I had an opportunity to meet with Mikey's teacher, and we discussed his progress,as well as his difficulties in the area of communication. It had been decided that he would be slowly introduced to a communication device known as a Dynavox. This machine would help him express himself and hopefully alleviate any feelings of frustration. I was told that the machine would go everywhere with him, school, home, etc. Seemed
easy enough.....then I saw the machine.
It was not a very large device, I'd say about the size of a portable dvd player. The problem was that it weighed so much! This machine was heavy. It seemed to me that it would be very tedious having to carry this thing around all day. It wouldn't be too much of an issue at school, as it sat on his desk most of the day. However, in everyday life, it seemed like it might possibly become a problem. Of course, we wanted him to have a way to make all of his needs known, so we went along with the plan.I also requested that they try to teach him sign language. I thought it would be great for him to have another way to communicate if needed.
The response I received was twofold, first they did not think it was practical, because not many people understood sign language. Secondly, they felt that Mikey had poor fine motor skills and lack of hand strength, so it would not be effective.
Let me just say this, I do not like to hear "no" before something is even tried. What harm could it possibly do to make an effort to teach him sign language? The other thing that drove me crazy was that Mikey had a set of the strongest hands I had ever encountered on a child. We have a friend that used to joke about how Mikey could rip a phone book in half if he tried. As mentioned in prior posts, he was always playing with his hands. He also had a habit of ripping and twisting things....things that were not easy to rip or twist. He would rip apart plastic trash bags that we kept in our trash can. He would twist bags from the supermarket so hard that the ink would be completely gone when he was finished. He would rip almost anything he could get his hands on. We even went through a phase where he would rip tissues, toilet paper or paper towels non-stop.
If I left a room for five minutes, when I returned, it would look like we had a snowstorm with all of the tiny bits of tissues everywhere. It got to the point where we could no longer buy regular trash bags and had to use the heavy duty construction bags for our garbage. Guess what? He ripped those too.
Now, I would agree with the teachers that he may not have gripped his pencil properly, but when it came to hand strength, he had it. After much persistence on my part, they decided to try the sign language. Within a month they came back to me saying it was not working. I didn't feel that was enough time, however,they did not agree,and discontinued it. Instead, they focused on only the machine, which was a great thing for him, but we were very disappointed that they gave up so easily on another method of communication for him.
My son is capable of many things. He only needs constant reinforcement to allow him to flourish. Having them give up so easily made me question whether or not they had his best interests at heart or only their own agenda. I thought perhaps it was the latter....and future events would only confirm my belief.