Showing posts with label schuyler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label schuyler. Show all posts

November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
I worry for Schuyler around my birthday more then usual, especially with the grey skies and desaturated colors of fall settling in for the coming months. It's just as well that Thanksgiving arrives at the same time. A day for examining the things for which I should give thanks, followed by a season of celebrating the better impulses of humanity, these might be parachutes in an otherwise rapid loss of emotional altitude. Perhaps I should simply be thankful for Thanksgiving and it's slightly contrived but much needed sense of "Quit your bitching and think of stuff to be thankful for!"

November 17, 2014

Boundaries, Drawn with a Dull Pencil

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Failure is how Schuyler learns. She is a remarkably stubborn kid; she fixates on problems, particularly those she perceives as injustices, and doesn't let go of them easily. (According to Julie, this is a case of the apple not falling far from the tree.) It can be frustrating as a parent, and hard to step back when she clearly does need help, but steadfastly does not want it. Schuyler wants to make her way in the world, even as she struggles to understand it now perhaps more than ever before. That world has become so much bigger, and her part in navigating it so much more complex.

November 10, 2014

Astronaut

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
We spend years preparing our astronaut for her grand mission. Years. Then one day, in the not terribly distant future, we will count down and launch her into the unknown. We'll watch that flame rise into the sky, and eventually its brightness will fade and the rumble of the engines will be too distant to hear, and we'll sit in our mission control, in silence. 
When Schuyler takes flight and soars into the void, she will be alone.

November 3, 2014

Making Our Own Ice

I want to discuss something very specific to augmentative alternative communication, so my apologies in advance if this isn't part of your world. I specifically want to address the strange, illogical divide in the professional speech technology world between those who use dedicated speech devices and those who find success with consumer electronics products like Apple's iPad. I'm still surprised to watch these conversations unfold online and see how blithely parent advocates and end users are often condescended to. Frankly, it pisses me off, which is why I'm subjecting you to this post.

Some of the discord comes from representatives of the big speech device makers, companies who are responsible for developing the technologies that AAC users have come to depend on but who have been struggling to sustain their business models now that commercial tablets have democratized the AAC process. It's a huge shift, and one that the industry is still trying to figure out. For a specific subset of ambulatory users, suddenly the potential purchase price for a speech language system has dropped from something in the area of eight thousand dollars (plus service agreements that can run around a thousand dollars a year) to under a grand, depending on the communications app and however many whistles and bells you choose for your tablet. So potentially MUCH under a grand.

This change has meant that where once insurance companies and school administrators held final say in the systems purchased, for some that power has now shifted. Parents and end users themselves are suddenly able to make decisions about the technology that allows them to communicate. This democratization comes with pitfalls. It is up to these parents and users to get good information about the language software that is available, and to find resources to determine what AAC needs they or their kids may have. They don't always have the support personnel in place to assist them in making good decisions. There are a lot of very, very bad AAC apps out there, and clearly someone is buying them.

The problem with the dialogue that is taking place in sectors of the AAC community is that it makes some dubious assumptions. Cheaper is inferior. Using commercial tablets amounts to a "one size fits all" approach. More expensive systems mean more solid support. You get what you pay for. And teachers, parents and end users are simply not qualified to make those choices.

Getting good support for systems running on consumer electronics is a real concern. But honestly, it's no different from the situation faced by many schools and families out there with dedicated devices without any meaningful local support. It's an industry-wide problem, and honestly one that can be exacerbated for users of expensive dedicated devices by the prohibitive cost of maintaining service agreements from year to year, as well as issues like loaner devices for repair downtime.

iPads and other consumer tablets aren't a fit for every user or even most users, and I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone make the case that they are. But for users like Schuyler and thousands more like her, these tablets provide possibilities that go beyond a speech prosthesis. To say that we are in one "camp" or another, and that AAC users are divided between dedicated devices and consumer electronics, is a gross oversimplification, and it's not accurate. Schuyler uses an iPad, and it runs the same language software that she used on her dedicated device, back when it was the appropriate choice for her. She not in a camp; she's a hybrid, and I suspect she's the rule, not the exception.



In a piece she wrote for BridgingApps a few months ago, Schuyler had this to say about using her iPad:
I like to use my iPad Mini because it help me with talking and I can looks things up like the the right stuff for school. It makes me as other people. When I used my old speech device, it looks like something wrong with me.

[...]

It looks I’m like other people.
One day, I am hopeful that Schuyler will make peace with her differences and even celebrate them. It's something that we encourage in her self-identification and always have. But she's an ambulatory fourteen year-old girl with an invisible disability, attending a public school where she desperately wants to fit in. She's not interested in neurodiversity, because she's in a world where difference is problematic. That's not ideal, but it's her Now World. For Schuyler, the iPad provides a way to fit in a little better, and to participate in a world of technology and online social presence. And she does so using the same language system that she learned on her dedicated speech device.

