she said… he said!

Rosemary Crossley

Mac has just spent a week of his school holidays with Rosemary Crossley at DEAL communications in Melbourne.

It has probably been one of the more incredible weeks of our life.

We spoke with Rosie some months back to determine who, if anyone, she recommended for us to see. We knew Mac had a yes ‘facial expression’ but we needed help with the next step of getting consistent yes/no options for him. We were starting to get overwhelmed with the next step in technology to better allow him to access more learning and increase his chances/options for communication.

The upshot, she recommended herself, so we trotted off to Melbourne knowing this was the best option for Mac and us. Within two hours Rosie had provided Mac a YES/NO option using two jellybean switches with his feet being the ‘conduit’ for his decisions. His cheeks will work equally as well, but as I was more unfamiliar with him using his feet we concentrated on them this week.

The rest of the week focussed on helping Mac develop a process for auditory step scanning.

Rosie’s piece of technology of choice for Mac is the Macaw 3. It is an older piece of equipment but it’s capabilities are perfectly suited to Mac’s needs… and the best bit, it bounces, it is a sturdy bit of kit.

Mac uses his left foot and a jelly bean switch for auditory scanning where he controls moving through the choices and removes his foot when he reaches the desired answer. The machine then repeats his answer more loudly to show that is what he is wanting to say (as opposed to the quieter scanning volume while he is making his choice).

Some of Mac’s appointments with Rosie went for 4+ hours. He was incredibly tolerant and determined. I know he is a great natured little kid, but it was nice to hear Rosie comment on how much she enjoyed working with him because he just ‘kept on going’. He did ‘nod off’ mid switch at one stage, but it was a fleeting micro-sleep, then we pushed on.

So where to from here…

Our directive from Rosie is that Mac needs to be accessing the same curriculum as the other kids but designed for a ‘blind child who won’t/can’t use braille’. She believes his level of cognition is easily on par with his peers and therefore we need to keep pushing him along the mainstream curriculum that is merely made accessible, not ‘dumbed down’.

This is the first time anyone has suggested to us that Mac may not have a developmental disability.

It is generally assumed based on his physical condition, lack of vision that there is most likely cognitive delays… but it seems, this is not so!

Some of the questions Mac was answering were pretty interesting.

  • We now know for sure he is a Sydney Swans (AFL) supporter.
  • He thinks I am meaner than Rosie. 
  • He’s pretty good with his numbers.
  • He knows the wolf didn’t actually eat the three little pigs.
  • He knows which letter he needs to turn ‘mat’ into ‘mate’ and ‘hat’ into ‘hate’… although he did suggest we ask him something else when asked to spell ‘dog’ (funny kid).

He did remarkably well on comparative relationships including:

  • are watermelons bigger than apples?
  • are lemons sweeter than chocolate?
  • is night darker than day?
  • are parents older than their children?

And even better on the passive relationship with questions including:

  • John was hit by Eric, was Eric hit?
  • Mary was driven by Alice, was Alice driven?
  • Paul was chosen by Steve, was Paul chosen?

These are great insights for school. We will now be able to have a more focussed approach with a much clearer IEP. We now have the opportunity for Mac to be challenged and, subsequently, the ability to collate results and progress more readily.

On reflection I do believe all early intervention and early childhood services need to set goals far higher than they do.  I guess I always suspected they needed to (as did Mac, explains why he disliked it so much) now I KNOW they do.

They all need to set a goal for consistent YES/NO by any method as a basic requirement for every student.   Communication is power, communication is opportunity.  

Any centre, therapist (or even school) who sets a goal below this should be challenged – we all need to play a role in demanding higher expectations for all children… after all the the least dangerous presumption is that of competence, we all know that… now we need to ‘DO THAT’.

Mac’s world has just grown from one with reasonable (primarily because we don’t think small) but limited opportunity to unimaginable, endless opportunity.

This is a wonderful place to be.


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, Technology - things that help

9 responses to “she said… he said!

  1. Gracie's Mum

    What fantastic progress Gina.
    You must have been so proud and excited at Mac’s progress. Rosie sounds amazing.
    Well done Mac you superstar!

  2. That is so amazing Gina. I’m glad the trip was so worthwhile. Mac is a super star!

  3. Awesome!!! So glad your son has been given real communication! That is HUGE!! And you’re right: the sky is the limit now!


  4. Gina, reading your post has just made my day! I am so happy that the sessions with Rosie were so good! She is fantastic and so respectful of everyone in this world! I am so excited for Mac to continue to show you and others just how clever he is! 🙂 Bron

  5. Rosie herself can be pretty mean, as some of her clients can testify (and often do). It’s a compliment to see that you can be meaner! (Of course he could be playing you).

    Mac seems really good at the passive voice.

    It would be great over the next few months and years to share the accessible curriculum.

    Braille is indeed a great learning tool for those who need it (and some blind kids and adults refuse to use it).

    And go the Swans! The 2006 grand final was really great against the Eagles. I think they were in the finals this year or very close to it.

    How does he feel about Big Bad Barry Hall going to the Dogs?

    The Macaw seems to be going really well.

  6. Gina

    Thanks everyone.

    Adelaide, you are right – there must be stuff out there for learning without braille as I know there are many who choose not to learn it. Braille will never be an option for Mac due to his physicality but i’m not feeling overwhelmed by the task ahead, more excited.
    I just need to find the best source of info and insight, methods etc. Haven’t asked him about Barry Hall, will keep that for his Dad to discuss with him.
    Don’t know where his grasp of the passive voice comes from – I can’t imagine it comes from his parents LOL.

  7. Liz

    This is really awesome Gina. Such a marathon effort for Mac, but what reward! Champion!
    : )

  8. Kylie

    Hi Gina,

    It is so good that you have found ways for Mac to develop his communication skills. I think Rosie is a gem. She has certainly helped Noah and I really her believe that her input is invaluable and potentialy life changing. Best wishes. Yay for Mac!

  9. The biggest option I can see is probably large print (18 point or bigger than this).

    Do you mean by physicality (or motor involvement) that he can’t touch the letters/symbols and read them in a flowing way? The Maccers braille I can touch and that is probably where I am exposed to it most (like ‘Diet’ and ‘Orange’).

    The ‘Danny’ satnav is an exciting option. There are also interpretive places that talk to you, and you can try them at various art galleries and historical places.

    And of course there is the radio. Especially talk radio, but music radio too.

    There are all sorts of ‘passive voice’ constructs. One of Crossley’s big things is the ‘exposure’ method of literacy. For example, somebody might pick up the TV guide and read it. There is a lot of style imbedded in the TV guide and patterns of reviews, and so on.

    And you guys have the IPhone. (When are we going to get a list of the 90 applications? or only the most important ones/the ones you and Mac use every day). The IPhone talks very well.

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