Because I’m happy
This has been a wonderful year for Savannah especially since she started using The Grid 2 for distance communication. While she enjoys sending and receiving e-mails, her verbal speech has also improved. Her spoken sentences have improved from one or two words to five and six words and she is able to formulate two to three sentences. Quite a feat for someone with motor planning and sensory integration problems!
When she speaks, she is also using more core vocabulary and expressions such as “Yoh” (South African expression of exclamation” and “Ahweh” ( South African slang used by predominantly teenagers meaning “you’re in trouble”). She even asked me to add these words to her page set so that she can use it when writing her e-mails. It was interesting allocating symbols to those wordsJ.
I believe that her improvement can be attributed to finding the right page set in the Grid 2. After trying a few other ready-made page sets, Beeline was found to be most suitable for Savannah’s needs.
As we celebrate all Savannah’s accomplishments, I must point out that she is still a person with complex special needs. She is autistic and cerebral palsied. Her health is always a cause for concern, and she spends most of her life feeling anxious or trying to plan for the next event to reduce her anxiety. Her anxiety is managed with medication together with the extensive use of visual calendars and social stories.
However, it is an ongoing struggle for Savannah and interferes with her ability to achieve all that she would like to achieve. Since her nervous anticipation about Diwali in November, which affected her sleeping for a few nights; she dipped into the anxiety about the upcoming holiday season. She has been unable to focus, is more repetitive and self- harming. So her formal learning schedule is on hold for a while.
While learning outcomes are always pursued so that she can continue to grow, the speed in which she learns is not as important as that she “wants” to learn. When she was younger, I pushed Savannah to work harder. I had a long list of goals for Savannah and timeline of when they had to be accomplished. To my detriment her motivation to learn became “mummy be happy”.
So this year, I worked on helping Savannah to identify what “made Savanah happy”. Having provided her with the most important tools to aid her learning, I stepped aside, and let her lead the way. I learnt that Savannah wanted to learn about Portugal because she still remembered a friend from seven years ago who was Portuguese. Using Aided Language Stimulation when I introduced Beeline to her gave her the word Portugal, which I had no idea she knew off or had any interest in.
She is obsessed with Harry from ONE Direction, and for his birthday, she arranged a little party for him and made him a birthday card. She also arranged her own party, wrote the invites and planned the menu. She has become a DJ using Beamz software, a basketball player like Troy from High School Musical and “Madam Speaker, Baleka Mbethe” from playing pretend Parliament with her siblings (she has a repertoire of most amusing words and phrases from that).
However, this year’s greatest accomplishment is that I learned that the pace is not as important as the journey. I am not Savannah’s guide for I don’t know where she is going. I am her travelling companion and aid. Sometimes, I too need a break from this journey and to also have experiences of my own. And that is okay, because this Journey to Independence is Savannah’s to take, so that she can truly feel what “happy” feels like.