Her situation mirrors a great many AAC users her age. And for Schuyler and her fellow invisibly disabled peers, the iPad has transformed weird looks into curious questions. She has gone from an effective medical prosthesis that almost miraculously gave her language she never had before but also sometimes stigmatized her to a new powerful tool that also functions as a part of a social narrative in which everyday tech is inclusive.

Inclusive. That's important.

No one is suggesting that this technology will work for everyone. But for speech professionals to suggest that consumer tablet technology like the iPad is somehow universally cheap and inferior isn't just incorrect, although let's be very clear on this point. It is WILDLY incorrect. For many users like Schuyler, systems like the iPad have presented a far superior solution. So no, belittling that technology isn't just untrue. It's demeaning. It often represents an attitude that looks backwards, like a turn-of-the-century ice merchant haughtily dismissing newfangled electric ice makers. It attempts to shame users and parents into abandoning their hard-earned new autonomy. "You'll never be capable of supporting and advocating for yourself," the argument suggests. "You need to step back and let the grownups make those choices."

End users and parents and therapists and teachers, they are becoming experts, out of necessity and because they represent the ground troops. They're making their own ice, not just more cheaply but with greater flexibility and efficiency. Professional support entities now need to make some difficult choices about what the future of their industry looks like, and how to create the business models that keep them employed and relevant, and that keep their clients taken care of. These speech professionals are the natural leaders we look to.

But if there's one thing we've learned over the years, it's how to take the reins in hand when necessary. We're mostly okay with that outcome, too.


October 27, 2014

A Season of Making Sense

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
We like Halloween around here. Part of Schuyler's fondness for the holiday probably stems, as it does for many kids with disabilities both obvious and invisible, from the opportunity to pass, if only superficially and for a short time, as no different from other kids. On most days, Schuyler is hyperaware of her difference, but on Halloween, the world is full of monsters and oddities and weirdos. Whatever she may think of herself on most days, this is the week where she's just one of the creepy crowd.

October 21, 2014

Deflated

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Today, I’m tired of the walking. I’m tired of screwing up, and I’m tired of other people treating Schuyler like a cute little pet who might pee on the carpet, rather than a complicated and nuanced human being. My weapon is a rubber sword today, and it feels especially ineffective. I’m just going to sit for a while and see what happens. I wish I had something in my tank, and I’m sure I will tomorrow. But not today. Sorry.

October 13, 2014

The Path to Self-Advocacy

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt:
Schuyler is never going to be a confrontational self-advocate, I feel pretty certain of that. She shies away from conflict, even as she holds the grudges that she develops as a result of it. Her own sense of justice doesn't always trump her desire to navigate her life with ease. She loves participating in marching band, for instance, even as she feels slighted by how she's treated (and more to the point, sometimes dismissed) by her band teachers from time to time. She's not interested in taking a stand, so she endures what she perceives as slights and focuses on the fun she's having. Sometimes she's a little student of Zen, in a way that I wish I could be but never am.

September 29, 2014

Two Simple Experiences

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt:
Now that Schuyler is up to her eyeballs in high school life, marching band has become something of a sink-or-swim experience for her. This has resulted in a few stumbles, such as when she took the field at last week's football game with big floppy shoes that were not just untied but actually unlaced because she couldn't do it and, for whatever reason, she couldn't find anyone to help her while the band was getting into their uniforms. The new independent model of Schuyler 2.0 has some bugs to work out of the system, but she's getting there.

September 15, 2014

The Key

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Schuyler's voice is no longer a thing to squeak out of her iPad in close proximity. It's a thing that can travel beyond her immediate space. In some ways, Schuyler has found a way, though the simple act of handing a speaker over to a listener or placing outside of her own immediate personal space, to improve upon the natural human voice that she has been denied. And in handing that voice over to another, she creates a strange kind of intimacy, better than a shout. In a loud room, Schuyler can put her voice in your ear. I can't do that, and I find myself ever so slightly envious.

September 8, 2014

The Other Talk

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Typical parents fear The Sex Talk. (To be fair, so do we.) Many special needs parents have The Other Talk, too. We don't discuss the topic with others very much, but be assured that we think about it. When we approach the topic with our kids, we do so gently, because in even the most tragic circumstances, Death shouldn't eclipse Life, and the days we get with our kids shouldn't be entirely stained by our anxiety for the days we lose.

September 1, 2014

On Labor Day, 2014

Today, at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt:
I'm not usually one for writing contrived holiday-themed posts here ("It's Arbor Day, folks, and special needs families just love trees!"), but I think I'm going to make an exception for Labor Day. There are a lot of hard working people in this country, but those of us in the world of disability parenting find ourselves surrounded by the hardest working humans on the planet. For our kids, finding success in school and in the world is a lot like being an astronaut. We understand that the person standing on the moon is an extraordinary individual, and we celebrate that person's achievement. We do so, however, with the knowledge that it took a team to support those efforts and help that astronaut arrive.

