Showing posts with label competence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label competence. Show all posts

10.22.2012

Competence and Constant Vigilance

A persistent hindrance to increased independence for people like Leo is parents like me overlooking opportunities for self-care and competence. Sometimes this happens because we find it quicker and easier to take care of breakfast preparation or our kids' tooth brushing ourselves, sometimes because in our day-to-day rush we forget to check in and see if new skills have emerged. It takes effort and vigilance to give Leo the chances he needs to demonstrate competence.

Like yesterday, when Leo asked me for mango juice. I was about to pour it for him, but instead stepped back and asked if he wanted to pour it himself. Which he did! He even put the lid back on the carton (a twisting/screwing motion) with one hand while drinking his juice with the other. That's some serious bilateral coordination. Which I would have missed, had I not slowed down and handed over the reins.

I consider scenarios like this part of Autism Acceptance: being able to appreciate that it is totally fucking awesome for my nearly-12-year-old son to pour his own juice, without any bittersweet undertones. This is not denying Leo's reality, or mine. This is understanding what autism means for Leo, and adjusting to his natural patterns of rhythm and growth -- patterns which have nothing to do with most kids his age, but which are far from rare either currently or historically.

Part of the difficulty many people have with Autism Acceptance is understanding why it is not an attitude of surrender or denial, to which I can only respond with our own experiences:

I'm not only constantly vigilant about Leo's competence, but also his safety -- when he's excited or upset, he likes to whoop and gallop away from me without necessarily noticing dangers in his vicinity. Dude, I'm on that -- who wouldn't be? When we're out in public, we're a hand-holding duo; if he's in an excitable mood, we stay home and he can gallop all he wants. I accept that.

I'm constantly vigilant about his education and needs -- we're re-evaluating his ABA home program now that our state has mandated insurance coverage, and also pushing for an AAC evaluation. We're re-gauging his reading readiness. We've just finished setting up a special needs trust with the understanding that Leo's long-term educational and living needs will likely be different than many -- but not all -- people his age. I accept that.

The most important part of Autism Acceptance, however, is understanding that Leo is not an empty shell, or a changeling. There is not some alternate Leo trapped inside his body, waiting to escape. Leo is Leo. He is the person he was born to be. He is his own awesome self. I accept and adore him just as he is.

10.11.2012

Apps & Autism: Presuming & Expressing Competence

I do my best strive to presume, cultivate, and recognize Leo's competence. To give him opportunities to access information and entertainment. To always consider what is possible, what he could do, how he might thrive -- and not worry about whether we see any kind of  "return on investment." That is why we listen to a variety of music, that is why we listen to books in the car, that is why I chuckle with admiration whenever he punks or outwits me, that is why I always try to give him a few extra beats to process and then act on input.

And that is one of the reasons I love watching him use his iPad, because it lets him explore and demonstrate such competence, whether he's reorganizing icons so his most-used apps are all in the same folder, realizing he can find songs in iTunes via their album art, or practicing typing via finding his favorite videos on YouTube. All independently initiated activities. All evidence of awesomeness.

Leo playing Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose
Awesomeness evidence is also why I get so excited about apps that let Leo express his competence. This is why I have always been such a fan of Oceanhouse Media's OMBooks, especially their Dr. Seuss series -- Leo can explore beloved books however he likes, whether he prefers to have the books read to him automatically, or "read" them himself by touching on each word individually. I've written about this before, many times.

But the reason I appreciate Oceanhouse Media's work so much is that, even while producing a constant avalanche of apps -- they just released another Leo favorite,  Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose --
Leo & Oceanhouse Media president Michel Kripalani
They also constantly strive to make their existing apps better and more useful. So now apps like Dr. Seuss's ABC, Green Eggs and Ham, and the Cat in the Hat allow users to record their own voiceover. Which means that Leo -- who knows nearly every Dr. Seuss book by heart -- will be motivated to practice reading out loud. He'll then have evidence of his competence, his abilities -- which I love seeing, even though I neither expect nor demand that evidence. He gets to feel proud and happy, and have fun doing what he loves.

