Saturday, January 21, 2012

Questions, Answers, and Attitude

We are flying at a fast pace with Lilli. It's almost like time travel. I feel like we have catapulted from kindergarten to second grade in just the last month. In August when we started school, she was working on picking the letters "L" and "I" out on the keyboard to spell her name. I remember helping her type a few words such as Mom, Dad, and go. But I was making her type them. She did not know how to spell them and type them herself. And read? That was a distant dream. Now five months later, she is typing her own sentences and her attitude is coming out though the ipad. Yesterday morning she typed "Let me be." Tonight takes the cake, though, because she typed "Hate u." To me.

I was expecting to hear that from Chloe for the first time, not Lilli. I still cannot believe it. She was furious with me because I would not give her a cheesepuff. She was crying mad, and I told her to use words. So she typed "Hate u." I was a little shocked. But I am getting used to this now. She is smart, sassy, and still frustrated, but now in a different way. She realizes that she has choices, and a voice. I think that awareness is actually causing her to be more frustrated. I don't even know how to explain it. I feel as if she is "growing into her age" at a rapid pace. I used to look at her like she was a three year old in a seven year old body. But this is not a three year old. But she cannot do everything a seven year old can do. She is a mixture of ages right now. She still loves Elmo. She is extremely delayed in her self-help skills. But she is reading and typing like an older child. She types the word "because" a lot. She absolutely knows how to read and spell a long list of words, and she is just now beginning to use punctuation. She wants her independence so much. But she needs a lot of help. And she really wants to express her feelings but can only do it through crying, yelling, or taking the time to type words. Imagine if you had to type out your anger all the time to your parents or your spouse. It's not even as satisfying as writing, where you can scribble hard or break a pencil if you are really angry. It's typing. And it's not like you can bang the "keys" on a touch screen. I can understand why she is still frustrated.

I explained to Lilli that she should not use the word "hate," and she should not say that to her momma. I helped her to do the sign language sign for "sorry." She stood there for a moment, and then she typed "Do u love me?" Wow. I told her that I loved her, that she was my little girl, and that there was nothing she could ever do or say to make me stop loving her, because she is mine. We hugged, and it was over. I cannot believe I had that "conversation" with Lilli tonight.

The little pictures do not come up above the words until after Lilli types the words and taps "insert."
So much has happened in just the past few days with her reading. We think that she might actually be reading ON grade level. That blows my mind. Now I am wondering, what comes next? This is uncharted territory. I think the logical next step is to assess Lilli somehow to see what her reading level is, and then we will know what level books we can use to teach her more. We might have to take an educated guess. But I think we might be able to take an assessment and somehow accommodate it for a non-verbal child who reads and types on an ipad. This should be an interesting challenge.

My sister, a kindergarten teacher, suggested that we informally assess Lilli using comprehension. For example we type a sentence silently, have Lilli read it to herself, and then ask her a question about that sentence. If she can type the correct answer, she can obviously read it. Leslie and Morgan began typing questions to Lilli silently on the ipad, having Lilli point to each word and telling her to read it, and then having her type the answers. We were amazed at the results. She can answer all of the questions. Leslie typed "What is your name?" and she typed back, "Lilli." I wish I had been there to see that. Today Morgan silently typed "What do you like to eat?" and Lilli typed "Cheesepuffs" perfectly. "What color is the table?" Lilli typed "brown." She silently typed her other questions too, and Lilli typed correct answers to them all of them. This afternoon Leslie typed questions to Lilli about scenes in Youtube Baby Einstein clips. They would watch a few seconds and Leslie would pause it and silently type a question about what they just watched. Lilli loved it. For example one question was "What color are the apples?" Lilli typed "red." "What are the girls doing?" Lilli typed "swing." My favorite was "What did the horse do?" Lilli typed "Eat flowr" (flower.)

I have pulled out most of my teaching stuff that I have been saving up for a moment like this. (Such sweet satisfaction for a packrat former educator.) In the past few days I've pulled out boxes of assorted word flashcards and sentence building activities. We went to the library together and checked out another stack of books. (Lilli likes Word Bird books.) We hooked the touch screen monitor to a computer downstairs so Lilli can work on More and We put letter stickers on the computer keyboard and Lilli is typing in Microsoft Word to practice using a real keyboard. Leslie and Morgan are typing with Lilli like crazy, and working on another entire list of skills as well. Leslie is using word cards and pictures to have Lilli read and identify words by pointing at pictures. They are working on the days of the week and weather words, and computer skills. Morgan is continuing to teach Lilli to sign, match, imitate actions such as kicking and clapping, and working on self-help skills like pulling up pants and socks. She has a long list of things she works on with Lilli everyday besides typing.

I lay awake at night (well, honestly only because a child has woken me up) and think about what is happening. I think about the next step for Lilli. It's good to keep moving, to keep challenging her. We need to see what she can really do. But not for our sake. For Lilli's sake. I love that this week, Lilli learned that she can read. I love knowing that soon, we might know just how well she can read. For a stay-at-home mom who does the typical stay-at-home mom stuff day in and day out, this is a thrilling experience that gives me possibilities to look forward to when I wake up each morning. Unfortunately, she is not doing all this great stuff with me. But that's because I'm the MOM. I'm the one she yells at and tells me she hates me. Well, I'll take it. Not the "hate u" part. I'll take the fact that she is reading and typing with Morgan and Leslie each day. I'm the one making the pancakes and chicken nuggets right now. I'd better go get to the laundry and dishes.

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