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Creating Ospertunities for IndependenceĀ 

I feel like I’m living for the weekend at the moment.

Its been a busy week. Dylan had a monthly educational workshop at the beginning of the week so we’re chasing our tails trying to catch up with all the resources and changes that amass from the meeting.

Still its the weekend now and I’m trying to encourage Dylans independence with interactions in shops and in public. It’s tough to teach when every situation and scenario is different. Also a lot could change with the ‘Great British Public’ who tend to look past Dylan and ask Dad or I what Dylan would want when they’re presented with the iPad from him. 

C’mon. Its not like you people don’t know how and Ipad works?! Jeez.

But Dylan doesn’t let this dampen his enthusiasm. Especially when there’s crisps to be brought. šŸ™‚

Out for a Saturday stroll and we stop for a coffee. Dylan chose a milk shake but once we’re all sat down with our drinks Dylan asked on his IPad for a cola. I told him he had money, he can go get one. I literally had to ask everyone to sit down and let him do it. The anxiety from the whole family around Dylan managing this alone was unreal!

What’s the worst that could happen? The waiter may not understand. Dylan forgets to pay? So what? We’re all here with him. It’ll be fine!

Dylan goes with his iPad and gets in the queue skipping and hopping like the Duracell bunny but he waits where he needs to until the young lady serving tries to take his order.

Her face!? She looks totally out of her comfort zone at Dylan showing her the iPad and making his request. Again I remind everyone to sit down; Dylans got this. 

He looked straight at her. He turned the device round and calmly placed it in her hands so she could read it. 

‘Oh okay’ she says and scuttles off to get his beverage. 

We gesture to Dylan from our table to get his money ready and when she comes back to him with his drink he hands her his card to pay.

Dylan has an Osper prepayment card for children which had a chip and pin number so he doesn’t need to carry lots of money with him. He knows his pin off by heart, knows which end to put in the machine and knows to wait before removing it.

Transaction complete.

Quite a queue had grown by this time and Dylan had his iPad, his drink (which would always be the priority item!) his wallet and now the Osper card to put away. He left his wallet on the counter and brought over the other items to the table. He needed reminding to get his wallet or otherwise he would have just left it and a kind lady in the queue held it or for Dylan to take it.  

I would’ve liked him to thank her but often unprepared situations or members of the public don’t allow the time needed for a successful aac response. 

Maybe next time.

Everyone at the table congratulated Dylan on how well he did. Almost like they were surprised. Not me. I know he can do it.

He has the Osper card, he has the skills, he certainly has the drive. All he needs now are the opportunities. It’s becoming more and more apparent that we are not giving Dylan the opportunities to develop his confidence in these situations.
After this we went to the supermarket and Dylan used the iPad to ask for some cracker samples, he requested to buy some crisps and then went and attempted to use the self service machine. More support was needed for this but his enthusiasm and determination to achieve success is, as always, admirable.

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Buy buy love

Dylan has mild obsessions; mostly foods. Its not really a problem. He will ask for his favourite snacks crisps and cola. All the time. Easily 50 times a day. It’s a pleasant polite request of ‘I want crisps cola please’ but its continuous. 

We will let him buy these treats maybe once every couple of days. He loves full strength Coke but I make him get Pepsi Max so it has less sugars. He always selects a packet of Hot Doritos to go with them. 

Yesterday after school we went to our local shop. Its a fair sized local convenience store and having just been the end of school the shop was slowly filling with noisy secondary school children. 

Dylan, unfazed by the increasing babbling around him, did his usual request for his favourite snacks.I nodded my approval for this to him from the other end of the aisle and he nipped behind the next aisle to select his treats.

Luckily Dylan doesnt bolt off like he did when he was younger. He is still incredibly vulnerable though in that he gets swept away with crowds of people and will never really seek us out. Thank goodness he has never been lost but that’s only through our relentless insistence to always hold our hands or stay close to us when outdoors. I am slowly coming to terms with giving him more freedom from us but today the shop was far too busy. 

Josh and Grace passed me their snack choices as I tried to work my way through the now very busy aisle towards the tills to meet Dylan and pay. I could just see Dylan further down near the tills; occasionally losing sight of him as the queue between us became engorged with the ever growing flow of noisy boisterous school kids. I could see him enough to know he was safe but he was too far ahead for me to call him back or get his attention. 

But Dylan was cool. He heard the cashier when she called for the next person in the queue. He handed over his goods and quickly got his cash card ready. The cashier didnt interact with him; obviously far too busy to make small  talk with another irritating child on her already busy shift. This suited Dylan fine. He picked up on her cue for payment and waited until the payment machine asked for his pin number. After punching in the correct number he waited again until it was okay to remove his card and he replaced it back in his wallet. Dylan then collected his goods and his receipt and before waiting at the door for the rest of us. 