We'll also be able to record favorite people reading his favorite books, so he can feel like his grandparents or uncles or aunties are still here, even when they're far away. We'll be able to share those recordings with friends and families who have the same apps. We could -- if we so chose, and assuming it would be within the boundaries of fair use -- play the Dr. Seuss audiobooks we've spent years listening to in the car, and record them right into the app, so Leo can have all of his Dr. Seuss worlds (Green Eggs & Ham and Dr. Seuss's ABC read by Jason Alexander! The Cat in the Hat read by Kelsey Grammer!) finally fold into each other for ultimate happiness. Because that's the kind of experience that motivates him. That's the kind of feature that keeps him pushing and learning. And allowing pushing and learning and demonstrating competence to happen -- keeping apps evolving to better serve kids like Leo -- is something for which both Leo and I are both profoundly grateful.

This is how all apps should be.

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Disclosure: I requested and was gifted a copy of the Thidwick app. However, I am not affiliated with or compensated by Oceanhouse Media in any other way -- as always, I only write about apps I think really make a difference.

6.11.2009

Double Daring Book Review

Before I had children, I would obsess about a theoretical future daughter and the critical information I simply had to impart to her. Epiphanies would strike -- Fair Witness! She'll need to know how to be a fair witness! -- and I'd pull the car over, write my revelation down, and then daydream about compiling a D'Artagnan-Rosenberg infostream manifesto to hand to that girl, once she appeared and when she was ready.

Lucky me, I got my daughter -- and a spare (and a handsome son as well). I never put together that manifesto, but also no longer fret about it: Andi Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz let me off the hook two years ago, when they published their own compendium of core girl knowledge, The Daring Book for Girls.

Lucky us, they've now published a second collection: The Double Daring Book for Girls.

Do I love their Daring books? Yes I do, passionately, and so does my ten-year-old daughter. She squealed when our copy of The Double Daring Book arrived (the good folks at Houghton-Mifflin sent a complimentary copy), immediately dispatched the whole thing, and dove straight into the activities. Here's her first attempt at Calligraphy (p. 256):

Found Item: Zelly's Steak Calligraphy

I too read the entire Double Daring Book (though a bit more slowly than my daughter), and was delighted. Look how many pages I dog-eared, so as to remember the best of the best of its activities, biographies, and histories:



Honestly, I want to hand this book to every girl I know, and the boys as well (pink typeface and Girl label be damned, this book is a powder keg of information and ideas for any kid). I am pleased that it contains overlaps with that imagined manifesto of mine, e.g., batik techniques and history (p.99), commonly confused words like imply and infer (p. 141), and the specifics of quality private eye work (p. 177).

What I truly appreciate, and what makes the Daring books transcend the How To label, is the activities' historical and often rebellious context. Why should our kids want to know how to waltz (p. 78)? How about because it was considered scandalous -- the dancing partners touched! And vulgar, forbidden -- it was easy to learn and didn't require a dance master!

Mostly, I am dazzled by the amount of good, hard, enticingly written information amassed in this book. I want kids to know everything in it. I want them to know exactly who Eleanor of Aquitaine was, and how startling her long, accomplished, independent life was compared to most women of her era. I want them to know the fundamentals of rhetoric, how to make a raft, the story of Ada Lovelace, how to join the circus, how to say thank you in scores of languages, how to make snowglobes, how to conduct an orchestra, and how to make rope ladders.

One quibble: The entry on Running a Magazine (p. 204) never mentions the word "zine," or how those handmade magazines helped drive the relatively recent Riot Grrrls feminist movement, which is perplexing, but I suppose in keeping with the book's overall timeless and classic feel. Don't let this one item keep you away.

The Double Daring Book for Girls is buoyed by positivity, and focuses on cultivating competence, independence, willingness to experiment, and open-ended fun. It provides multiple short biographies of women whose lives exemplified these attitudes. These role models and this book are antidotes for heavily-marketed (and in some cases marketing-originated) books like the one pictured below, the title of which I will not type here, which my daughter and her friends crave, and in which junior high-aged girls live lives of insecurity, negativity, and cruelty, while obsessing about label-spangled fashion, unrealistic body images, and social machinations. Ptui.



If you want your girls to value knowledge and abilities like they do store-bought items, get them The Double Daring Book for Girls. I truly believe it has the power to inspire and edify any child with a curious mind, while simultaneously countering media-induced materialism. It is a treasure.

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