVINSON FAMILY.

THEY ARE MY FAMILY TOO.

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The Levinson Family.

RPM Questions and Answers

After posting the video of Ryan spelling with his letter board, we received the following questions.  I wrote back directly to the person who submitted them, but I thought that they were great questions and that our readers could benefit from them.  With her permission, I have posted the questions below and I have answered them.

1. Does Ryan receive ABA therapy? Has he ever?

 2. How did you find out about RPM and how it works for Ryan?

3. Many people are skeptical of RPM. What would you tell those people?

4. Have you ever tried having Ryan type on a computer? If so, what happened?

 

1. Ryan has received a lot of ABA therapy. He started right at two years old and we continued ABA until he was seven years old and we had just started RPM. I think that most kids would benefit if it was for self help skills or life skills, not for discrete trials or drills. Ryan had early intervention so he had about 15 hours of ABA a week for the first few years and then when we moved to California he received 10 hours a week after school.  They can be used in conjunction with each other, but we did not feel like Ryan benefited from his ABA program and this was apparent once we began RPM.

If I could do the early years after his autism diagnosis all over again, I would have relaxed.  I was so frazzled with trying to get a specific amount of hours in and making sure that Ryan’s schedule had him engaged at all times, that it made me nuts (not to mention my family and likely Ryan too.)

2. I saw Soma Mukhopadhyay speak at a National Autism Association Conference when Ryan was four years old.  I thought the whole thing was interesting but I felt as though he would be speaking to communicate so I didn’t really pursue it and he was very young at that point.

I then saw the movie A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism and found it intriguing as well. (If you haven’t seen that movie it is narrated by Kate Winslet and the mom explores a bunch of different autism therapies as she comes over to the United States from Iceland and finally finds Soma and the second half of the movie is about her son’s journey with RPM.)

The third time I encountered RPM was in a waiting room for a treatment for Ryan. I met another mom who son was starting his first week of the treatments and we were on our last day. I asked her how she felt the treatment was going and she said that her son communicated that he had headaches. I looked at her and was so surprised and said “Your son can communicate that!?” She said yes and that he communicated with a letter board. She brought him over and I had noticed him earlier as he was an older child who was biting on a board book. I completely had underestimated him; I just figured he was a child with severe autism.  (I regret that.) He then began spelling out the most eloquent message about Soma and how his whole life changed and and how if he had never met her that he would’ve never been able to communicate his thoughts and feelings. I was a blubbering mess and was sobbing for about 10 minutes. I knew we had to pursue it for Ryan and I got him into a camp (three months later) with Soma’s apprentice, Erika Anderson, who happened to be in the Bay Area (where we were living at the time.) The mom in the waiting room warned me that it would not be easy and that open communication would take a while but I just knew that this was the right path for Ryan and I was willing to be patient and wait.  We focused on academics for the first year (and we still do) as Ryan was only in first grade and I didn’t know how much he knew.

As far as how I knew that it would work for Ryan?  I knew that he was capable of learning and I was excited about the possibility of teaching him grade level academics.  I knew that a lot of the responsibility would be on my shoulders to learn the method and become his teacher, and I was not going to let either of us fail.  I knew that Ryan would work hard too if he knew what the end result would be.

3. That RPM has changed our lives completely. Ryan’s life and our family’s lives are infinitely better. Ryan went from extremely babyish tasks to now doing above grade level work with me. We recently did a lesson on the JFK assassination and he found it fascinating and he now wants one on 9/11. I take him to museums, movies, anywhere he wants to go and he loves it. We have read all seven Harry Potter books and three of the Percy Jackson book series. Prior to this we were reading baby books. I now know that Ryan had always been listening to everything that we had been saying and had been taking it in, he just had no way to show it prior to this.

I would say that autism does not have to be a negative thing as people portray it. Ryan has made my life and the lives of all the people around him so much better and he has a truly different and amazing perspective on the world. I would’ve never imagined that I would do the lessons that I am doing with Ryan today, two years ago.  This wasn’t an overnight miracle.  Ryan worked very hard everyday to get to where he is today.

