I am not sure how to even start writing this week because I don’t know how to express what I want to tell you in words. Something happened this week that by far was one of those most shocking, proud, accomplishments we have had with our CR on this journey!
Imagine two 6 year old boys entering Kindergarten. They both attended Pre-Kindergarten the prior year learning their basic A, B, C’s and 1,2,3’s. Fast forward to the end of Kindergarten, and now they have developed an awareness of letters, recognizing that letters have specific sounds and they are even able to recognize basic site words in text.
It’s the start of a new school year, the two boys are now 7 and they are entering 1st grade. Fast forward to the end of the school year and they now know the names and sounds of all the consonants and vowels but also understand phonics concepts such as consonant combinations and being able to follow along , reading and summarizing stories with pictures.
So, you see where I am going with this? Each year, these boys continue to build on what they learn as they go through each school year and other than hitting a few hurdles, they pretty much will advance through the years until they graduate high school and on to college. This is a situation, that most of the population of children will experience today.
Let’s talk about what a child with Autism may experience, specially Cody. It would not necessarily happen in this order as I mentioned above. EVERYTHING has to be taught for Cody. Learning in a natural environment or through imitation like most children learn is more difficult for him and children with Autism. With all this being said, having therapists that engage parents to be involved so therapy in running continuously 24/7 and where they will shift and advance programs when needed and most importantly have weekly team meeting to not only test with Cody but set new goals again week after week.
OK, back to my big news. Tuesday, Cody was having his therapy with 2 of his main therapists together. I was in my office upstairs and received a text requesting some index cards. I went down to give them the cards and noticed a set of Bob’s Books sitting on kitchen table. I asked therapist if she needed to borrow them for another client and she said, “Cody put the box there, not me.” I looked at her puzzled because I have noticed the random yellow box on a few other occasions appear on the kitchen table over the last few weeks but assumed it was just the therapists. Cody does not use these as they are too advanced for him right now but holding on to them for the day we will be able to use them with Cody. The therapist mentioned she needed the index cards to use for Cody’s site words and that he was rocking and rolling on his receptive labeling. I went back up to work and 30 minutes later, my therapist hollered from the bottom of the stairs for me to come down. I noticed her eyes were filled with tears and my first thought was something was wrong with Cody. She said to me, “Shelley, Cody knows his entire alphabet.” I looked at her as if she had been drinking and said, “how does he already know his alphabet when we have run no programs for him to learn his letters yet.?” She said, “I decided to run some tests today since I knew how great he was doing with his receptive labeling and watch this.” The other therapist had him sitting at his little red table while the other was recording him and our boy was able to identify all his letters as if he just completed kindergarten! He is not even 4 yet! I was speechless. I started to cry and then just found myself hugging her.
I ran back upstairs called Brad in Florida and literally could not get the words out I was crying so hard.
I can’t get the image of the joy on Cody’s face, how engaged he was and the look of anticipation on his face waiting for her to call out the next letter. Early on, when caught off guard and very random and only a few times, you used to hear Cody say, “I did it!” It been a very long time since those sounds have come out but I know he was thinking that!
So it continues to get better. They then tested his numbers 1-10 and he mastered those so they are now working on the “teen” numbers which he seems to be picking those up quickly too this week! And in case you were wondering, no, we have done NOTHING, ZERO, ZILCH with numbers or counting other than saying, “I,2,3 Go!” when we push cars on the floor! Crazy huh?
Our BCBA’s quickly re-wrote new programs and excited to see what the coming weeks will bring. She basically said that Cody very well might read before he speaks. It’s still somewhat a mystery on how he learned his letters.
I want to circle back up to the beginning of what I wrote. Was Cody trying to tell us he was ready to start reading by placing the Bob Books on the kitchen table? I believe that was his way of letting us know since he can’t speak it.
Again, Cody has taught me to not underestimate his knowledge because of his age or because he cannot speak. He has taught me that not all children take the same road or same path even though that can be the expectation. He has opened my heart and eyes even more to realize there is so much more untapped knowledge he can’t wait to share with us. We might think we are teaching him but he is actually teaching us. He has taught me to continue to expose him to new things, new environments and new experiences even when it can sometimes be tough.
What else is stored up there that we don’t know about yet? Love him. Love Our Journey.