Monday, April 28, 2008

Muy Cool

Everyone knows that verbalizing and putting thoughts together is tough for a lot of kids people with Autism. This is probably why my Occupational Therapist sister tried to deter me from signing Casey up for a beginners Spanish Class!

And rightly so. Casey, at almost 10 years old, still has difficulty expressing his thoughts into words, still has outbursts because he can't express himself the way he would like, and often to this day refers to himself in third person.

However, Spanish became a huge interest for Casey just recently. It all started when he discovered that his dvd's had a Spanish language option. He must have watched the old Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in Spanish at least 100 times, with English sub captions. He began picking out words that he connected from the captions and hearing them, and began asking me things like "How do you say toys in Spanish?". Feigning ignorance, despite having had this same question asked of me several times, I would answer "I don't know, how?". "Juegetes" he would say proudly.

Senor Casey then began to ask me how you said all kinds of things in Spanish, that he didn't know the answer to, forcing us to consult the free translation websites on the Internet, or more conveniently, an English to Spanish dicitonary. Having taken French in high school (French I 2 years in a row as a matter of fact), I really wasn't much help but found that we were learning together.

Pretty soon, I was fielding reports from school that his teacher had to tell him to answer questions in English, and not the contrived Spanish he started using, which was Spanish sounding gibberish mixed with real words he knew. He was turning down the TV and and dubbing in whoever was on speaking with his own Spanish. The kid was obsessed!

It seemed only natural then that when I saw that our Community Ed Catalog offered a beginners Spanish class, we would join up! It was a bit risky since it wasn't really set up for kids with Autism, but I figured it was just for fun, and if he couldn't do it, then at least he would be out and about experiencing something.

The first class was met with great excitement on Casey's part. He was giddy all day about it and mentioned that we would be going several times throughout the day! His teacher, who I had discussed Casey with beforehand, greeted him warmly, and he answered back with an "Ola" (Sp?). The class went swimmingly despite the confused looks from the other kids, wondering why this kid's mom was sitting behind him helping him, and the kid himself was talking a little oddly, and didn't quite seem to know all the basics of being a student. But Casey participated a lot and even threw out a few words that the teacher hadn't even taught yet. She seemed quite impressed and amazed and asked me if he took Spanish at school. I being amazed myself, answered no, and smiled proudly.

All the classes have gone well since, despite a few fights about going (computer seperation anxiety), and he has caught on extremely well. For a kid who won't finish a task at school without extreme prompting and reminders, he certainly can do all the worksheets (ie crosswords, search a words, and matching items) in minutes and on his own, and correctly! He even got upset this last week because the class didn't play Spanish Bingo. This from the kid who you literally have to threaten no computer for a year to get him to play a game at home!

So, for once, my OT sister was wrong and I was right for signing him up. I love that he is learning Spanish, but more than that, I am just happy to see him behaving in such a "typical" kid manner. Even if he can't speak it fluently, or more than likely will lose interest, at least I have the knowledge that he can learn, and can be appropriate, even if it is when it works for him.

*I am adding this a few days after I posted the original, but my wonderful friend reminded me that I forgot to share a cute story. At Casey's Spanish class last week they were doing a "quiz" where the teacher was holding up index cards with the words they had learned in the past weeks and had the kids put up their hands to say what each was. At one point, she held up one that read "lampara". No hands went up because was not a word that had been taught. The instructor had accidentally put it in the pile. Suddenly Casey's hand went up, and to his teacher's surprise he blurted out "lamp". She looked over her glasses at me and said "Mom, did you know he knew this?". "Uh, no!" I said amazed. I don't know if the look of the word itself gave the English translation to him, or something he'd heard but doggonit everyone was impressed!