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A Different Way of Programming

Updated: Mar 14, 2020

I am working with an adorable 6-year old boy named William. William is a whirling dervish: he never stops, often screams, and claps his hands or pounds surfaces because he can’t feel his limbs in space. When I first began working with him, I couldn’t get him to stay on my table for more than thirty seconds, and he would pull my hair and pinch me. After a few months, William readily climbs on the table and lays for up to 30 minutes while I work on him. He no longer pulls my hair or pinches. Once off the table, he will often sit for up to one hour while we do a teach-and-ask lesson. He demonstrates advanced literacy skills, as well as excellent comprehension of the material (always age-appropirate). In a recent session he spelled out “I love learning about how things work.”

Mom purchased an iPad and loaded Proloquo2Go (a speech-generating program), as well as other apps to increase his hand-eye coordination and social preparedness. So what’s the problem? Remember, I’m an SLP out in the wilderness. I work with William privately. His teachers and therapists are unaware of this. I believe in William‘s competence, and so does Mom, but his teachers, therapists and caregivers may have no idea how smart he really is. I’m programming his P2Go in such a way that he can use it primarily for spelling, with some quick communication boards for, well, quick communication.

I anticipate a good deal of pushback on this, because conventional wisdom holds that a boy William’s age and diagnosis should not be able to understand written language. Never mind the fact that he has been watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy for years, where words and phrases are regularly paired with speech. Many educators believe that all children learn the same way: objects and verbs (paired with line-drawn pictures), and eventually pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, etc. My best teachers, I like to say, are my clients, and by all accounts they have become literate in very different ways from the norm. How will his communication program be received at his school? Stay tuned....

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