Archive for the ‘Hannah’s Progress’ Category

Updates and anecdotes from our journey with our autistic daughter.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Today Hannah and I were reviewing the verses and passages in our Scripture Memory Box, as we do most every day. We have used this system for years now, so she has heard the Bible verses read and recited many, many times; however, she does not recite aloud with the rest of us. The requirement to recall the words and say them at the same pace as everyone else does is too much for her at this point. But I have gotten a peek into her mind to know that she does have several memorized. When it is her turn to read aloud a verse card, she will run her finger along the words as she “reads” them. Sometimes her finger does not synchronize to what she is speaking; she is reciting more than reading. And that’s fine with me!

But today she went a step further. I reviewed Lamentations 3:22–26 and suddenly she turned toward me and started singing in perfect tune, “Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!” with a huge smile on her face. Now, I’m not exactly sure where or how she learned that hymn. It’s most likely on one of her bedtime CDs (but she has been listening to Christmas CDs for almost a year now at bedtime, so this is not a recent addition to her memory). Regardless, for that brief moment my heart swelled in thanksgiving that the Lord continues to reach her heart even when I can’t see the process. His faithfulness is indeed great!

Special Needs Parenting

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

I’ve been greatly encouraged recently by many of the posts on the Special Needs Parenting blog. The parents who write are dealing with a variety of special needs and situations, but their focus on walking this journey with God unites our hearts. It helps to have regular reminders of spiritual truths applied to our oftentimes unique challenges. It also helps to know that there are other special needs parents out there who understand and are committed to helping us all keep the right perspective!

Our Initial Assessment

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

The past few weeks have been filled with homework. Yep, homework. You see, the goal of RDI is to train the parents to better guide their autistic children on their own. So the first portion of our consulting has been educating ourselves. Of course, we will continue to learn as we go along, but the initial learning curve has to be hurdled first. It’s been a huge help that we learned about RDI several years ago and have been trying to educate ourselves all along. So a couple of weeks ago our consultant decided that we now had enough understanding of the RDI principles to move into the practical hands-on phase.

This morning we had our initial assessment session. Now, lest you think this session was to assess Hannah, let me set you straight. Remember, RDI is all about training the parent. So this assessment was focused on John and me. Yes, we will be able to learn more about Hannah as the consultant reviews all the video footage, but the main focus will be how we can improve as her guides.

One improvement popped up as the morning wore on. We noticed that Hannah has become very dependent on hearing us talk to her, so she is not using her other senses very much to also capture information about our communication. When we first started some RDI-type activities, we put a big emphasis on reading and referencing faces, and her eye contact increased dramatically. However, today we discovered that we have gradually slacked off over the years and settled into accepting rare eye contact. It was quite interesting that once that tendency was identified, and both we and the consultant worked on reducing our auditory input to encourage Hannah to look up and use visual referencing more, that personal connection carried over for a few hours after our session was over. Hannah and I ran some errands after the assessment, and I noticed a marked increase in her eye contact as we walked and talked, going into and out of various buildings. She didn’t rush ahead, but stayed beside me of her own volition, looked at me often during our comments, and best of all, I was reminded of how beautiful her eyes are.

I’m eager to hear what the next focused improvement will be for our guiding style. But as I wait for the consultant to review all that footage, you can bet I will be pausing more in my verbal communication with Hannah to wait to see those beautiful eyes looking into mine.

The RDI Book

Monday, September 17th, 2012

I just finished reading The RDI Book and found it very helpful! The approach of RDI therapy is explained, common terms are defined and illustrated, and lots of real-life examples are included to help a person wrap her brain around what it is we’re attempting to do. Read it with a highlighter in hand!

Artwork and Other Work

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Our family has been doing some artwork recently, using the Creating a Masterpiece DVDs to guide us. So far we have tried our hands at watercolor and pastels. Hannah has enjoyed participating in these video art classes too. You can see her parrots on top and her lake on the bottom of these collections.

Along with the artwork, we are committing the next few months to other work with Hannah; we have teamed up with an RDI consultant and will be working with her to focus more fully on Hannah’s progress. We have agreed with the principles of RDI therapy for many years and have tried to implement as many as we could on our own. But it feels like we have stagnated in the process, and thanks to a gift of money and a few months without travel, we are turning our focus to fine-tuning our abilities to guide her and help her continue to grow.

I’ll be posting about our experiences here. We’re excited to learn more and see what adventures lay ahead!

A Moment of Joy

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

This afternoon a dear friend came visiting. When he was about to leave, he walked by Hannah and she asked him where he was going now. He answered, “I’m going to [a nearby town] to worship practice. I hope you have a good evening.”

The next thing I heard was Hannah’s sweet voice, with just the right inflection, replying, “I hope you have a good practice, too.” Then she happily skipped upstairs and started singing O Christmas Tree.

Our friend summed up the moment well when he came into the kitchen and said, “That made me happy.”

Another Step On the Right Track

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Last week I noticed more focused attention and resulting progress from Hannah in both her school work and her interactions with family members. My first thought was, “Oh, great, she’s getting sick.”

You see, we have noticed a pattern over the years of increased attention and interaction for two or three days, then we’ll see the runny nose. (We’ve often wondered if there is some kind of physical connection that we could discover and capitalize on, but so far haven’t been able to figure out the mystery.)

But this increase in focus has continued for a couple of weeks now, with no cold symptoms.

Another possibility has popped into my mind. We are being more careful to eliminate casein (dairy) from Hannah’s diet. In the past, we have depended more on her enzymes to counteract the effect of the casein. But then I noticed that, when given the choice, she would prefer pizza with no cheese and macaroni without the cheese sauce. So I’ve started making no-dairy versions of any meals we’ve had with cheese, and Hannah has been voluntarily eating those instead.

