re: shared attention and GrammarTrainer I had a funny experience a few days ago. Funny and wonderful.
I had gone to Andrew’s day program and logged him onto a new GrammarTrainer session. Then, when all seemed to be going well, I started reading my phone instead of looking at the laptop Andrew was using. (In theory, he’s supposed to use the program independently….)
And Andrew didn’t like it !
He poked me, protested (“Huh!“), and jabbed his pointer finger at the laptop screen. I thought he must have been having trouble with a question, but he wasn’t. He just wanted me to look at the same thing he was looking at.
I don’t think that’s ever happened before.
This may be a post only parents of autistic children and adults can really ‘get,’ but here goes.
One of the most painful aspects of autism for the parent (and no doubt for siblings and others close to the child) is the profound deficit in shared attention:
Joint [shared] attention occurs when two people share interest in an object or event and there is understanding between the two people that they are both interested in the same object or event.
Joint attention should emerge around 9 months of age and be very well-established by 18 months of age.
A 9-month old baby points. (Right? It’s been a while.)
A 9-month old baby points, and, when you point, s/he follows your finger to see what it is you’re pointing at. Parent and child look at the same thing at the same time, and they do so on purpose because people share.
But autistic babies don’t point. At least, neither of my autistic children pointed. Nor did they react when I pointed.
Yesterday’s Sentence Weaver lesson featured the distinction between:
Which circles are biggest?
Where are the biggest circles?
The answers were things like:
“the circles in the middle [are biggest]”
“the biggest circles [are in the middle]”
He was not getting it at all.
Actually, I think he was getting one question & not the other, but I was too preoccupied trying to teach him what left-right-middle and top-bottom-middle meant to write down which question was which.
Anyway, I could almost hear him thinking:
These are all the same words!
What the hell?
Maybe I should be teaching him Latin instead.
I’m making headway on my New Year’s resolutions (7,000 steps a day for me, GrammarTrainer for Andrew, and possibly for Jimmy, too).
This morning I showed the folks at Andrew’s day program how he uses Katie’s program. They were amazed. Everyone is always amazed when they see Andrew using SentenceWeaver (must get videos loaded): thanks to SentenceWeaver, he is one of the few people on the planet who knows what a function word is.
This is a nonverbal person with severe autism. Knows he needs a function word to connect red to green when he’s saying an oval is red-and-green.
I’m still amazed myself, watching him.