My student

My student

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Teaching Lu

I have decided to start this other blog, in addition to Understanding Lu, to focus on Lucy's education, and how we go about teaching her, while working through her complex communication needs, her medical issues, and just Rett Syndrome in general. Below are two fairly recent blog posts I wrote that talk about my past experiences with teaching (15 Years Later), and also my feelings on how I will help Lucy develop social skills without public school.
"What About Socialization?"
15 Years Later

In the post "15 Years Later" I talk about the lack of pressure other countries, specifically Finland, puts on it's children to start formally learning from an early age. I believe in that concept whole-heartedly. Lucy is only four.  We don't have designated "school time" each day, at this point. We cuddle when she needs to. She rests when she needs to. We go outside to play when we can. But, at the same time, she is still always learning. I never stop talking to her, and explaining things to her, and introducing her to the world around her. I am constantly on the look out for great experiences for Lu, no matter how small. And then, when it falls into place, we might get a kind of structured lesson/activity accomplished. We like to display those types of things on her school bulletin board that is in the kitchen, so she can see it and remember what she learned.  So, I have a kind of relaxed philosophy about how quickly Lu needs to be learning things. I feel like she will learn in natural, life situations as time goes on and that we will increase our "school time" as she ages and grows, and there will be a flow to it, that won't be forced. I hope that's how it goes anyway!

However, I do have one specific goal. Not one that has real, measurable outcomes, or a timeframe or anything structured, but I want to help Lu learn to read on her own as soon as possible. My rationale and motivation for this is because it is one thing she will be able to do and enjoy independently. There are special programs that provide ebooks for free to people who cannot physically hold a book on their own.  She already reads books on her own on her Tobii. Most of them I have made for her, some are ones that others have made, but they also have voice output so she can see the words, and hear the stories. Someday she will just be able to sit and read on her Tobii, and I want that so much for her. 

I have literally been reading to Lucy since the week we came home from the hospital. It is probably one of our favorite things to do together, and we do it A LOT.  We read a lot of nonfiction, but we also always have storybooks to read. Lu likes poems and cookbooks too. And we have been reading chapter books together for maybe almost a year now. We read the ones that aren't too long, and still have pictures to look at here and there, but she has some favorites and favorite series that we have come across. Her and her Daddy are loving The Magic Treehouse books right now. For a few years now, we are always having a little unit going just based on an interest Lucy has expressed, or something we have wondered about, or just whatever might be going on around us. So, I have read that the single-most important activity to helping children become readers is to read to them, and I feel confident that we have that thoroughly covered. I will admit that I am a bit of a compulsive [used] book buyer. I get a ton of Lu's books at Goodwill, or Kid to Kid. And at the end of spring last year I discovered that the public library has a monthly book sale and kid's books are a quarter! It is amazing! And of course we save hundreds of dollars by using the library all the time. We always have between 20 and 30 books checked out. And, just as a side note, because the library is a quiet, calm and welcoming place, Lucy always has the chance to practice her "socialization skills". Granted, it is mostly with the librarians, but it is still good for her. We have known the library ladies for three and a half years now so she is comfortable with them. She has initiated interactions with her Tobii, and when we come in the door it's kind of like a big welcoming committee for Lu, because they love to see her. 

In addition to all of the reading we always do, Lu was first exposed to the PODD book when she was two and a half years old. In addition to the symbols she uses, the word is always right below the symbol, so she has to have been learning a ton of words all of this time. And, in the past few months, Lucy has been starting to be able answer questions more purposefully and kind of starting to be able (or willing, but I believe it's more about able) to show us what she knows and understands. My belief is that she knows a lot of words, and probably already reads some, but I don't want to pressure her or be crazy about her reading, so we are just taking our time and starting to work on some comprehension and literacy activities here and there to see where she is. 

I have been using a mixture of making up pagesets to talk about a specific book, and also using her PODD to talk about them as well. We have been working on looking at a cover to guess what we think the book might be about, as well as some other prediction-type questions, and then also talking about characters, and reviewing what has happened in a story.  She doesn't seem to mind it, and especially likes the guessing questions. 

Here is a pageset I made where we were guessing what a book called "The Day the Gorilla Came to School" might be about. I didn't tell her the title, we just looked at the cover which had a gorilla on it. Lu insisted it was going to be about race cars! I told her my guess was it was going to be about a gorilla. We did this same activity with a book called "Lucille" which is about a horse named Lucille who is on the cover and Lu guessed correctly that time that the story was going to be about a horse.

On the title page of the book there was a picture of a lady carrying a big bag that had a gorilla arm hanging out of it. I asked Lu what she thought was in the bag, a real gorilla or a gorilla costume, and she guessed a costume, and was correct! 

We have so much to do, and so much to explore, and a nice amount of time to do it because Lu doesn't go to school. She has five therapy sessions a week, plus we have been going to the YMCA to swim once a week, so our schedules are still a little packed, but we love being able to be home together and control our own days. 

And in case anyone doubts that Lu prefers to be home with me doing school, here is just one of her many comments she has made about doing school with me.