We have encountered some doubters along our journey.  I think that it is important to add that Randy, Ryan’s dad and a born analytical thinker, was skeptical of RPM when he had only seen videos of it.  When he finally saw it in person (in the waiting room) he knew it was the real thing.

A close family member recently confided in me that he wasn’t really sure that Ryan was spelling out his thoughts when he initially read the blog.  He had last seen Ryan in July 2014 and thought that it was wishful thinking that a child like Ryan could have such incredible thoughts and communication.  When he saw Ryan spell for the first time in September 2015, he realized how wrong he was.

Honestly, what I would ask the skeptic (if he/she is working in the field of autism as usually the skeptics are) is how many kids is he/she working with that are doing grade level and above material and doing all of the extracurricular things that we are doing? Our lives are completely different than they were before. Is he/she reading Harry Potter to any of the kids? Are the kids happy and excited to work with him/her (or are they running away and hiding?) We had not gotten to a lesson today (the day I initially answered these questions) because Ryan had his book club and we were finishing the reading for the book club.  I asked him what did he want to do next (because we had to run errands) and he spelled I WOULD LIKE A LESSON.

Ryan is asking for his education. I can’t predict what he’s going to say. Some of the vocabulary he uses I would never dream of. I think the big challenge with this is when you see it in person it really is not an issue of authenticity for the kids who are doing it very well.

The main goal is to focus on the academics for a very long time before the open ended questions. Ryan will sometime struggles with open ended questions when it’s not right after a lesson (or he is out in the community with a lot of distractions.) He doesn’t want to feel like someone is testing him.  He can write anything after a lesson when the question is open ended, based upon the lesson, and requires creative writing or thinking. That really gets his brain working.

The thing that really makes my blood boil about ABA (I apologize if this offends anyone, but usually the skeptics are in the ABA world) is that we would never treat a typical kid the way that drills are done in ABA. If the kid gets it right the first time, why do they have to do it 7 out of 10 times?  Any kid would try and escape and would certainly be bored.  And really, one M&M for a correct answer is not worth it (and ask my family, I love M&Ms.)

And why can’t we just assume that kids with autism have a normal or sometimes even above normal intelligence but that they just can’t communicate it?

The example I like to use is that when a five year old is entering kindergarten.  That child doesn’t have to prove how much he/she knows to get an education, but when an autistic five year old goes to kindergarten, he has to take tests/assessments and prove that he’s allowed to be there. It’s just not right.

4. As far as a typing on a computer, we are working towards that. We are very low-tech right now because Ryan is only nine years old but I’m actually working on him holding is own board and sometimes laying it flat to spell. There are many other kids who actually have moved to typing. I don’t know if you follow Faith, Love, and Hope… With Autism, but Philip types now.  Ido of Ido in Autismland also types to communicate.

We have tried a little bit with the keyboard but I’m not sure he’s ready for that. We do have another provider, Lenae Crandall, coming into town and she probably will try him on a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPad next week.

As I do with all of Ryan’s posts, I asked for his opinion prior to posting it.  He replied.  YES TO LIKING IT.  I KIND OF ALWAYS LIKE WHAT YOU WRITE.

I asked Ryan if he had anything to add to the answers for these questions and he replied: VISITING WOULD BE GOOD TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS IN PERSON.

*****

I hope that this helps answer some of the questions that many of you might have had.  We are only half way through April and Ryan and I have a lot more work to do for Autism Action Month!  Stay tuned!

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Stephanie and Ryan taking a tour of the Fort Worth Stockyards.

 

 

 

 

Board Games, the JFK Assassination, and One of Ryan’s Stories

 

We have talked about how RPM has been life changing for the family before, but I wanted to give you another example.

Lately, we have been doing board games at home and at family events and we include Ryan.  Some of the games that we have played are Headbands, Guess Who, Boggle (this one was hard for him because he can’t seem to look at the letters for too long), Apples to Apples for Kids, and Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit.

The other day, Grace asked if we could play a board game.  It was just Grace, Ryan, and me at home, so we had to play a game that would either require 2 or 3 players (if I didn’t have to hold the board for Ryan).  Grace went through her games and decided that she wanted to play Candy Land.  We had Ryan join us.

