Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tate's a Winner, at Pictionary and More

Tate recently decided he'd heard enough
from his sister and silenced her. 
A couple of weeks ago we were invited to the home of friends for dinner. They have a pond behind their home and we all planned to do some fishing after dinner. Some of us were looking very forward to the fishing. One of us was not. Tate does not like to fish. He was not excited to be going on this outing at all, but that is not unusual. As luck would have it though a storm rolled in just after we arrived and we were stuck inside for the evening, fishing out of the question. This was quite okay with Tate. He goes everywhere prepared, with his tablet and his iPod. So Tate settled into a corner on a cushioned chair for the evening, pulled up a YouTube video and put in his headphones, shutting us all out. There were seven adults, two small children, and five teens present. The little ones ran off to play and the rest of us decided to play a game. We settled on Pictionary on the Nintendo Wii. We split up into three teams and someone asked Tate if he wanted to play. I was sure he would say, “No.” I’d have bet on it. He said, “Yes.” I was shocked and a bit apprehensive. I thought the team that got Tate would have a definite handicap and they would have to be awfully patient. After all, without much “theory of mind” he would not be a lot of help guessing at what others were drawing. Drawing has never been a strength for TateTa either…. But, no one was worried about winning or losing. We were all just a bunch of friends having fun.

Can you guess what Tate drew here?
The answer is in a note at the bottom of the post.
See if you guessed correctly. 
Each time it was Tate’s turn to draw we asked him to pick from the “Junior” words while the rest of us played using the “Adult” words. One person from a different team always looked at the word Tate was to illustrate to make sure he knew what it was and then that person would excuse himself from guessing. As it turned out Tate needed very little help. Once he forgot he was not supposed to read the word out loud and had to choose again. A couple of times he gave verbal clues. I kept reminding him that no words were allowed but he got a little confused when everyone was yelling out answers and asking him, “Is it a ____?” So, wanting to please them, he would forget he was not supposed to talk and answer them in words. I thought the funniest part of the evening was when Tate was to illustrate the word, “coal.” In addition to drawing a blob that no one could identify, he said, “It’s what Santa Claus gives to kids who have been naughty.” Of course that was in violation of the rules but we all cracked up. No one really cared the rules had been violated. They understood. They understood that Tate was a kid who not too many years ago could not define words. He would have been unable to give a clue verbally at all. He could not have defined the word “coal” or much of any other word. And that night he was doing that and so much more.

When Tate was small we invested every dollar we could scrape together into therapies to teach him. We put all our eggs into one basket. We used ABA therapy and did as many hours of discrete trial as we could fit into a day. If you do not know what ABA or discrete trial is, click here.

At age three Tate did not understand that an item could actually have more than one name. For example, He called cows, “cows.” When we tried to teach him that cows are also called “animals” he had a lot of trouble reconciling that in his mind. When we finally convinced him a cow is an animal, he would no longer call it a cow. We worked on a discrete trial program for a long time called “categories.” Another program was to teach synonyms as he was having so much trouble with the idea. I tried to convince him that sticks and twigs were the same. Bugs and Insects were also the same. It was so hard for him to accept. When Tate had mastered those simple programs we moved onto much harder things. Word definition had never gone very well. It required a lot more language than Tate had mastered for a long time. Hearing Tate describe “coal” I was reminded of all the hard work and how well it has paid off.

Another highlight of the evening for me was watching Tate interact with those around him. He watched the rest of us laughing and bragging about our successes during the evening. He heard us all teasing each other, claiming the other teams must be cheating when they pulled ahead. He wanted in on the fun. Tate began to “trash talk” and was very good at it. He looked to a friend next to him who was playing on another team and said, “I wonder what it will feel like when I win?” We laughed twice as hard at that comment since it had come from Tate. As it turned out, Tate did not have to wonder long. His team did win. He’s a winner in more ways than one.

Note: In the picture above, Tate was drawing a king. We all knew as soon as we saw the crown. I was very impressed. Tate's sister snapped a photo of the television screen as she was also quite impressed at how well he was doing. 

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read another. Executive Function and Al Capone

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