Cool as a cucumber and so so happy with himself. 

Now he knows he can get these prized treats by himself they’ll be no stopping him!

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Dinner date

ā€‹Just had the best evening out on my own with this little guy. 

He ordered all his own food and made a  choice between another fizzy drink or a pudding- (pudding obviously!) which he chose and ate in record time. 

I started filming as Dylan began typing as I expected him to ask for another coke. Instead he spontaneously thanked me! Bless him. 

Seeing my surprise and joy at his’thank you’ he then independently went to the bar and thanked all the servers with his iPad before we left.

 He left the pub cackling with pride and making everyone smile šŸ™‚

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AAC in action

Dylans interpretation of language never ceases to amaze me. 

Yesterday we went to a local inclusive sports group and by the time we arrived the bulk of the group had gone outside to play football. Dylan wanted to go out to but with us not knowing this and Dylan not having the right words to ask for this he used his iPad to ask;

‘Open ball’

When we queried this request he pointed to the door which had an open sign on it. By pushing the door open a crack he could see the rest of the group out on the pitch playing football.
No anger or frustration. Just solution.
Dylan wore his IPad the whole session. Having the new shoulder strap has really ensured that Dylan can comfortably keep his IPad with him at all times.  

After coming in from football Dylan took of his manbag with his wallet and bits in but made sure he kept his Ipad with him while he played on the building blocks with Grace.

AAC is becoming more normal. Less facilitated and more natural. 
For Dylan and for us.

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Lets go ride a bike….

The title should be sung – to the tune of Mary Poppins, ‘Lets go fly a kite‘.

A happy tune, with a smile, because today – after hours of Graces tutorials -Dylan did just that.

We went round the block and Dylan rode his bike!

No stabilisers, no falls, minimal brakes (we’ll work on that next!)

It was fab! Sadly no pictures as I was too busy trying to scuttle (I don’t run) alongside him in case of falls.

We’ll do it again tomorrow and I’ll take pictures šŸ™‚

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October is AAC Month

Ah, October; time for rain, woolly sweaters, hot chocolate and snuggles.

October is also AAC month. An opportunity to really highlight AAC and communication.

The wider world presume speech, presume social connection and expect that these abilities come naturally to everyone as they grow up. It just happens, a baby isn’t ‘taught’ how to speak; they just do – you speak to them, they babble and then they eventually speak back. That’s how it works….isn’t it?

Prior to Dylan this is what I thought. And to be honest this is what I still thought up until probably about 6 years ago, six years ago Dylan was 8 and IĀ still thought like this. Clearly I have taken a while to get to grips with it all and I now fully accept that this isn’t just something that happens – one doesn’t just speak, maybe someone will never speak, but there still needs to be communication and I am a fully fledged advocate for communication – whatever form it may take.

This week has been a busy week for communication with great improvement. Dylan is persisting with ensuing her has his listeners attention,. This has been one of the biggest blockers to him being listened to or understood. Dylan will often speak really quietly or without someone’s attention and the opportunity for interaction is lost. This week he has began to gently tap or reach out to people. Touch their shoulder or put his face gently towards theirs to obtain attention. He is still attempting to speak verbally but he is getting the gist of gaining attention. This earlier post Persistance paysĀ demonstrates this beautifully.

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We have also been working onĀ waitingĀ – not Dylan’s favourite activity and sometimes he has had to wait forĀ days for a chosen item or activity. This has producedĀ some tears but with gentle reassurance and consistency we have managed. Dylan’s confidence is steadily growing and he is enjoying the new found world where he can ask for something and get it!

So, plans for October – Dylan has a new case for his IPad. The case is lightweight and has a shoulder strap. Until now Dylan’s had a heavy duty case for protection but this is bulky, without a handle and he keeps putting it down and leaving it places. When we go out we encourage him to take his ‘man-bag’ with iPad, wallet, ear defenders and keys in but this is bulky and as soon as we are home the bag and its contents are off and hung away.

By having a lighter case with a shoulder strap I’m hoping Dylan will be included to keep it with him and prompt more spontaneous use.

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We are also starting the PrAACtical AAC ‘Year of Core Vocabulary’ The purpose being to focus on some core words and develop opportunities to widen existing vocabulary.Ā  I am really excited about this. So much of what we talk to Dylan about is food, which is cool as he likes that but if we could EXPAND that? Well the possibilities are endless!