This girl!

This girl!

Friday, February 27, 2015

The PODD is her voice.

Sophia and I go to Colombia every year around March or April and this year I am extra excited because this time, we get to bring Sophia's voice with us.
Ever since Sophia started going to school, we have been very fortunate to count on excellent teachers who do everything so Sophia reaches her potential. Last year's teacher knew that Sophia needs encouragement and motivation and that with the right tools she could go really far. That's why she requested a special program where Sophia could do just that. In our school district there was nothing that could meet all of Sophia's needs, so they suggested a CAPS collaborative program specialized in communication. The program has everything we need: is located at a very nice elementary school so there could be interaction with typical kids which is something I was not willing to give up, and it's focused on communication which is key. Plus, there's a lot of staff in the classroom including a nurse so I feel like Sophia is in very good hands everyday.
From the moment I met Sophia's teacher, Erin, and I saw first hand the way the PODD was used in the classroom I knew it was the right thing for my daughter and for our family. Erin explained how the system worked and I could tell she knew what she was talking about and that she loves what she does. She has taken the time to show me how to use the PODD at home and has answered my questions in a way that I can really understand and can put into practice. As soon as she heard about our trip, she thought about making a PODD in Spanish so my whole family could talk to Sophia. How great is she?! And it makes so much sense, the PODD is not just a communication aide, it's Sophia's voice! You don't leave your voice home when you go on vacation. The PODD is part of her, it should go where ever she goes and it should be used by anybody who wants to talk to Sophia. 
So we are leaving in a month and I am excited for my family to see all the progress that my girl has made in the last year but I am mostly excited for Sophia to see that she can use her voice with them too.

Just a sample of what the Spanish version would be
No caption needed.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Complex communication needs

"The average 18 month old has been exposed to 4,380 hours of oral language at a rate of 8 hours/day from birth. A child who has a communication system (AAC) and receives speech/language therapy 2 times/week for 20-30 min. will reach the same amount of language exposure (in their AAC language) in 84 years" Jane Korsten 

84 years..... Well, that's an eye opener, and yet it makes so much sense. A while ago I wrote a post called "I can speak Sophianese" you can read it here, in which I talk about how, at the time, I thought I could read Sophia's mind and I thought I knew exactly what she wanted or didn't. Maybe I do understand the basics, like whether something is bothering her, or whether she wants me to help her with a toy or a book. But that's it. I don't know what exactly is bothering her, I can try to guess and sometimes I'm lucky, but when I can't figure it out what's wrong, I can see the frustration in her eyes, and who could blame her.

So, last year she was granted an iPad and a communication app, I was so happy to finally have something to work with. The app is called LAMP and it would give Sophia two options and speech consultant wanted to start with "more" and "stop". Sophia would have to push the button; Sophia was not really interested in it. I have to confess there was a moment when I wondered if Sophia was ever going to be able to use any system at all. I was so wrong! The problem was that we were not giving her the chance to do it, to learn, to show us what she could do. First, we were limiting the learning a new way of communicating to just 2 sessions a week. Nobody can learn a new language like that, and second we were limiting the vocabulary to two choices; what if what she wanted to choose was not there? We were assuming that she was not understanding when in reality we were not giving her what she really needed. 
Fortunately, Sophia's former teacher was able to find an excellent program focused in communication where they use a communication system called PODD( Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display)  When I met who is now her teacher, she explained to me what the PODD is and said that she didn't have any doubt Sophia will succeed with it.  We just need to give her a fair chance, the same chance that we give a typical kid to learn a language. She needs to be exposed to this mean of communication everyday all day, without expecting an immediate response or without expecting her to have all her attention 100% of the time, just like we do with typical babies.  We are modeling a lot of words, not just two. We use the PODD to talk to Sophia about feelings and things we like or don't like that much, about favorite things and different places to go, just like we talk to babies since the moment they are born and we don't expect them to reply right away, we give them around 18 months of everyday modeling before we ask them to use the language they have been exposed to. Why would this be any different?  
We just got started and I already see the progress. In the beginning, the book was invading her space but now she tolerates it sitting right next to her and pays attention and smiles when she hears things that she likes. She has also answered to yes/no questions accurately and has made choices about her favorite things. It's a learning process, for all of us. It's a lot of work, for all of us, but it's worth it. Sophia is showing us that she has things to say, she just needs the chance to learn how to say them... just like everyone else.

A short clip of Sophia's teacher using the PODD

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I am baaaack!

After a little over a year of being away from blogging, I decided I was ready to come back.
I'm not really sure why I stopped. I guess it was a little bit of everything: to start, I was overwhelmed by the fact that Sophia was going to a different school and I was losing the support of her teacher for the last three years.  The unknown of what was ahead of us was so scary. Other things a bit more pleasant kept me from blogging, like my mom visiting us for the first time since I moved to the States and it was such wonderful experience for all of us. She was here for three months and I have to say that it was not enough! I didn't realized how much my husband and I do and how little support we have until my mom gave us that support. The fact that we were able to go out after 7 at night was so exciting! Or to be able to sleep past 6 am cause my mom would see Sophia if she woke up early, or just to have my mommy right there with me whenever I felt I needed a hug... When she went back home I had a hard time going back to my routine of being just the two of us as our entire support system, but we (and I am so grateful for that), are good at supporting each other.
So things are back to normal and a lot of things, good things have happened since my last post: Sophia ended up going to a special program in a different school district specialized in communication and I am beyond happy with how things are going and with Sophia's progress since the school year started. (there will be a post about it). My best friend from Colombia surprised me for my birthday by visiting me for a week, and we had all kinds of adventures just like we used to when we were young(er).  It was so amazing to see that we are still such good friends after being apart for almost 11 years! I joined Weight Watchers in September for the third time and this time I feel so focused and I really feel like this is going to be it! I have lost 24 lbs and my final goal looks closer than ever!
Sophia has grown so much physically and mentally and there's so much to tell about her progress that I would need several posts to cover it all, which it's a good thing because I am back and I am staying! Like my little brother said: it helps you writing about Sophia's unique world and if would most likely to help somebody else.

See you soon!

Sophia and her "abuelita"