It’s Really Happening

Brain exploding

It’s been about three weeks since my last writing. Two of those were stretched over different back-to-back spring breaks. Apparently my son and daughter’s schools didn’t get the memo that coordinated break times do a family good. Ahhh. One can dream.

But there is good news. Despite two weeks of unpredictable schedules, sticking with our 30 minutes a day of Fast ForWord was totally do-able and even became a welcomed part of our day for my son who thrives with structure.

Removing emotion.

It’s been over 7 years since our son was diagnosed with autism. And over the years we’ve tried multiple interventions. Some have been incredible, others … not so much. But with any new intervention, we are always hopeful. Early on into our journey however, there were times were we let that hope sway our evaluation of the intervention. As we’ve become more seasoned autism parents we’ve gotten much better at removing emotion from our assessment. There are only so many hours in the day and dollars in the bank so it’s incredibly important to pay close attention to the effectiveness of anything we implement.

You might remember from my last posting that just a short time after beginning Fast ForWord, I was asking my husband if I was crazy or was I already noticing a difference. We agreed, that while the changes were quite subtle, we were both seeing them.  Well, it’s only gotten better since then.

It’s not just about reading comprehension.

Fast ForWord is billed primarily as a reading comprehension program. And Sullivan most certainly needs help in the reading comprehension department. However, with autism, we have a lot of fish to fry and franking reading comprehension doesn’t top the list. Sullivan still struggles significantly with his expressive language and conversational skills due to the way his brain listens and processes. So the fact that Fast ForWord addresses auditory processing, attention and working memory skills and listening comprehension and following directions carried a TON of weight in our decision to implement the program.

What’s changed?

We are just now starting our 5th week of this 4-month program. I’m not 100% certain where Sullivan is in regard to improvement with reading comprehension. But here’s what I do know:

He is displaying subtle, yet HUGE language gains. How can something be subtle and huge at the same time? Well, with autism, all gains, however seemingly nuanced, are huge. We’ve noticed more ease with his language. It sounds more natural, less robotic, more spontaneous, and his sentence structure has become longer and more complex.

He’s also being a stinkpot. He’s getting into stuff he didn’t used to.  He’s acting sneaky. We are seeing glimmers of his sense of humor. He’s doing more and more things that are common with typically developing 9 year old boys. This is a WIN, guys. His sense of independence is flourishing, as is I’m guessing, the executive function of his brain.

He’s been joyfully grabbing his book that is part of his reading homework independently. He is reading his nightly chapter on his own and writing two sentences about the chapter on his own. We still have to help him get started, but the desire to do this work at all, much less independently, is a big gain. The wheels are spinning a bit faster.  For me it’s too early to critically evaluate his progress in reading comprehension, but we can see the ball is moving in the right direction.

What now?

We keep plugging away. The 30 minutes a day has become part of our routine and it’s become no sweat fitting it into our schedule. As we move through the program, it has highlighted the scatteredness of Sulli’s skills. One of the games he mastered 100% in just two weeks. Another one we are sitting at just 17% completion as we move through week 5. And the rest sit somewhere in between. The games that are easy for him, he loves. The ones that make his brain work harder, he’s not as much of a fan. So as we continue to work, especially with the games that are more challenging for him, I’m eager to see how the brain is making his neuro-pathways more efficient.

But given what we are seeing, just 5 weeks into the program, I’m eager each day for Sulli to do his Fast ForWord work. 5 weeks into a 4-month program and we’ve already seen some pretty significant gains.  With any intervention, progress in a short amount of time is a win.  But when the program only takes 30 minutes a day and can be done from home, that’s a WIN WIN.

Till next time ~ Mama Woz

 

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