Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stephen's First Visit

It's Saturday morning, and today we bring Stephen home for the first weekend since April of 2007. We are are anxious and excited at the same time. We look forward to his visit but are uncertain as to what kinds of feelings his behavior will conjure up. On Sunday, Stephen turns 12. Hard to believe. He is becoming a young man right before our eyes. Debra has been very busy wrapping presents and I have been trying to help where possible. Deb and Ryan bought a singing birthday balloon that I'm sure Steph will be very excited about when he comes in the door.

This past week we met with Social Services and with the Director of the group home. We went through his goals at the house and what skills they are working on. Deb and I stressed that it is important that we are consistent in working with skills in the same way at home and at school.

Right now the signs that Stephen is working on in school are for: "more," "eat," "drink," "bathroom," "bubbles," "thank you," "hi," "goodbye." At the group home they are concentrating on: "eat," "drink," "bathroom," "bubbles," "please," and "thank you." The house is using a book called The Joy of Signing to help their workers keep up to speed.

We also talked about Stephen's vocalizations. We talked about the distinction between positive and negative vocalizations and how aggressively home and school should work to quash such utterances. I made the point that some of these verbalizations should not be discouraged because they are expressions of joy. The manager of the group home agreed but our social worker did not give a hearty endorsement.

We all agree that Stephen doesn't have the ability to react to social ques at restaurants, church, library, etc. It is somewhat of a philosophical question to ask how much freedom of expression Stephen should have given the social constraints that are always present.

There are some interesting observations from some team members at the group home. One of the group home workers said she heard him say "report card." Other words like "guitar," "Momma," "No," and "OK" have also been reported. There is I think some sort of human propensity to hear what we want to hear too, but I have to admit I heard "guitar" last year as plain as day.

Dan at the group home said that there is a new method they are studying at the group home called RPM or Rapid Prompting Method, which stressed total engagement from the child. It has apparently been successful with some non verbal clients. Dan added that it is expensive though...that it involves a seminar down in Texas where the client has to go along with.

We also talked about bringing his communication board to the group home this weekend, labeling it with PECS cards or pictures.

At the meeting we also talked about other competencies and how these are being worked on in concert between group home and school. The rest of the conversation focussed on the visit, paperwork, and psychiatric and dental appointments among other issues.

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