About Those Difficult Moments

November 14, 2016

They do happen. Those difficult moments do happen.  They do not happen too often, but they  happen much more frequently than the posts in this blog would admit.  I could blame Robert’s issues with irritating skin eczema or his never fully understood (despite colonoscopy and endoscopy) digestive problems.  I could state that the increased anxiety was brought by unanticipated changes in Robert’s  environment.  Changes that also include alterations in behaviors of people surrounding him.  Robert responds to such changes by becoming more rigid in his insistence that other follow those rules that they exhibited in the past.

Too often, Robert’s reactions take me by surprise.  I realized that I had stopped planning ahead of their arrival and thus I was  not prepared to respond properly when they happened.

Well, you cannot always be prepared.  Just yesterday, Robert and I bumped into each other as he suddenly turned after closing the linen closet door.  We didn’t hurt each other, but Robert was scared and very upset. You couldn’t plan for that.  There was nothing else to do but to assure him that we didn’t do it on purpose.  It was an accident.  It was scary, but nothing bad happened. We are OK.

However, I could plan better for his outing in a place he hasn’t visited in the last six months.  I knew, that Robert might want to come home before the end of the program, because he had to adjust again to a place that changed slightly during the time he was absent.   I could have given a warning to the staff. I could have stayed close by and returned to pick him up as soon as was needed to  reduce his separation anxiety.

There are also those situation when just good planning of everyday activities might reduce unwanted behaviors, including OCD .

I realized that lately I have been doing with Robert much less than in the past.  Less cooking together, less shopping together, less walking together.  So, it might be that the lack of the activities that would reveal to Robert their importance in a day-to-day survival resulted in Robert’s  brain placing more attention on maintaining the same order as a way of assuring his safety.  For instance, since I stopped cooking with Robert, he has considered  cooking to be of lesser importance than  a  meticulous way of placing  dirty laundry in a hamper.

I do think that all too often, we use the perceived intellectual disability of others as a way to reduce even further their chances for fruitful existence. Planning for NOT REDUCING such chances is one of the most difficult preparations needed to be done thoughtfully and adjusted every day.

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Learning This Way and That Way

November 13, 2016

A few months ago –  and before that a years and a few months ago – Robert and I were learning about human body from the workbook “Human Body grade 3-4″ . We familiarized ourselves  with drawings of internal organs of different systems and with their names and their functions.  “Familiarized” is a good word.  Even though we read the texts, analyzed pictures,  and answered questions related to the provided information, I cannot say what, if anything, Robert learned.

I also don’t know how much Robert understands from reading texts about human body from Horizon Reading to Learn Fast Track C-D.  The texts in this book approach learning differently.  Robert observes what two characters Al and Angela learn while traveling through a human body.  The old man who is their guide explains everything to THEM.  Then THEY tell EACH OTHER and  the old man what they have learned.   The number of words to learn and remember is reduced to just a few, but the  simple mechanics are explained. There are no terms “motor neurons” or “sensory neurons” in the text. Instead, Al and Angela (and thus Robert too)  learn that the nerves that go from the hand (or foot) to the brain tell the brain what the hand (or foot) feels and the nerves that go from the brain to the hand (or foot) tell the hand (or the foot) how to move.

I am still not sure how much of that information Robert understands and/or retains. Although Robert  answers most of the questions correctly WHEN I AM SITTING NEXT TO HIM, I doubt if he would do the same when I leave the room.

Having one on one teacher during most of his learning time might have reduced Robert’s independence and his confidence.  When I am next to him, he tries to answer, when I leave, he stops altogether.  The words, he reads quickly and softly, lose their meanings. He reads mechanically. He stops thinking.

For now, I assume that despite all of that, Robert gained some sort of understanding of the mechanics involved in the way humans move, feel, hear, and see. What he doesn’t have is the ability to complete any quiz (involving understanding language) when separated from me even by a few steps.

That is why our teaching-learning time is spent on:

  1. learning new concepts
  2. thinking while separated from me

Searching for Roads

November 5, 2016

I am still looking for a way to help Robert to independently  solve the same kind of problems that he is capable of solving when I am sitting next to him.  I am baffled by the whole process.  First, I don’t grasp the reasons behind those different outcomes.

  1. Does the way I am emphasizing some words when I read the question give him some cues?
  2. Does he simply pay more attention when I am present?
  3. Does he stop believing in himself when I move away from the table?
  4. Do I somehow, without knowing it, direct him toward proper answer?

Sadly, I think that all of the above contribute to the fact that Robert answers questions properly when I am next to him and seems reluctant or unable to provide correct answers when he is alone.

As I spend more time working with Robert on the same pages three days in a row, I notice that his understanding of some of the words is very weak.  For instance,in the presence of the world map, Robert, when ask to do so, provides all the correct names of continents.  But he didn’t provide a name for the one and only continent presented on the map (North America) and wrote down names of the countries instead.  He had to be directed to the inset map of the world to come with the name of the continent.

When Robert reads the question on his own he doesn’t seem to grasp meaning of all important words.  He slides through the letters without understanding the question.  And thus when asked, “On which U.S. highway you can find Aberdeen?”  he is confused.  he looks at the map, finds Aberdeen and writes…… “Aberdeen” .  But when shown once that the proper answer is the name of the road, he doesn’t repeat the same mistake with other towns and correctly names roads that pass through them.  Helas, the following day, the same pattern of errors and correct answers repeats itself.

So, I do try different things to remedy that.

  1. We practice underlying (emphasizing) two or three important words in the question.
  2. We practice with two or three boxes of specific words to choose from (for instance, one lists continents, another  oceans and yet another countries).  When the question ask for a continent, Robert can choose one from the box which names them all.
  3. We answer together orally two to six questions and then I ask him to write down the answers  while I retreat to the kitchen.

It is still work in progress.  I don’t see much improvement, but then my observations might be tainted by my emotional investment in the process.  As for Robert, he reaches for math worksheets and solves the problems which do not involve words.