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Reading the Signs

Recently I was visiting Eddie at his school, and he was having an abnormally rough morning. I noticed when he awoke that day he wasn’t thinking at his typical speed. When asking him simple questions he usually responded to quickly, he couldn’t come up with an answer. You could see the wheels spinning, but his thought train was not moving forward. This foretold of a potentially bad day at school.

So, when I showed up to work with his teachers, and to discuss his braille progress, I thought I probably wouldn’t get much work out of him. We started by heading off to his regular education classroom, which he does each morning. While going down the hall he tried to enter his classroom from last year. He was adamant about revisiting kindergarten, and threw a tantrum when prompted to continue on. Again, this demonstrated that things just weren’t “clicking.”

We decided to let him choose between going to the 1st grade class, or the braille room. He immediately said, “braille room,” and we turned around. Most days, if he is throwing random tantrums, we stick to the routine because we don’t want him to think he can call the shots by getting upset. But today, he had demonstrated multiple times that he was struggling, and we simply had to take the cues from him.

It is so easy to get caught up in what goals must be accomplished and what schedule needs to be followed, that we forget our kids can simply have bad days…just like us. By realizing right away that Eddie was having a tough time, we were able to quickly adjust his routine and activities in a way that would work for us all. We simply had to meet him at his current level, or we’d all be frustrated.

When we got back to the braille room, we gave him two choices right away…book or calendar. He chose book…and we gave him two more choices…”Corduroy” or “Gruffalo,” He picked “Gruffalo.” He listened to the whole story, reaching sometimes for the braille, without an incident. We weren’t pushing him, but he was being educated (even if he didn’t know it).

Next, I wanted to show his teacher the SMART brailler I discussed in an earlier blog. It has voice output, and I thought she would love to see it. Eddie immediately became upset when I asked if he wanted to “write” and I pulled out the brailler. So, I knew that if he was going to have anything to do with it, I’d have to spice things up. With a few simple adjustments, this was easy to do.

First, I made sure the voice output was set to “Graham,” the British male option. Eddie and I both love that. Who doesn’t love a British accent? Next, I gave him choices about what songs to braille. While I was typing, he put his hands on mine and helped push down the keys. I sang the words along with “Graham” as we went. When finished, we pulled out the paper, and sang the song together while he felt the braille. Simply put, we were both having fun.

Eddie’s bad days come at the drop of a hat. There is no rhyme or reason that we have discovered, so we have learned to roll with it. We absolutely have to read his signs and take our cues from him. Some days he will accomplish a lot, and on other days we simply have to make learning more “fun” than functional. Besides, regardless of his mood, he is always capable of learning. Sometimes it just takes the magic of something like “Graham” to make learning happen.