Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sinking the Titanic: Learning Sequencing Using the Special Interest

One of the most important skills for conversing and writing is the ability to sequence. Kids with AS often have difficulty with sequences. N. has been known to jump into a conversation with words that don't seem to fit the subject of the conversation, which makes the rest of the family stop and say 'Huh?' a lot.

Writing is another difficult area for N. He absolutely, positively HATES the whole idea of writing. Part of it has to do with the fine motor skills involved. N. has dysgraphia and tends to grip the pencil too hard, tiring his hand very quickly as he writes. This is one reason he has a hard time getting his thoughts down on paper. However, even with keyboarding, the requirement to write a paragraph (too many words, mom) or a story (NOOOOO! A whole page?) is food for a quiet but effective form of melt-down called a sit-down strike.

As we have been working with Dr. Florance on the Brain Engineering pillars, however, I have learned that N. has highly developed abilities in visual areas. But people who literally think in pictures do not understand sequencing--after all the whole picture is there all at once--every detail. So part of our work is working out sequencing. First this happened, then that happened. Most of the people who work on Brain Engineering do treasure hunts with their kids but N. disdains this for some reason. However, today on his break, he "sank" his Titanic in the snow several times over, taking pictures of each step.

N. checked out the movie Titanic from the library two weeks ago--and he has become obsessed with it. Every afternoon, he watches a certain sequence of scenes over and over again. He has looked up the Titanic on the web and he has read several books about it.
I was getting annoyed with the constant watching over and over--he (and I) have certain dialogue memorized. Then I realized: he is obsessing about the sequencing! He has probably watched that darn ship sink 200 times. Over and over...freeze-framing, skipping parts, and going backwards from the end to the beginning of the sequence.

N. is transfering skills from our Brain Engineering work to his interests. He is beginning to generalize! Those of you who have or know kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders know how important this step is. I honestly want to break out into the Hallelujah chorus in three part harmony. I am beginning to realize how powerful N.'s visual attention and his special interests (the rest of the world calls them obsessions) are for his learning.

Today, when he took his toy Titanic outside and sank it in the snow, over and over, he took another important step in generalization:

Here is the Titanic floating on the water (okay, so it's snow--who ever said he did not have a creative imagination?) just as it hits the ice-berg. (Not pictured).

Starting to sink as the compartments fill.

Sinking more. People are starting to worry.
Almost gone!
The lifeboats are away!
Jack and Rose are getting ready to hold their breath...
Almost gone!
After N. showed me the pictures, I taught him how to download them to his pictures file. Then I showed him how to transfer pictures to Powerpoint. He did a 6-slide-show called "Titanic: Ship of Dreams." He is currently working on the annimation schemes for his slides.
He only wrote a sentence or two for each slide. His spelling, capitalization and punctuation still leave much room for progress. But he told a story in sequence and he had fun doing it!
We can work at all that some other time. Right now, the important thing is that we all Oooh! and Ah! over his Powerpoint presentation. This is real progress toward the ability to write a paper or essay in the future.
Tomorrow, I will tell him that he can add sound effects to his Powerpoint.
Hmmm. Not too early in the morning.


Megan Bayliss said...

Far across the distance, and spaces between us, I have come to know you grab a hold of anything that works for our kids and just go with it!!!!

Excellent use of a teachable moment and well spotted sequencing acting out.

I'll meet you in Hawaii for coffee and Rose and Jack singing (I know them by heart!!!!). Just white for me thanks.

Can you email me please: I'd like your email address to send you both something to look at - a sharing of our sunshine.

cmb said...

I love titanic it's my favroit movie and it inspired me to become a marine biologist!!!