Not So Lazy Summer

I didn’t write much during these  summer months that come to unfulfilled end. There were reasons  why I couldn’t focus on writing.  Many of them are not related to the main theme of that blog. But one certainly is.  Robert was attending a  summer program.  It was a so-called “collaborative” with 14 or 15 children and 6 or 7 teachers or teachers’ aides.  The speech therapist was in the classroom 4 days a week.  The children seemed a little higher functioning than Robert. I am not sure if that could be clearly assessed as Robert’s extremely poor expressive communication clearly taints the picture.  In my opinion, Robert has relatively (RELATIVELY!!) advanced skills, but because they cannot be easily accessed, they -sort of- don’t exist.  Still, Robert was not treated as a special case in a special education classroom, which had been, has been and probably will be the case in his regular program.  Robert  felt he belonged.  He longed to go to the program.  He jumped and skipped joyfully when I assured him he was going there the next day.  It did help that there was a swimming pool included in a daily lesson plan but the pool  alone wouldn’t make a difference.  After all, in the past, Robert had attended  summer camps that included daily splashes in the pool, and those camps, good as they were, didn’t evoke the same feeling in Robert.

So what exactly made Robert so deeply happy in this program?  He doesn’t explain himself, and my conversations with teachers were rather brief, although frequent. Nonetheless, I am guessing…

1. For a part of a daily routine Robert sat at the desk placed among 14 other desks. He sat among other children.  He observed the children. That allowed Robert to discover who he was and where he belonged.  I am not sure if in any of the  previous classroom settings,  Robert could  come close to understanding himself and create his own image of himself. (Maybe with one exception.) As he was watching other children, he also noticed differences.  Maybe that was a reason why, during the time he was going to this program, he was extremely eager to learn more.  Maybe he noticed similarity between what we were doing at home and what the children were doing at the class.  Maybe he wanted to learn more to catch up with his peers.  I don’t know what were his reasons, but every day Robert wanted to study for hours. Every day this summer we studied together for 2-4 hours a day.  I was exhausted.  Robert was not.

2. He did not have 1:1 aide, so he had to rely more on what other children were doing and not on constant directions from an assigned to him teacher’s aide. There is no doubt that changing from his regular class where three students had help of three teachers or teacher aides, to this collaborative program required a lot of adjusting on part of Robert and on part of his teachers.  It would be helpful if Robert had a part-time aide whom he would share with other student or with the whole class.  But being relieved of constant shadow was an experience in growing up.

3. For a short part of the school day he was sitting around the table with very talkative students and was immersed in the verbal exchanges among those children even though he probably didn’t participate. Being exposed to “chatty” peers was one of the most motivating experienced.  He couldn’t join the “chat” but he certainly had a chance to understand the social function of speech and its importance.

4.He worked one on one with speech pathologist on issues related to his apraxia and application of language concepts in simple conversation. I suspect that he was in one way or another practicing speech – concepts and articulation almost every day. It was important, as I understand from learning more about apraxia therapy, that he worked one on one, because that allowed the therapist to set the proper pace and  increase the frequency of responses.  At home, Robert wanted to work with me.  In the past, I tried to use, for instance, the time in the car to encourage Robert to talk more.  He didn’t want to talk. He  asked to turn on the radio. He wanted to listen to music, not talk.   Now, he wants to talk.

5.His  notes home were not sanitized by close teacher’s supervision but were results of Robert’s independent efforts, his real struggles to come up with words that would carry the information.  I got a few notes written by Robert.  I had difficulties understanding them, but I figured them out.   They were clumsy and not without errors. However, the fact that Robert wrote them without help or with a very little help had an important benefit.  He remembered the written message so well, that he could tell me what the note was about without reading.  One note, for instance,stated that he said he should bring chips to cookout, and that was the thing he told me, repeating message a few times to make sure that I understood. I did.
Never before, he carried any message from school.
Many times I asked him what happened at school and he didn’t know what to say.  With the help from his teachers he made a list of daily activities, which I read and used it to  force conversation about the school. But he has never carried even one message home in his brain. Always on paper.  He had never told me what the teacher did or asked him to do. This was the first and the only time he carried home the message from school.

6.  I also wonder if the number of students and varied activities were not  factors in Robert showing less OCD’s (Obsessive compulsive disorder) behaviors.  As if being exposed to richness and complexities of other students, their varied behaviors, different personalities  resulted in more tolerance for changes.  This is something which had already struck me the previous summer, but I dismissed that as a coincidence.  Now, I think there is a connection….

Robert had a busy summer.  I had a busy summer as well.  Robert wanted to learn more, to know more, to talk better.  He was the force behind our studies together, not me.  So we did a lot of work.  Robert kept me busy and so I didn’t write much.

Every day, Robert puts some of the worksheets in the red folder. He places the folder in his backpack.  He expects to go to the collaborative again.  The red folder is getting ticker and ticker.  I am telling Robert that the program is over.  He doesn’t want to believe me.    He found a place for himself.  How can he not go there again?

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