Forgive me, it’s a stupid title I know, but I remain overjoyed that this Christmas period has continued to be defined by the death of a fictional TV character, rather than anything autism related and decided to celebrate that once more. For anyone concerned, Louis has made a full recovery from the shock of Arthur’s death and has taken to amusing himself doing ‘dead Arthur’ impressions, rolling his eyes back complete with a slither of white eye showing. Oh yes, as he said, he’s so sensitive.
So it really has been calm here; unlike the sea. We’ve had some painful walks along the beach where the sand has been whipping across our faces. We did have one hairy moment five minutes after the photo below was taken when Archie ended up cut off by the tide, marooned on a small circle of sand . I wasn’t too worried about him, he was risking a soaking rather than anything more dangerous, but I was very worried about the five thousand pound (plus) of talker hung around his neck and dangling over the sea. I moved fast, very fast.
2012 has been a great year for Archie, he’s made enormous progress in so many areas and we remain incredibly grateful to the anonymous donor. Now, with Christmas complete, and being December the 31st it seemed a good time to think back about what I have learned this year, the first full year of talker use.
- Archie’s language is not intact. At least I don’t think so. I know some children who are non-verbal have found a communication method such as typing and revealed themselves to have pretty much intact language. This is not the case for Archie. Although now he is an active user of language it is developing at great speed, rather like a toddler going through a language explosion. In this year we have moved from a preferred use of one word; e.g. black to mean black car, or granddad’s car, to fairly routine use of longer phrases e.g. granddad black car handbrake up stop. His language development seems very similar to Lucy Blackman’s. She too started aged 13, with AAC.
- The talker can be used as a tool for humour. Archie has always had a wicked sense of humour, some of which can be incredibly annoying (e.g. taking people’s glasses off & sniffing people). With the talker he can enjoy his joke, by telling us he is going to do something naughty (such as take his head teacher’s glasses off) without having to actually go through and do it. Well sometimes. He had my glasses off about an hour ago, I’ll be back in contacts tomorrow.
- Archie has his own way of saying things. His use of ‘not’ at the end of a sentence continues and seems pretty much part of him. School tomorrow not. Sniffing Tom Daley not. DEFINITELY not that one (at which stage Archie falls about laughing his leg off).
- Better communication leads to less frustration and a calmer Archie. a.k.a stating the bleeding obvious. Obviously being severely autistic Archie has his difficult moments (he found the long unstructured summer holidays hard), but the talker really has cut down on a lot of shouty moments. He doesn’t have to shout with frustration now because we can easily understand him.
- The talker allows Archie to chill out and chew the fat with the rest of the family. Ha! I couldn’t think how else to word this, but staying with the Tom Daley theme I discussed this during the Olympics.
- The talker has really encouraged a blossoming relationship between Archie and his brothers. Something I wrote about recently.
- Surfing really does make a difference. This year Plymouth City Council funded some sessions for the kids attending Archie’s respite centre. These were a huge success; videos here; here and here. Archie surfing even ended up on the BBC website.
- Big waves are the best waves. I have always known that Archie prefers to be out in a decent swell than in flat conditions, but this year he’s been able to make that very clear big waves good. Yes indeed.
And so what are we hoping for in 2013? I don’t really spend much time making Archie wish lists these days. He’s happy and progressing faster than he ever has before and I prefer to see where we end up. If I were to predict an area where we might see some real progress this year it would be in literacy. Yesterday he did type his name on the iPad (with help) and I know he is now actually holding a pen and copying letters at school. He is also starting to read, using the talker to read aloud words he is given.
So 2013 will no doubt involve more language and more surfing. Definitely more surfing as Archie is already asking when the next session will be. Winter doesn’t stop him.
In other news 2013 is going to be the year where I start to work on a film, in part inspired by Archie. I have been lucky enough to work with a fabulous writer and director, Ruth Platt-Stavrik and we think we have pulled together a really very special script. As Ruth explains in a blogpost that may well be the easy bit. What’s life without a challenge?
Happy new year to everyone. I hope 2013 is a good one.