Now if you have never played Candy Land or if you haven’t played it in a while, here is a brief explanation of the game.  Each player gets a piece to move (Grace was the Queen, I was the Fairy, and Ryan was the King).  When it is your turn, you pick a card and turn it over.  It has a color or two of the same color on it and it indicates what space you move your piece to.  There are a few cards with pictures on them (essentially pieces of candy) and those spots are located on the board.  If you get one of those, you move to the space that matches the picture.

Grace starts setting up the game and she says to Ryan, “Ryan, Candy Land is a game of luck!”

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This is how Grace plays Candy Land.

We start playing and taking turns.  Ryan needs some prompting to pick up the card and turn it over (and I have to hold on to the cards so that he does not take them and scatter them everywhere).  Well, after a few turns, he is in the lead.  And then he draws a picture card of the peppermint candy, which sends him very far back on the board and he loses his lead.

Well he goes nuts.  He starts crying and runs to his room. Now I could tell that most of the game, he seemed on edge and a bit agitated, but this set him off.  I decided that it was best to leave him alone at this point.  Grace and I finished the game and drew the cards for his turn.  I ended up the lucky one and winning the game.

I went to see Ryan after and I asked him what was wrong.

“Why were you so upset?”

BECAUSE IT WAS TOO BABYISH.

“But Grace picked out the game.  It had nothing to do with you. She even mentioned that it was a game of luck and not a game of skill.”

IT REMINDED ME OF ALWAYS BEING TREATED LIKE A BABY IN THE PAST.

I understood where he was coming from, but I still explained that the choice of the game had nothing to do with him.  He really seems affected by anything that reminds him of being treated like baby.

*****

I mentioned in my last blog post that Uncle Dave was in town.  He was only in town overnight, so we wanted to do the touristy thing with him.  We decided on heading to Dallas for Dealey Plaza.

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The Curry Family at Dealey Plaza.

Randy drove the path of President Kennedy’s motorcade and we walked around Dealey plaza and saw all of the sites associated with the assassination.  We did not do the museum as we were a bit pressed for time.  I knew that it would only be appropriate to do a lesson about the events surrounding JFK’s assassination for Ryan.

One of the parts of the lesson talked about how every generation has a moment where they won’t forget where they were when an event happened.  The JFK assassination was one of them.  I told Ryan that 9/11 was the one for my generation.  We went on to discuss how the events of November 22, 1963 unfolded and the days following it.

After the lesson, I asked for Ryan’s thoughts.

I AM TOO MUCH MOVED BY THIS EVENT.

“So you liked the lesson?’

DEARLY GIVE IT TOO MANY STARS.

“Awesome.  I am glad.”

WOULD YOU BE FOND OF GIVING A LESSON ON MEANINGFUL, DEARLY SAD TWIN TOWERS FALLING?

“Wow.  Um I am not sure.  I might get emotional but I can try.  Give me some time to write one.”

WISHING TO KNOW MORE ABOUT IT.

*****

Ryan wrote this story with Adriana over a series of 3 lessons.  As I have explained before, Ryan does his best writing after a lesson.  I think that it gets his brain going.

SO ONCE UPON A TIME, A SPECIAL BOY CALLED ADAM HAD A MEAN NEIGHBOR.  THE MEAN NEIGHBOR CALLED ADAM DUMB.  THE NEIGHBOR TEARS UP THE GARDEN CREATED BY ADAM.  ONE COLD DAY, THE NEIGHBOR FOUND A FLOWER ON HIS STEPS.

THE MEAN NEIGHBOR ASKED ADAM IF HE LEFT THE FLOWER.  ADAM REPLIED THAT HE DID.  MEAN NEIGHBOR HAD TO ASK WHY.  ADAM TOLD HIM HE GOT REALLY FED UP WITH NEIGHBOR TEARING UP HIS GARDEN.  HE LOVED HIS GARDEN AND LEARNED THAT IT HAS BEAUTIFUL, LOVELY, MAGICAL POWERS.  THE FLOWERS COULD MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY AND THE MEAN NEIGHBOR GOT BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS.  ADAM NEEDED THE NEIGHBOR TO CHANGE.

THE NEIGHBOR SAID, “BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS, BOY, AND REALLY AM SORRY THAT I CALLED YOU NAMES.”

