We’ve managed to accrue a few of those toy laptops over the years. There’s the Barbie one, the VTech one, and the Disney Princess one.
I tried once, a long, long time ago to teach Rhema how to play with the laptop. But I became discouraged quickly, because it turned into a “hand war” with her trying to push all the buttons while I tried to stop her from pushing all the buttons. She was so focused on the buttons that I could not get her to look at the screen. (A little joint attention would have been helpful). The same is true for looking at books together – we always end up in a hand war.
So Rhema just perseverates on the laptop toy, turning it off and on, pushing the same button repeatedly until I take it away from her. For a year, I have not attempted to show her how to use it correctly.
Just assumed she couldn’t.
A couple nights ago, Rhema found the VTech laptop in my bedroom. On the spur of the moment, I sat down on the bed, put her in my lap and opened the computer. The hand war ensued as we battled over the On/Off button.
Then she stopped trying to press the button, and instead tapped her hand to her chest two times. I immediately recognized the gesture as her saying “for me” in sign language. Years ago we tried teaching her some sign language, but it just didn’t take. (Her poor motor planning and lack of receptive language made it very difficult).
But here she was signing “for me”, and I understood that it was her way of saying “my turn.” So I let her turn the laptop off and on.
Then it was my turn, and I managed to quickly get us into an alphabet letter identification game. Suddenly I was determined to teach Rhema how to appropriately play with this laptop. Rhema knows some, or most, of her letters… we think. (She will repeat some letters if we prompt her, but we never know for sure if she’s just repeating or if she really knows them.)
The first letter that appeared on the screen was a ‘D’. I was holding Rhema’s hands so that she could not turn it off. I cautiously let go of one hand to see what she would do. She signed “my turn.” (Amazing!) Then she casually ran her fingers over the keys and deliberately pressed the letter ‘D’.
Oh my gosh. She did it. I almost fell off the bed.
But then she was turning the laptop off and on again. I caught her hands, got us back into the game and waited for the next letter.
I know Rhema knows the letter R. But I still did not know if she understood that she had to press the R key.
She did. She did!
Don’t get excited. Let’s try another letter.
She skimmed her fingers along the keyboard, found the ‘I’ key and pressed it. She started stimming on the I key, pressing it repeatedly. But I didn’t care. I grabbed her and spun her around.
“Good job, Rhema. You did it! You did it!!!”
She looked a little bored, not nearly as excited as me. It was if she was saying, “Woman, chill. What? You didn’t think I knew how to play this?”
We played with it for another half hour. I had to continually break her out of stimming patterns, but she definitely “got” the game and only made a couple mistakes.
‘Cause you’re a wonder child
Living in a world that’s all surprise
And you make me see things through your eyes
Wonder child, this I know
It’s no wonder that I love you so
Wonder child, wonder child
(-Old Sesame Street song)
I recently told my friend Cha that Rhema had moved to a new level of PECS at school. She is now working on attributes, specifically colors. So if she wants a red popsicle, she must build the sentence “I want – red – popsicle” using her PECS symbols.
“It will be interesting to see how she does, because we’re not even sure she knows her colors. But that girl, she keeps teaching me again and again to never underestimate her.” I said
“I bet she does know her colors,” Cha said. “Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.”
You know what?