Please note: This post has two sections: the first is H’s review, the second consists of an examination of written output for H and others who process differently.
H is trying to teach me how to play “Infinity Blade II” on the iPad. I love his amazing level of patience with my apparent ineptitude!
He says: “This is such a great game… I might write a review.”
I offer to scribe…
Photos from Google Images
“This game is called Infinity Blade II. It is a great game about fighting evil monsters, upgrading weapons, getting cash and getting armor. Some of the weapons are really cool. Some of them are very ridiculous – like a newspaper or cardboard armor, or a ham. No… mom, quit laughing – there really is a ham – well actually it is called a ‘pork chop’.
The goal of the quest is to defeat the God-King and free The Worker. You unlock chests and while you are moving your character. You find treasure chests and bags of gold and sometimes you will find keys. The keys are very important because you need them to unlock some areas of the game and also the chests. You can get more gold coins if you sell some of the equipment that you don’t want anymore, because you have already upgraded to better ones. You can forge gems together to make them much more valuable and much more rare and powerful. You can add the gems to your weapons, armor, helmet, or magic rings… or you can sell them. What I am doing is getting as many as I can and combining them to upgrade my weapons.
Once your enemy’s life-bar is depleted you can do a ‘finishing move’ on him. This gives you bonus points and the bonus points level up your character.
Your species looks like a human mortal, or ‘mortal’, I should say, but he is really a species of creature called the ‘Deathless’. Whenever an evil creature kills you, you wake up in this room on a surgical table, and you start a new bloodline to avenge the ancestor who was killed. SO you are like the son of the one who was killed; you have all of that experience and you know what happened in your head. You are trying to avenge yourself and take out the true enemy – The God-King – who has the ultimate weapon: The Infinity Blade. Although the God-King is the main enemy, you will encounter several enemies along the way.
When you are low on health – you might want to use some health potion – you will find some vials of blue substance while going on the quest. Make sure you pick those up.
This game has no blood – but there are several gruesome sound effects. I highly recommend this game to almost anyone who likes sci-fi games like Legend of Zelda. I got it for 2.99 on iTunes, and it is cool!”
Reflections on Written Output:
I think it bears consideration that H was able to rattle off the language and descriptions in this review at an impressive rate. It is with much pride that I share that I could barely keep up with his steady stream of sophisticated, descriptive vocabulary and the speed of his thoughts.
This is exciting because this is a child whose language has been not been on a typical track developmentally. You can read more about our journey with language development here or in the links at the end of the post. Further, H is a kid who has huge challenges with written output – but clearly the ability to express himself is developing nicely.
As educators, parents, and others supporting those with differing neurology, we must be conscious of what it is we are measuring when we are talking about writing and written output. Are we measuring the ability to chisel forms into a clay tablet, or handle a quill pen, or maneuver a more modern writing tool – or are we measuring the ability to express oneself with language and communicate these ideas to others? How often are the abilities of an individual marginalized because they do not process the same way – or are not able to demonstrate their understanding with the same tools – and/or because we do not question what it is we are really requiring?
Here is a sample of H’s written work from December 2010:
If you saw H’s written work today – I cannot imagine that you would be able to see much of a difference [except that his spelling has improved marginally]. The written output in terms of a manual skill, has not changed substantially perhaps – but his writing ability has shown considerable improvement. H’s use of language, his sentence construction, along with his ability to organize his ideas, express his perspective, and describe and explain more complex scenarios has shown notable growth. The gains in this area are obvious in his review!
These gains are far less apparent when H is expected to write his ideas with pen and paper – a situation which also layers in requirements of fine motor control, recall of letter shape, directional form, sound-symbol connection, spelling skills, the ability to organize the letters on the line, while at the same time, controlling and judging the size and the spacing between words. The effort he must put forth, when all of these of these skills are layered into the writing process, are a drain on his ability to express himself.
I do want H to have the opportunity to develop the skill to print and do cursive, and we are working to support him in developing these areas. However, if these skills are seen as separate and discrete from his writing ability – rather than as prerequisites – they are no longer barriers, and he is able to go much, much further.
Those of us who support students or employees with written output challenges need to be open to the benefits of technology as tool. In an analogous way, consider for a moment that if I was still expected to chisel stone in order to express myself in written form – then I too would be poorly suited to be a writer.
It is easy to be stuck in an old paradigm – insisting that the words must leak out of the fingers to be considered written output. I would like to challenge that! The words that leak out of my fingers are simply representative of my thought. The fact that I have the ability to catch these with ease on paper with a pencil or upon the keyboard, is a skill that has me considered a good writer. However, because of technology, skills that were previously seen as a prerequisite to writing can now be separated out and are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the conveyance of thought in written form.
H has an IEP and is supported in his school work with adaptations such as scribing and programs such as Kurzweil and Dragon Dictate. With supports such as these, he is developing into an amazing writer – with an expressive command of language. We fortunate to live in a time when there is technology available so that we are able to break down the skills and understand that the mastery of tools such as paper and pen no longer need to be the barriers they once were…
Aa is for Applecus and Autism: A look back at supporting language development
Autism, Written Output, and Voice-to-text Technology: Dragon Dictate
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2012)
Just as a thought – you said print and cursive. Cursive was and still is the bane of my existence. It’s awful. I can’t do it. It makes me curl up into a ball and rock just thinking about having to try to learn it again. The ONLY thing we use cursive for these days is to sign our names. The best thing that ever happened to me in terms of cursive came from my 4th grade teacher, an amazing woman who went above and beyond to help give me the first academic challenges I’d had in years. (This also involved grading the 5th grade classwork from her husband’s class across the hall – learning, AND responsibility – and independent work, too!) – anyway, the cursive thing – she told each of us that we should learn how to sign our names. At the end of the year, we each wrote our signature in this giant book she had – just in case one of her students became famous one day, she claimed, she would have our first autograph. It gives a relevance to the cursive hell, and helped to motivate me to be able to write at least a little… but I print and type, and between that, I’m quite happy.