THE NEIGHBOR NOW BECAME THE NICE NEIGHBOR.

 

Opening Day, the Autism Experience Video, and Adventures

So, this happened on Monday.

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Ryan knew that we were going to Opening Day for the Texas Rangers for a couple of weeks now.  He also knew that it was just a special date with his parents by himself.  Over the past week, he would every so often spell something like EAGER FOR OPENING DAY or I AM TOO EXCITED FOR THE GAME.  For a few days prior to the game, we did some RPM lessons on the different players for the Rangers and their positions and we went over a lot of baseball terminology so that Ryan would be prepared.

Well Opening Day did not disappoint!  There were over 49,000 people in attendance and Ryan was awesome.  He navigated the crowd like a pro, sat for a few innings at a time (then breaks to walk around and scout out everything and people watch), and ate 2.5 hot dogs (no bun of course).  Honestly though, Randy and I weren’t sure what Ryan was thinking during the game.  He can be hard to read (I know, shocker).

I LOVED IT.  UNDERSTAND I GIVE IT FIVE STARS.

“Ryan, the only other event that I know of that you gave five stars to was the wedding, right?”

YES.

“Do you want to try and go to more games this year?”

YES.

And that is all I could get out of him on Monday night.  I was sure that he would have more to say yesterday.  Unfortunately, from the time that Ryan woke up until he went to bed, he was out of sorts.  He was constantly on the move, throwing and scattering anything in his path.  He couldn’t sit and he had a very agitated expression on his face most of the day.  We had our Skype Book Club scheduled for early that morning, but I knew that he would struggle (and to be honest, we had not yet read to the stopping point in the book for discussion) so Brayden’s mom and Fox’s mom both agreed to push out the time (their boys were having difficult days too).

We finally started Book Club and the first thing that Ryan spelled out to Fox and Brayden was ARE YOU GUYS ABLE TO CONCENTRATE TODAY?

I was surprised by this.

Then he spelled POOR BODY CONTROL TODAY.

For someone who was having such a hard time, he was very aware of it.

One of the other boys made a comment about having a difficult time and the effect it had on his mom.  Ryan responded:  I AM MAKING MY MOM CRAZY TOO.

Again, very self aware.

So Book Club was cut short due to a tough day all around.  Ryan kept pushing the board down onto the table and was in “super excitatory stim mode” so I knew that he would not be able to participate very well.  Usually at Book Club, two of the boys are doing fine and one might be struggling (and it is never the same kid).

Well, I got a bit eager and greedy and wanted to see if Ryan would share some more thoughts about the game from the previous day.  I should have known better as he really struggles with open communication when he is having a “poor body control day.”

MOM ARE YOU ASKING TO HAVE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT THAT WE HAD FUN YESTERDAY?

“Uh well no.  You told me you had fun.  I just wanted to get some more thoughts from you about the day in general.  I felt very guilty that we did not have your noise canceling headphones.”

So the story behind that is that I was sure that I had left them in my car and my brother Dave was in town and had borrowed the car for the day (I was right).  I had forgotten to get the headphones out of the trunk before he left.  I really was worried most of the game about how loud it was and felt awful that we didn’t have the headphones for Ryan.

BECAUSE I HAD SO MUCH FUN IT DID NOT MATTER.

*****

So there is a video circulating that is shown from the perspective of an autistic child and how he perceives his surroundings as he is walking with his mom through the mall.  Here is the video.

I was curious to see if Ryan thought that the video was an accurate portrayal of what he feels when he is in experiences like that.

NOT SUPER ACCURATE BECAUSE I FEEL THAT MY SENSORY SYSTEM DOES NOT SEEM THAT INTENSE.

“Is that why you were able to handle the game so well?”

LIKE BECAUSE GEARING UP FOR THE GAME SO MUCH MADE ME OVERCOME ANY ANXIETY.

I told Ryan that one day, when he is up for it, I would love for him to describe for me and for his readers what it feels like when he is having a poor body control day (not on that day of course).  It is hard for me to understand what that must be like for him.  I guess the video portrays the input to the system (but Ryan does not think that it is accurate for him).  I would like a video of what Ryan’s body feels like to him when he isn’t in control.  It is hard for me to watch him like that.

