Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! I am currently on vacation on Whidbey Island, Washington enjoying the breathtaking mountains, crystal clear waters and fresh air! Right after landing in Seattle, before we heading to Whidbey, we stopped in to visit with Ian and his family. It has been two and half months since I saw Ian in Virginia. During our visit, I had a rare opportunity for a spontaneous RPM family session with Ian, his parents, and cousins! Here is our conversation.
Upon pulling out the letter-board, Ian immediately and without prompting, spelled:
Ian: HI ELIZABETH. I MISSED YOU SO MUCH!
Elizabeth: How’s life been Ian?
Ian: I HAVE BEEN PRACTICING WITH MOM AND DEBORAH ON THE LETTER BOARD IT HAS GONE PRETTY WELL
Elizabeth: Do you have any feedback for your Mom?
Ian: KEEP PRACTICING TO GET AS GOOD AS ELIZABETH AND ME
Ian: I STILL AM NOT HAPPY WITH MY SCHOOL SITUATION. I WANT TO BE EDUCATED IN THE REGULAR CLASSROOM. I FEEL LIKE I AM WASTING MY TIME IN SPECIAL EDUCATION. MY BRAIN IS NOT BEING PUT TO GOOD USE. I NEED TO BE CHALLENGED OR I AM AFRAID MY BRAIN WILL ROT. I WOULD LOVE TO BE HOME SCHOOLED SO I CAN PASS THE GED AND GO TO COLLEGE. I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR ALL MY PARENTS HAVE DONE FOR ME. I DO NOT WANT TO BE GREEDY BUT I DO WANT AN EDUCATION WORTHY OF MY INTELLIGENCE. I FEEL LIKE I AM RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO LEARN SO I DO NOT WANT TO WASTE ANY MORE TIME IN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM. I HAVE SO MUCH I WANT TO ACCOMPLISH IN MY LIFE. I WANT TO HELP OTHER NONSPEAKING AUTISTICS FIND THEIR VOICE LIKE I HAVE WITH RPM SO I NEED TO GET ON WITH THIS MISSION. NO MORE WASTED TIME IN SCHOOL. PLEASE HELP ME. I HAVE NOT STOPPED THINKING ABOUT THIS SINCE I LEFT VIRGINIA. ALL I WANT TO DO IS LEARN SO I CAN MAKE A CONTRIBUTION TO OTHERS IN THIS WORLD.
At this point I asked Ian if he had any more thoughts on the subject of school and he indicated that he was finished. When Ian was in Virginia, he texted his dad that he would like to attend a Seattle Sounders FC soccer game. His dad took him to a game when he got back from Virginia. He loved it! Ian’s cousins Warren and Jasen came and sat down near Ian to see him do RPM
Elizabeth: Ian, how was the Sounders game?
Ian: I HAD SO MUCH FUN. I LOVED GOING TO THE GAME WITH DAD.
Ian’s Dad was wondering if the noise of the game was bothering him and that was why he was burying his head in his father’s chest.
Eric (Ian’s dad): Was the Sounders game too loud?
Ian: NO SOUNDS DO NOT BOTHER ME AS MUCH AS LIGHTS DO.
Ian has been doing light therapy to help a vision problems he discussed via RPM when he was in Virginia.
Rosaleen (Ian’s mom): Ian, do you think the vision therapy is helping?
Ian: THE VISION THERAPY IS USEFUL BUT THE LIGHTS STILL BOTHER ME
Rosaleen: But Ian, you don’t like wearing sun glasses.
Ian: I LIKE THE GLASSES BUT SOMETIMES THEY ANNOY ME SO I TAKE THEM OFF AND I HAVE A HARD TIME PUTTING THEM BACK ON MY FACE.
*I have heard this from other kids! The sunglasses feel new and different on their face so they take them off. When they want to put them back on, sometimes the motor planning required to do so makes this difficult.
Rosaleen: Should I keep pestering you to put them back on?
Ian: I WILL TRY TO LET YOU KNOW. KEEP ASKING ME!
At this point, Ian’s cousin Warren had a question after watching Ian point out letters on the letter-board.
Warren: Ian, can you type on the computer to communicate?
Ian: THAT IS A DIFFERENT MOTOR LEARNING PATTERN AND I AM NOT ABLE TO BE AS FLUENT OR GET MY IDEAS OUT THE SAME AS I CAN ON THE LETTER BOARD.
I told Warren that this is the question I am most often asked. Ian’s reply is better than anyway that I have been able to explain it! Another frequently asked question is why the therapist has to hold the letter-board, why can’t it just be put on a stand. So I thought I would let field this one as well!
Elizabeth: Ian, can the letter-board be held on a stand so you can respond independently?
Ian: PART OF MY DISORDER IS THAT I CAN NOT INITIATE MOTOR MOVEMENTS ON MY OWN SO I NEED ELIZABETH TO PROVIDE THE COACHING TO GET MY BODY TO RESPOND PROPERLY. I CAN NOT DO THIS ON MY OWN. THIS IS WHY I CANNOT TALK.
One thing that Ian’s mom and dad have been amazed at is watching Ian play with a calculator app on the iPad. He will type large 12-digit numbers (billions) into the calculator then multiply by some smaller number. When he gets the answer, his parents are stunned to see the results. Rosaleen has seen him get products that are 15 digits long, all the same integer (for example: 999,999,999,999,999 or 666,666,666,666,666). Eric has seen him get answers such as 777,777,777,777,776 after which he might get 777,777,777,777,778 until he finally gets an answer of 777,777,777,777,777 which seems to be quite satisfactory to him. This blows my mind so I had to ask Ian about this!
Elizabeth: Ian, how do you do that thing where you multiply big numbers to get all 7s or 8s?
Ian: IT IS EASY. I JUST DIVIDE THE NUMBER I WANT TO GET AND THEN MULTIPLY THOSE NUMBERS.
Elizabeth: So you do that in your head?
Wow! So much fun to be able to plop down in the middle of the family and include everyone in the RPM conversation! Our week of vacation on Whidbey is almost at a close. Tomorrow we head into Seattle for continued fun but also my first West Coast RPM workshop with Ian and a few of his buddies! Can’t wait to hear what these kids have to say! ~Elizabeth