Thank you for sharing that, E. I totally agree! I think H needs to be able to sign his name – and also have enough familiarity with the letters to be able to read some cursive as well. I have occasionally also heard that there are students who struggle greatly with printing – but that cursive proves to be easier for them. I hope to be open to H’s learning needs and strengths as they emerge. I realize that what we see now is not indicative of all of his ability and skills, which seem to emerge and unwind at multiple rates across multiple domains. He is not typical and I have come to trust that with the supports we provide, he is perfectly developing at a perfect rate that is perfect for him… (albeit, sometimes mysterious and unpredictable for me).
I’ll bet that teacher would feel very proud to know that she had such a positive impact upon you!
First – a response to E – My son started at a Montessori school where they teach cursive first and print later. They start with sand or such in a shallow tray and have the child draw the letter with their finger in the sand. They do cursive because it flows rather than stopping and starting like print. Now, at 11, he still does cursive for almost all of his written work. He finds print very difficult. It is funny because he is now in a public school and in 5th grade they are finally really working on the other students on cursive. So, it just depends on what clicks in each person’s brain, I guess.
Overall, I totally relate to this post. My son really struggles with writing. He was diagnosed with a deficit of written expression when he was 8 when we were evaluating him for ADHD and ASD. When I started trying to figure out what the problem was, I began to realize just how much is involved with writing. You have to read or hear the question or assignment. You have to understand what is expected. You have to formulate a response. Then, try to come up with how to express that in sentences. While remembering all of that, you have to look at a blank expanse of paper. Try to think of each word, and figure out how to spell each word, how to form each letter, space letters and words properly, have proper grip strength so your hand doesn’t cramp, think about capitalization and punctuation, and…you haven’t forgotten what you were trying to write yet, have you?
So, my son is allowed to dictate to his aide or me if he wants. He is also allowed to use a computer at home or a writer (simple word processing machine that can send the file to a computer to print) at home or school. Every assignment, he can choose which he wants to use. Just giving him that power to choose how to get his thoughts out is important. I show him that I type and hand-write things almost every day, so both are important. He does about 50:50 typed and written, and the school and I are thrilled with that. One thing that seems to make the computer or writer easier is that he can focus on just what he is working on and he doesn’t see the whole blank piece of paper that needs to be filled.
Another breakthrough came in September when my son was given an assignment to write 8 journal entries during the month. Each had to be a full page about something that happened that day. On paper, he would get a sentence or two out and be stuck. He couldn’t think of more to say about it. I would try to ask him questions to get him to give more information, but the panic would set in and he would shut down. I had an ah-ha moment of some of the training I did 20 years ago when I wanted to work with special needs children using animals as therapy. Due to my own health issues, I gave up that life path before I even got out of college. The amazing thing is that what I learned is now coming back SO well to help my son. I decided to stop trying to deal with him myself. I went and got our cat and put her in my son’s lap. I said “Okay. Spot has no idea what Sky Zone is. Tell her all about it.” and I walked away. From a comfortable distance, I pulled out my iPhone and tried to look like I was playing games and ignoring him, but really, I was recording a video. After he chatted away non-stop for about 15 minutes, I handed him my phone, showed him that there was a video, and said “Okay, now go write down what you just told Spot.” Within 15 minutes, he had a full page typed on my computer. It was SO easy. We discovered this with only a few days left in September, and there was no way he could get 8 entries done, so I contacted the teacher and said, “I am invoking his IEP and asking for the assignment to be modified for the current month. He has 2 good entries and 2 very minimal ones. More than that was causing full panic attacks. But, we have found a way to do this and next month he will do the full assignment.”
This is fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing these strategies and your experiences. I love the way you are working to support your son and advocate for him as well. Lovely!
I come from the bare paw clan; so, it was a rarity that I became very proficient with cursive. Then, again, cursive was a special interest of mine. These were the pre-video game days. I would not sacrifice form for content. And, as there is not a chance in hell that the pen (even fluid cursive) could keep up with thought; I shifted to patterns of phrase. Doodles. Written responses, timed, is meaningless to me. It is written . . . It is law! Nope, I don’t subscribe.
Owwwoooohhh! I always appreciate your comments! You have reminded me that I used get poems in my head when I was very young. My mom and dad would drop whatever they were doing, grab a pen and paper, and write them down for me. I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts and I have always been grateful to them for this. I didn’t see it as a deficit in anyway on my part – just an honouring by my parents they considered my words worth catching. Some of my earliest work is in my parent’s script.
And doodling, photos, metaphor… ahhhhhhh!
Technology is grand isn’t it. As my boys use it we gain so much. As kids that can say it better then write it, get use out of new programs we learn how much our kids can really do. What would we do with out it.
YES!! YES!! YES!!
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