*****

Today was our Wednesday to be out and about.  We have a cleaning service that comes to our house every other Wednesday in order to help me out with the deep cleaning of the home.  I would not be able to keep up otherwise, especially with homeschooling Ryan.  We leave for a few hours so that we are not in their way.  I did not have anything in particular planned today other than a late breakfast for us at Mod Market and to do some exploring.  We ended up in Grapevine and we drove through downtown and then stumbled on to a park–by the water!  Oh how this Florida/California girl has missed the water (even if this was a lake!)

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Well the playground was under construction, so we walked around for awhile and then I was on a quest to find another playground.

We found one!

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And it had a zip line!

Since Ryan has poor motor planning, zip lines are tricky.  We have done the one that is like a seat that he can be buckled into, but the one that you hold on to is a different story.  We tried that a few weeks ago and I wasn’t sure that he would hold on, so I ran with him.  This time, I got braver and he seemed more confident, so I hoisted him on and let him go.  And he made it!  Like really made it to the end and bounced back with a lot of force and held on until he came back to me!  It was amazing!!!

So then he wanted to do it again and I thought that I would try and catch it on video.  This time wasn’t as successful.

But he got up and brought it back to me!  He wanted to do it again!  He did it two more times for a total of four times in a row (the perk of being a homeschooler during school hours) and was 2 for 4 in making it all the way back.  Honestly, I was so excited and proud of him for having the confidence to try and for getting back up again after falling twice!

We sat down briefly after we got home to talk.  Today he is still not in complete control, but he is better than yesterday.  I asked him what he thought about today, especially the zip line and just being out and about.

UNDERSTAND WORDS LIKE PLEASING, FORTUNATE COME TO MEAN PICKING UP EACH TIME THAT I GO ON A COOL ADVENTURE WITH YOU.

 

 

Autism Awareness (I mean ACTION) Month and Some New Skills (and a Video!)

I asked Ryan if we could write a post about Autism Awareness Month as it begins April 1st.  He thought that this was a good idea.  I asked him what he thought about a whole month being devoted to Autism Awareness.

His response:  I FIND THAT CARING HAS TO BE TOO MUCH MEANINGFUL, SO GIVE IT ACTION INSTEAD.

“So you want to call it Autism Action Month?”

REALLY LIKE THAT NAME.  CARING TO USE IT INSTEAD.  TOO MUCH TALK.  I LOOK FORWARD TO MORE ACTION.

We brainstormed and thought about 3 thoughts for taking action for Autism Action Month:

  1. REALLY WISH THAT HALLMARK BEHAVIORS LIKE MAKING FUN OF AUTISTICS WOULD BE A THING OF THE PAST.
  2. MEANINGFUL TO NOT MAKE FUN OF VERY AUTISTIC BECAUSE THEY CANNOT DEFEND THEMSELVES.

“Ryan, your readers are not likely the ones making fun of autistics.  What would you want to say to your readers for action that they can take?”

***I thought that it would be a good idea to video the response and Ryan agreed.  Yesterday, we watched several videos from some of our favorite bloggers like Philip, Ido, and Graciela.  Today, Ryan’s friend Fox was featured on Sesame Street’s Autism Series.  Ryan spelled yesterday:  CARING TO DO MY OWN VIDEO.  

I have been wanting to include a video of Ryan using the letter board for a long time.  The biggest concern that I had was to be sure that it is clear that Ryan is doing the spelling and I am not influencing him at all.  This is hard to capture on video as in person there is no questioning that the student it doing it.  Even Randy (Ryan’s dad) was skeptical watching videos of other children using RPM to communicate prior to seeing a child do it in person.***

3.  I AM COUNTING ON YOU GUYS FOR MAKING SURE ALL CARING, CALLING IT AUTISTICS, ARE INCLUDED WHENEVER POSSIBLE.

*****

Recently, it has been suggested to me to have Ryan practice trying to hold his own board.  This would be a brand new skill to him as it requires two hands (steady ones).  When I spoke to Ryan about this, he spelled:  GIVING IT A BIG THUMBS UP.  MOM, I WATCH EACH DAY HOW YOU HOLD THE BOARD AND TOO MUCH I AM WANTING TO DO IT MYSELF.  UNDERSTAND I WANT TO WORK ON IT A LOT.