August 25, 2014

To the people like her, which is perhaps everyone

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
When Schuyler looks at the future, she does so with her disability in mind, but not at the front of her thoughts. I envy her that. She's growing up quickly; today is her first day of high school, after all. We're having conversations identical to those happening in other houses around the world, about how it's appropriate for her to be thinking about boys she'd like to date, or girls she'd like to date, for that matter. ("Or both!" she said during our last conversation about dating; she's going to be trouble.) She asks me to teach her how to drive approximately every other day. When she breaks through her social anxiety, she laughs loudly and easily, and flirts without hesitation. Even a few months ago, I had my doubts about how she will navigate high school. She has those doubts, too, but she's working on them. And the thing is, only some of those doubts stem from her disability.

August 18, 2014

Unwanted monsters

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Schuyler understands her disability better now than she ever has before. I'm immeasurably proud of her for that. But every so often, when things are hard, she pushes back a little. She doesn't rage, she doesn't cry or fall into despair, all of which I imagine would be my own response if I were in her shoes. She simply goes on record as saying that she doesn't want it. She knows her monster doesn't require her permission to do its wicked work, but she denies it that permission anyway. I'm incredibly proud of her for that as well.

August 11, 2014

Deconstructing the Gentle Lie

This morning at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Beyond mythological figures, there's the gradually disintegrating gentle lie we tell our children, the one that says that if they work hard enough or want it bad enough, they can do anything they want in the world. For kids with special needs, I suppose it's not all that different. As parents, we overbelieve, and we sell that overbelief to our kids, and that's not a bad thing, I don't think. As they grow older, like Santa, they begin to see the flaws in our lie, and as they deconstruct it bit by bit, they begin to incrementally build a more pragmatic truth in its place. They sniff out the path that does await them, the one that is meaningful and possible. As their parents, we can help, but in the end, it's not our quest. It's theirs.

August 4, 2014

The High School Chapter, Page One

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Schuyler started her summer band camp this morning, so I guess this is sort of the unofficial beginning of her high school years. Two weeks of 7am-to-noon rehearsals, a week of evening practices, and then ninth grade classes begin for real. I remember my own high school days, of marching band practice beginning in August, under a hot West Texas sun. It sounds miserable, and it was. It was also kind of glorious. In a weird way, I envy her, although it must be said, I also predict I'll be back in bed by 7:30.

July 28, 2014

The World in a Room

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
The hard part comes in trying to help Schuyler decide what to give away and what to keep. We stay out of her way, even though honestly, she's not making a lot of progress. But it's up to her to decide, not so much what's appropriate to her age, because her age gives an incomplete picture of who she is and what's appropriate for her. No, for Schuyler, it's a process of deciding what is relevant to her now, to her life at this stage. When she starts high school in the coming weeks, I suspect her choices might change.

July 21, 2014

Eleven Years

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Mostly, though, the last eleven years have given me Schuyler. They've allowed me the time to let go of my selfish expectations of who I thought my daughter was going to be, and they've allowed me to adapt and appreciate and unconditionally love the weird and wonderful girl she is. It's the girl she is despite her condition, and because of it. And I'm the father I am because of the many mistakes I've made and the occasional things I've gotten right. None of us in this family are the people we were then. The past eleven years have been a crucible and a wonder. We all bear scars and the remnants of war paint, and we all shine a little brighter when called upon to do so.

July 14, 2014

Schuyler's Sense of Self

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
It really is a beautiful photo, haunting and sweet. In most of her pics, Schuyler is laughing, and not gently, either. But as she gets older and more secure in her sense of self, and as she continues to construct and deconstruct her personal sense of who she is, the Schuyler she wants the world to know is more nuanced. She's growing up, and she knows it. I think it's beginning to excite her, the knowledge that she's in control of the person she is to become.

July 7, 2014

Independence Days

Today at Support for Special Needs:
Excerpt: 
Watching Schuyler and her friend navigate their shared space was an eye-opening experience for me. I observed the ways in which they connected, and watched them dance around the ways that they simply couldn't connect. It gave me a sense of what a friendship with a neurotypical kid might look like, as well as why it has been so hard for Schuyler to make those friendships work out for long. I don't always have a very good concept of how far Schuyler really is from the developmental norm of kids her age. It's not something of which I should be so ignorant.

June 17, 2014

"Once more, unto the breach..."

Today (a day late, sorry) at Support for Special Needs.
Excerpt: 
We've always advocated strongly for Schuyler to be educated in an inclusive public school environment, even moving to our current city to make sure she'd be able to integrate using assistive technology to bridge the communication gap between her and the typical world. I have to be honest and say that her current school situation is a poor reflection of that goal. There are a lot of reasons for that. It's a complicated situation, which is usually a pretty accurate way to describe the lives of special needs families. There are goals, and there is reality, and if you're lucky they might look a little bit similar. If you're very, very lucky.