And God Laughs
I told God my plans and He laughed. So now I am living, laughing, and loving according to His Plans.

Trilingual Nonverbal Communication

Katerina was about 25 pounds of pure stubborn will. She had never been away from her parents for any period of time prior to entering my preschool class, and she was definitely less than enthusiastic about finding herself in the midst of controlled chaos for 3 hours each day. Once it became evident that this school thing was not going to end in the near future, Katerina decided to communicate her discontent loudly and clearly. Or should I say silently and clearly. Katerina spoke both Polish and English, and had a solid 50+ word vocabulary in each language. On my home visits she chattered like a song bird, switching between languages and putting on a show of singing and dancing. At school she became silent, refusing to make a single sound. She also knew basic sign language, and thus began our stalemate. I would request that she use her voice to make a request or communicate, and she would easily communicate her desires or preferences in sign language. When she thought no adults were listening, she would chat happily with her peers or even read from memory the Brown Bear, Brown Bear book to an audience of dolls. Yet the minute an adult approached she reverted to the silent treatment.  Finally one day about three months into this stalemate I decided to up the ante to get her to talk, a skill I knew very well she possessed. I made the ultimate treat in our preschool classroom - popcorn. Then I offered it to the children, and the following exchange occurred with Katerina. All text in Red is Sign Language.

Me: Katerina, do you want some popcorn?
Katerina: Want Popcorn Please.
Me: Katerina, that was good signing but I need you to use your voice and tell me if you want popcorn.
Katerina: No voice. Want Popcorn.
Me: No voice, no popcorn Katerina. You can use your voice.
Katerina: No voice, Yes Popcorn. Want Popcorn!
Me: No voice, no popcorn. Look at all your friends eating popcorn!
Katerina: NO voice, Want Popcorn NOW! Please.
Me: You know that you need to use your voice to get popcorn.
Katerina: Fine. No want popcorn. No voice. All Done!

Katerina then proceeded to get up from the table, clear her spot, put her lunchbox back in her cubby, and go over to the book corner to read. My negotiations had failed. She had communicated to me that her will to prove her dislike of school by controlling one of the few things she could control in her life - when and where she chose to speak- was greater than my power of persuasion. She had communicated to me that she was fully aware of the situation and was making a conscious choice not to talk at school. She communicated to me that this was about having some power and some control and something to be in charge of when her world had suddenly changed and there were few things left during the school day that she felt she could control. Her parents might be able to put her on the school bus, we might be able to coax her through the daily routine, but we could not make her talk. We were held hostage by a 3 year old, and she knew it and wanted it that way. During the school year she exceeded every goal except her speech goal- she met that one at home but not at school. 

*Image from ASL University


And so, myfavoritespedteacherBethany, what did we learn from Katerina? Her story makes plain the limits of ABA or behavioral modification techniques when cognition (will) allows a child to see past the immediate and physical reward. Agree?

This reminds me of a child I met in rural OR many years ago. Well past potty-trained she began to wet her pants and the school staff were sure she was doing it purposely. After asking lots of questions I suggested to them that perhaps it was a control issue and prompted them to think of ways for her to feel more control in her highly structured life.

Children do outgrow some teaching methods (that's for other readers, not you, Bethany.)

Somehow, I think Katerina did fine even without meeting that speech goal. Barbara

uh... sigh-- this post has a message like my post today... :)
and reading Barabara's comment just seals the deal! :)
I gotta make changes

what an interesting story
Such a a lovely blog
Is Barb wonderful for doing this

What a power play! I enjoyed reading this post for Dr. B's blog carnival.

Love your statement "we were held hostage by a three year old". I am sure we have all experienced this in some way or another.

I love your blog and am so blessed to have found it through Barbara's carnival!

What a fascinating and complicated must have so many amazing stories

"held hostage by a 3-yr-old" I can relate to that... although not in a classroom :). It's amazing how well children can get their point across in their own way, even without speech.