Ryan and I have been practicing some dictation words from our RPM lessons each day.  We do just a few.  I pick short words from the session and I hold the board and have him spell them.  I immediately place the board in his left hand and have him shadow the spelling of the word again.  This requires a lot of prompting on my part like “get it, move your hand, you’re one letter off, etc.”  These are known words and a new skill, so as part of the Rapid Prompting Method, there is prompting (especially in the beginning stages of any new skill like moving from paper choices to the 3 large stencils to the 26 letter stencil).

We are also working on those same words with handwriting.  This is done hand over hand for the first two times of writing the word (for muscle memory) and a very light grasp on the the third time writing it.

“This is hard right?  I know that this takes a lot of focus.  I noticed that you are really looking at the board when you are holding it yourself now.  This is a challenge for you when I am holding the board as I know that you have it memorized, but why is it so hard for you to look at the board?”

HARD TO LOOK AT FOR A LONG TIME.  TOO MUCH COMING AT ME VISUALLY.

“Okay.  I just want you to know that when you look at the board, you always hit the letter and you are extremely accurate.  When you are not looking, you are sometimes a little bit off.  When you can, try and look at the board, even for short amounts of time, especially when you are doing it in front of other people so that they can know how smart that I know you already are.”

TOO MEANINGFUL TO TELL ME THAT.

REALLY WANT TO BECOME INDEPENDENT.

 

Ryan would love to answer some more reader questions for the month of April.  Please feel free to post any questions in the comments or on our Facebook page.

More Museums, Communication Issues, and Grandpa Bob’s Rally

I have so much to write about since our last post.  Things have been busy around here as we just got back into town late Tuesday night from our trip to Florida for Grandpa Bob’s Rally. I first want to talk about two field trips that we went on though.

Two weeks ago, Ryan and I went to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.  As many of you will remember, Ryan loves both museums and art history.  Well, once we got there, we were greeted by two gentlemen at the information desk who gave us a map and told us that the permanent collection was free admission.  Ryan and I began walking around and we came upon a picture that depicted the start of the Trojan War, which we had just read about.  I began to read the information beside the painting and Ryan started to get irritated.  I could tell so I asked him what was wrong.

IT IS TOO LOUD IN HERE!

The thing was, we were the only ones in the room besides a small group of a few students and a teacher (and they really were not loud at all).  I continued reading and Ryan began to flip out.  I mean running around, screaming, and throwing himself on the ground.  I was shocked and ran after him and tried to pick him up but he was dead weight.  I finally got him standing up and I was getting angry and frustrated.  I had no idea what had spurred this kind of behavior.  I made eye contact with a museum employee and asked where the nearest exit was.  He showed me and I managed to get Ryan outside onto a bench.

For ten more minutes, Ryan was still crying.  He could not spell.  I did not even attempt it after the first two times of him slapping the board.  Finally, after he calmed down a bit, he was able to spell STOMACH ISSUES.  TOO MUCH PAIN.

I felt awful.  I should have known that this was the case as usually if he is set off by something minimal (like noise that really wasn’t loud) that it is usually provoked by being in pain, but Ryan has been pain free for so long.  I was able to get him to the car and we drove around.  I usually carry medication that helps with this issue, but I did not have it with me (I won’t forget it again.)

I share this story because I think that it is important for parents and for people to know that even though Ryan can communicate with me openly in a variety of settings, that when he is in pain, this is almost impossible.

Today, we went to the Texas Civil War Museum.  Ryan was excited to go.  Once we got there, he seemed a bit anxious and I was a bit nervous that we would have a repeat episode of our last museum experience.  We walked around and we were checking things out when a man who worked at the museum came up to us and started explaining about the dioramas.  I asked Ryan if he had any questions.

He spelled:  HARD TO HAPPY TO HARD before I stopped him.  This happens at times too.  Ryan sometimes gets stuck on “stim” words which are words that are repetitive to him that are go to words that he can spell very fast.  I could tell that he was frustrated with himself and I mentioned this to Gary (the man who worked there whose name we found out later) and Gary said, “No problem.”  I told Gary that we would walk around some more and let him know if we had questions.

