Wednesday, June 27, 2012

eye contact and whales

My last post was in regard to eye contact.  A few days ago, Tate talked briefly with his behavior consultant through skype.  Today, she mentioned to me how well Tate did with his eye contact on skype.  This caused me to do a lot of thinking.  Could Tate feel more comfortable making eye contact through a video chat because it is less intimidating than having a person next to him?  Or maybe he is just so much more motivated to make eye contact because of the computer/video aspect?  This will need to be explored.  Perhaps Tate can practice making eye contact through video chat and generalize it to people next to him. 

Videos, movies, television, computers, and anything else electronic, are great motivators for Tate, as they are for many people with autism.  We have used electronics often in the past to motivate Tate to learn.  Even in preschool Tate would often work hard for a chance to watch a video clip on a computer screen.  Tate did not learn to add two digit numbers using pencil and paper, even after a lot of practice, but the day his para showed him how an i-pad could be used as a chalk board, Tate learned to do the addition.  He was motivated to learn because he wanted to use the i-pad.  The only way he could use the i-pad was to work on his math lesson so he was very willing to practice.  Now he can do the math with pencil and paper.

A couple of years ago I read a book called “Just Give Him the Whale!” by Paula Kluth and Patrick Schwarz.  I spent much of Tate’s toddlerhood trying to stop his obsessions with things and break him of the things that appeared odd.  The book “Just Give Him the Whale!” caused me to change my thinking somewhat.  The example given was about a child that was fascinated by whales.  A child with autism will often talk constantly about one area of interest, leaving little room for anything else.  Instead of always redirecting him and trying to “tone down” his interest in an obsession, in this case whales, whales could be used to teach math concepts, geography, science, reading comprehension and more.  We tried a little of this with Scooby Doo.  It was Tate’s favorite show for a couple years.  We used Scooby Doo and his friends in math problems.  We bought books about Scooby Doo and Tate was motivated to read them.  He paid attention to what Scooby Doo was doing so we were working on comprehension.  We could also use the Scooby Doo shows as rewards for Tate’s hard work.  We were “giving him the whale.”  Tate is no longer as interested in Scooby Doo as he used to be.  Scooby was replaced with iCarly, and again with the Muppets.   

Tate with "the Whale" haha 
I have been “giving Tate the whale” a lot recently.  If you have read my earlier posts, you will remember me talking about Tate’s attachments to inanimate objects.  I “lost” Tate’s Blue’s Clues notebook to make our life (and his) easier.  The i-pad is the new Blue’s Clues notebook in Tate’s life. Luckily it has all the appeal for Tate that the cheap, plastic notebook did.  What a great teaching tool the i-pad has become.  

Remember, in the last post, I spoke about the people we attend worship with?  Tate cannot remember their names, after years of hearing their names and seeing them three times each week.  Today, after summer school, which we call math camp, (see my post from April 25, 2012, called “Homework) Tate walked out with another boy.  Tate sits with this boy three days a week and has done so for four weeks now.  I asked Tate what the boy’s name was.  Tate did not know.  Ironically, because Tate is so motivated by television, he CAN recognize and remember the names of most of the characters in the shows he watches on television.  He not only knows the name of their character but he usually knows the real name of the actress or actor too.  If he likes a movie, he gets online to watch the credits or the trailer for the movie so he can memorize the actors’ names.  If we watch an animated show then he learns who did all the voices, as well.  It is amazing to his peers at school.  Tate always seems to know what actors are in the new movies that are coming out, but he cannot remember the names of his classmates.  He sees them every day.  Tate has his own i-pad now.  Maybe he will be motivated to learn his classmates’ names if he takes their pictures and has them on his i-pad.  He definitely would be motivated to learn their names if they would just make a movie he was interested in seeing.  haha

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