Job 8:21

"He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy."

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Wild Olive

Wild Olive

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Creative Victory

This is Me

I am a thirty year old enigma who has defied every expectation ever placed upon me and refused every definition created for me. My greatest passion in life is to make a difference in the lives of children with special needs and their families. As a special education teacher I broke all of the unwritten rules to make sure that my kids received the services they needed and had a right to receive. I have never been so proud to be reprimanded before in my life. Now, due to unpredictable twists in life, I am learning first hand what life is like when you rely upon a wheelchair for mobility. I am a medical puzzle with the pieces slowly being identified and put together, and my medical bills alone could fund a small nation. It takes a village to keep me alive. :) However, I am not defined by the genetic misspellings. I am a teacher, a daughter, an aunt, a friend, a dreamer, a reader, an amateur photographer, a writer, an advocate, a star gazer, a world changer. I am stubborn, situationally shy, quick to use humor and wit to make others laugh or cope with a situation, sarcastic, fiercely independent, giving, compassionate (sometimes to a fault), protective of those I love, defiant of arbitrary boundaries, perfectionistic, self conscious, self assured (yes you can be both!), articulate and occasionally dramatic. And that is just what I could fit in two sentences! :)

Who's On First, What's On Second, I Don't Know! (Third Base!!)*

Simple Vocabulary Definitions for those who may not speak fluent medical :)

Undiagnosed Progressive Neurological Disorder- This is the diagnosis that is believed to make everything else fit together. It explains my frequent infections, my muscle weakness and dystonia, my dysautonomia, my cardiac issues, my inability to regulate blood pressure, my dysphagia, my ataxia, my severe fatigue, my extreme nausea, my gastrointestinal dysmotility and IBS like syndrome, my unbelievable migraines, my sensory changes in my arms and legs, my vision issues, my hearing loss (so much for blaming medication), and so much more. Going back to infancy and childhood, this would explain the severe apnea, the significantly delayed motor skills, the reason why I could never keep up with my peers in physical activities, the neurogenic bladder, the malfunctioning thyroid, and my frequent illnesses and vomiting. This is the diagnosis now being used since the DNA testing for Mitochondrial Disease came back odd and I can not afford the expenses of a workup at the Mayo Clinic. We are treating symptomatically.

Pan-Dysautonomia- "Pan" means that it impacts many different systems of my body, "dysautonomia" is a failure of my autonomic nervous system or the part of my brain that does all of the automatic things that do not require conscious thought like telling your heart to beat, regulating your blood pressure, adjusting your body temperature, maintaining balance in space, digesting food, hunger and thirst, etc. It is believed that I have had this from birth based upon my history of symptoms, including severe life threatening apnea as an infant, but the cause remains elusive at this time

Dystonia- abnormal muscle tone and spasticity, including painful spasms, that primarily impacts my feet and lower legs and is now starting to be a problem in my back

Ataxia- difficulty maintaining balance and coordinating/executing movements

Dysphagia- difficulty swallowing due to any number of causes including muscle weakness and poor muscle coordination

Adipsia- the absence of a sense of thirst

Other Medical Issues- Lupus Anticoagulant (autoimmune disease that causes me to tend to form blood clots and has already caused two deep vein blood clots and one mild stroke), Migraines, unknown connective tissue disorder, abnormal gastric motility, allergies, history of v-tach and severe sinus tachycardia, changes to my echocardiagram that include leaking valves and a new murmur, low blood pressure, ataxia, untreated PFO (small hole in my heart that increases the risk of stroke), chronic lymphadema in my left arm, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Narcolepsy/Idiopathic CNS Hypersomnolance (believed to be a result of the dysautonomia and my brain's inability to regulate the sleep/wake cycle), mild hearing loss, malformed optic nerves, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pernicious anemia, vitamin deficiencies

* Title comes from an old Abbot and Costello routine that I chose to memorize in 6th grade and absolutely love.