I wonder if the casein was affecting her more than we thought, so much so that the enzymes were not powerful enough to deal with it.

Now, it would be really easy at this point to start berating myself and send away for another Bad Mommy trophy. However, I’m trying to think of this as another step on the right track of discovering how Hannah’s body works (which is a trick when she won’t tell you how she’s feeling). And if this more complete elimination of casein helps her process her surroundings better, let’s keep going!

A Reading Milestone

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Hannah just read the first story in First Steps all by herself. I’m so proud of her and so thankful to our Heavenly Father for graciously allowing her to keep learning. It’s been a long journey to get to this point, and I know we’re not anywhere near the finish line. But I’m celebrating this milestone because I distinctly remember about a year ago thinking, “She’s never going to be able to read that story. We’re too far from that level.” Now, just a few months before her twelfth birthday, she did it!

Narration Progress

Monday, August 31st, 2009

I’m so excited! I just tried something new with Hannah, and it seems to have worked well.

First, some background information. Last year I started requiring narrations from Hannah at times. (Narrating is listening carefully then telling back in your own words.) Hannah would usually give me a one-sentence narration, worded as a question. I was quite happy with that attempt since she was just starting out.

Today I decided to encourage her to take a step further in her narrating. We got out Aesop’s Fables. She had heard a few last year, but this time we were going to use them more fully. I wanted her to narrate the fable and I would write down her narration. Then we could use that narration for copywork. I figured that we could also work on wording her sentences as statements rather than questions too.

So before we read I wrote down two key words: fox, grapes. I told her that this story was about a fox and some grapes, and I wanted her to listen closely then tell me what happened to the fox and the grapes and I would write it down.

I read the story aloud, then asked, “What happened to the fox and the grapes?” She gave me the first part of the story, worded as a question, but still the first part of the story: “Did the fox try to reach the grapes?” I tried to prompt a statement by writing “The fox tried . . . ” and she finished the sentence for me “to reach the grapes.”

That in and of itself was pretty much expected. What I didn’t expect was the rest of her narration. It seems that while I was taking time to write down each of her statements, she was taking time to formulate each of her statements. So using this method of my writing her words, she was able to put together this narration:

Did the fox try to reach the grapes?
Were they out of reach?
Did the fox walk away?
Were the grapes sour?

We reworded each sentence as a statement, but I was thrilled with the comprehensive nature of her narration. I’m thinking this idea of key words given first and time to process between each narration sentence is going to produce some great results!

Another Birthday Milestone

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Hannah at the zooWe celebrated Hannah’s eleventh birthday by going to the zoo yesterday. She rarely asks for things. I don’t know whether that’s because she doesn’t think about wanting anything or just doesn’t think about expressing that wish. But when she told me a month or so ago that she would like to go to the zoo sometime, I made a mental note to try to make that wish come true. Her birthday seemed like a good time to make it happen.

Since we were going the day before her actual birthday, things were not going to follow their usual birthday routine this year. In the first place, we were going on a birthday trip and choosing one birthday present at the zoo gift shop on Friday. Then Saturday we were going to a bookstore to select more presents before the usual family supper and cake. She handled the changes quite well. She even asked whether she could decorate this afternoon for the family supper, so of course I went to the store to get streamers! And when she got a phone call that some of our family were going to have to come over on Sunday instead of Saturday night, she said, “Okay” and that was that.

We’ve been reintroducing some Brain Gym exercises this past year, trying to help her organize her thoughts. At the beginning of the year, last April, she had a very hard time with the cross-hand-marching exercise. (Imagine marching in place, touching the opposite hand to the opposite knee as it comes up — right hand to left knee, left hand to right knee, etc.) That was a very hard exercise for Hannah and required a lot of concentration. Even then, she would usually lapse into same-hand-to-same-knee motion. Last week it suddenly dawned on me that she was talking to me about something at the same time she was doing the exercise and doing it correctly.

We’ve also been working on teaching her more life skills around the house so she can contribute to the family and enjoy a sense of worthwhile accomplishment. She’s learning to load the dishwasher, wipe the counters, and sweep the floor after a meal. She’s also starting to mop. We’re still working on the details, but it’s good to see her pitching in.

One area of pitching in, in which I had a blind spot, was lunch time. Hannah has always gone to sit at her place at the table and passively wait for a plate of food to be set in front of her. Well, one of her sisters raised the expectations one day when I was gone and walked her through deciding what she wanted to eat, getting it out of the refrigerator and onto the plate, and cleaning up after herself. Later this sister kindly mentioned to me that Hannah could do those things. Of course! How silly of me!

On the academics front, Hannah is progressing from short-A three-letter words to short-I three-letter words. She is starting to understand the concept of rhyming. She can add equations with sums up to five and loves to tell time with analog clocks. She’s improving with her ability to narrate and lately has narrated to me Boy of the Pyramids, A Cricket in Times Square, and God’s World and Johnny. We’re still working on her writing skills, but the birthday messages that she copied recently were legible!

This year I plan to continue working on

  • referencing faces and regulating behavior based on that referencing;
  • reinforcing the idea that people may have different perspectives — both visually and mentally;
  • progress in life skills and academics.

But my main desire this year is that Hannah would grow spiritually. I want to be very careful not to push or coerce her in any way, but I feel the need to increase my prayers for her in this area. Lately I have been praying Ephesians 3:14-21, and I invite you to join me in kneeling before the Father, Who is a good Father and the perfect Parent, and asking that

  • He would strengthen Hannah’s inner man by His Spirit;
  • Christ would dwell in her heart by faith;
  • Hannah would be rooted and grounded in love;
  • Hannah would be able to comprehend the love of Christ.

We look to “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”