Updated: Sep 13
- My mom helping Calder type.
When Calder was around three or four, my parents took him to get his annual check-up. It was as standard a check-up as you could expect for a hyper-sensitive, overly energetic, non-verbal, autistic kid. But his doctor noticed something extraordinary that would quite literally change our lives. She observed that Calder would look at the signs in her office and laugh at the ones with jokes. When she told our parents about this discovery they were amazed, and our mom promptly sought to teach Calder some form of communication.
At first, it seemed like it was going to be an impossible task. However, we were able to find a group called Special Nation whose staff were both willing and able to teach my mom how to type with Calder. But this still raised numerous questions. For example, even if Calder could learn to type, did he know how to spell? Could he even understand language, or was that just a hunch from some well-meaning doctor? And most importantly, how could we tell if it was really him who was typing?
Despite these questions, we decided it was worth a shot and were given a method. Calder would type on an iPad with our mom using her hand to support his forearm, holding it like a support so that he had to push against her to type. The theory is that, by slowing down Calder's impulsive movement through resistance, he would be forced to focus on the letters and where he intended to move his finger.
As it turns out, Calder already knew how to spell, most likely from paying attention to our parents teaching my middle brother and me. This also answered our second question because if he could spell, then he of course had some understanding of language. But as for the last question, at first, we were a little skeptical of the method because some of us - namely, my dad - thought that our mom must be impacting the outcome of Calder's typing (like an Ouija Board). That was until one particular Halloween.
On that day, our mom asked Calder a seemingly innocent question for a six-year-old, "What gives you fright at night?" Calder's response was "White Walkers." Our mom had never heard the term "White Walkers," so she researched this mysterious horror and discovered that the "White Walkers" were monstrous zombie characters from the acclaimed series Game of Thrones. But she had never watched the series, and she knew the odds of Calder's discovery of "White Walkers" by himself were slim. He had always been an Elmo and Coldplay kid. So she asked our dad, even though she knew that a responsible parent surely had the wisdom to not show a little six-year-old kid something as violent as Game of Thrones, right?
Well, let's just say that I will never forget the "Oh Crap" look on my dad's face after my mom asked him. But more importantly, it showed our dad that Calder was actually typing and he was processing the world around him. So despite the hilariousness of watching my dad realizing he made a grave mistake that he will never live down, that story proved to us that even though it sometimes looks like Calder is ignorant of his surroundings, he is taking it all in.