3.07.2007

Leelo vs. the MYNDsters

Leelo vs. the MYNDsters

Leelo spent this morning at the MYND Institute, as a monkey for their imitation/regression and autism research study.

I wasn't expecting a lot of success. Leelo is taking a two-week medication break before trying Stratifera, which means that our dual diagnosis autism/ADHD boy can't sit still for more than a couple of minutes. Especially under novel circumstances.

I was right to be worried, because the sitting certainly didn't happen. But with encouragement from me and a 1:1 goldfish cracker : task arrangement, Leelo was able to fully participate. He even did extremely well, which is rare and appreciated.

Granted, the task set couldn't have been more perfect for Leelo: imitating short actions and sounds/words, and labeling items. This is what Leelo does all day! He was a poster child, and in these areas performed as well as any child his age, according to the staff. In a couple of instances I had to clarify whether they were interested in his ability to do a task or instead in his ability to understand the instructions, because they were asking questions such as "show me the one like this," which means nothing to Leelo. When they switched to "match," for the same task set, Leelo got them all correct.

The latter part of the session was a parent interview. Interspersed with--and because of--my answers, we spent some time talking about how motivation affects Leelo, about how his skills often stay dormant until the right incentive appears. For instance, does Leelo learn by observation, does he listen or watch and then act on that information? My first answer was a resounding "no." He is not like Mali, who overheard that we were going to Ambah's house and so talked of nothing else all the way to Sacramento and back. But he will watch carefully to see how I put the latch on the deck gate he wants to open, or exactly where I put away those forbidden cookies. Yesterday he noticed that I opened up the lid of the washer mid-cycle, and that the cycle immediately stopped. He then spent several minutes opening and closing the lid. I changed my original answer to "if he has sufficient motivation."

It was a blessedly short session, in addition to being a fruitful one. Twelve hours later, I am still pleased that Leelo was given an opportunity to succeed.

He got to succeed again later on during a hike at my friend's house. It was a long trek for a little guy, with lots of hills and uneven terrain. He hiked for almost an hour before he started complaining. At one point he found a lovely green meadow, plopped down on his belly, and simply refused to move until he was ready. And that was okay; my friend's yard overlooks a gorgeous valley, it was a gorgeous day, and there were gorgeous wildflowers everywhere. We hung out until he was ready to move on.

Let's go, Leelo.

Leelo in the Meadow

Cowgirl Mali

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