Cerebral Palsy, communication, Our Son, Sebastian's Achievements, Therapy, Toronto

XEB and Writing: Part 1

imagePrint Alphabet Flip Chart and Sebastian’s free writing June 2012

In March of this year we started working with a Communication and Writing Aides (CWAS) team. They came to our home to trial different switches with Sebastian that he then used at home and at school. He tried a head switch and a Big Mac hand switch. As he doesn’t spend a lot of time in his wheelchair at home and only uses it for transitions at school, the head switch was attached to his seat2go. We connected switches to the computer to click through pages on stories and games as well as to help ‘read’ stories. We simultaneously worked with an OT on his targeting with reaching for the hand switch. At school his switch was used during circle time to say his name during the morning song as well as to choose between two items or activities, pre-recorded with the phrase ‘that’s the one I want.’ Over time we felt that Sebastian was most successful and engaged in using the hand switches over the head switch.

While working on building switch using skills the CWAS team also started working on literacy skills and scribbling/writing with Sebastian. For this they introduced two items, the MegaB and a laminated Print Alphabet Flip Chart developed by Gretchen Hanser. Using his smile as a yes and looking away as his no, the OT/SLP would read the letters of the alphabet and as Seb chose them, they wrote down his letters, making words. As early/emergent literacy learners scribble letters into paper, making words and stories, this activity allowed Sebastian to do the same, with assistance. Once he communicated that his word was ‘finished’, the team/helper had to guess what word he made and write the correct spelling beneath. Sometimes pictures were used for writing prompts, other times it was free writing. Sometimes words were obvious, other times we had to stretch our imaginations.

Having a child that cannot flip though the pages of a book independently or ‘read’ books on his own, it is difficult to know his literacy learning/skills. These writing sessions showed all of us how much Sebastian does understand and demonstrated the early literacy skills he is already developing.

Working with a team that believes in Sebastian and his abilities as much as we do is wonderful. And necessary. They have done a few literacy assessments and their reports will help his future school (kindergarten) have a base knowledge if his skills. This means a lot for a non-verbal child whom is misunderstood often, especially by folks who don’t know/believe that he has a high comprehensive vocabulary.

At the end of June the team had their last visit for the summer. During that visit they asked to video our session to and use the clip for a workshop presentation. They had no idea they would get Seb spelling his name! Sebastian often chooses the letter ‘x’ in his free-writing. And on this day we discovered it is because it sounds like an ‘s’, the first letter of his name. Proud mama moment indeed.

More examples, explanations, photos, and recent updates to follow.

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