Ryan and I checked out all of the cool stuff.

I then sat down with Ryan and asked him if he had any questions or what areas that he wanted to check out.

He was slightly agitated and spelled:  WORRIED ABOUT THE IMPRESSION I MADE ON THAT MAN.

I told him that he was very nice and I am sure that he did not have a bad impression.  We saw Gary later and Gary confirmed this (and Ryan proceeded to smell him and touch his beard, so I think that we were good.)

Ryan’s thoughts on the museum:

HAPPY TO GO TO THE MUSEUM.  I AM INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR.

I told Ryan that I love history and that I find it extremely fascinating and we can certainly do lessons on the Civil War.

FIND IT FASCINATING TOO.

*****

Randy, Ryan, Grace, and I traveled to Coral Springs, Florida last week for the rally for my dad, Bob Levinson, the longest held U.S. Hostage.  Yesterday marked the 9th anniversary of his kidnapping and today is his 68th birthday.  As you know, Ryan feels very connected to Grandpa Bob and as a 9 year old who has a grandfather who is a hostage, he is obviously very emotional about it.  In fact, I thought that he was too emotional about it to write anything to be read at the rally, but last Wednesday, when we sat down for school, Ryan began crying and it lasted for 10 minutes.  He then spelled I AM READY TO WRITE MY SPEECH FOR THE RALLY.

Here is his speech in its entirety that I read at the rally:

CARING TOO MUCH FOR YOU, GRANDPA BOB.  REALLY WISH TO MEANINGFULLY VISIT WITH YOU.  YOU ARE MY HERO AND YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW IT.  MY DREAM IS TO READ BOOKS WITH YOU.  MOM ALWAYS TELLS ME THE STORIES OF HER CHILDHOOD AND I LOVE THEM.

YOU LIKE SO MANY COOL THINGS.

YOU LIKE TOO MUCH READING, JUST LIKE ME.

YOU LIKE PLEASING OTHERS, JUST LIKE ME.

YOU LOVE YOUR COUNTRY, JUST LIKE ME.

GIVING UP SO MUCH FOR OUR SAFETY AND PROTECTION, YOU ARE A REAL LIFE SUPER HERO.

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

Right after the rally, when things had died down, I asked Ryan his thoughts about it.  He was able to spell this in front of a few people who were in attendance:

I AM TOO TOTALLY HAPPY WITH HOW MY SPEECH WENT.

Today, after we talked about the museum, I mentioned to Ryan that it was Grandpa Bob’s 68th birthday.

CALLING IT SO SAD THAT HE IS NOT HERE FOR ANOTHER BIRTHDAY.

I told Ryan that when he was an infant, I went to a ceramic painting place with a new moms group and we had a painting activity for all of us.  I chose a picture frame that I painted red and decorated with Mickey Mouse ears all over it (using the eraser of a pencil to create the 3 circles for the ears) and I wrote on it:  It is my 59th Birthday and I am going to Disney World!  I had planned on giving my dad the picture frame during our big family trip to Disney to celebrate Dad’s birthday.  Unfortunately, Bob Levinson never returned to celebrate at Disney.  I told Ryan that I still have the frame though.

A COMPLETE PICTURE WOULD BE AWESOME.

I agreed with him and told him that I am sure that it will happen.

I asked Ryan about the rally.

HARD TO TALK ABOUT.

Do you want to talk about anything else from the trip?

VISITING WITH ALL OF THE LEVINSON FAMILY IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS TO DO EVER.  MOM I LOVE YOUR FAMILY TOO MUCH.

Well they are your family too!  I hope that you realize that.

HAPPY TO HEAR YOU SAY THAT.

Anything else that you want to say at all?  It can be about anything.

SO MUCH TO SAY BUT IT IS TOO TIRING TO SPELL EVERYTHING.

We need to get you to a device with word prediction, that will make things easier.  We will get there.  Okay any last thoughts?

MIGHT BE BECAUSE I TOO MUCH DEARLY UNDERSTAND HOW FORTUNATE I AM TO BE BORN INTO MY FAMILY.

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Uncle Doug and Ryan.