We started using GemIIni about a month ago now, and I have to say that my whole family loves it. You might remember from my first GemIIni Blog that, when we initially signed up, I was pretty overwhelmed by the size of the program and was relieved to start with a few Quick Start Language and Quick Start Reading videos while I attempted to figure it out. One of the wonderful bonuses that you receive when you sign up for GemIIni is a phone call from a customer service representative.
I had the pleasure of talking with a woman named Natalia, who immediately asked me to describe my daughter and her language skills. I explained how Danniah’s language acquisition has been anything but normal or expected. I described her scripting in depth: she can script any movie that she likes from start to finish after just one viewing. Recently we have begun turning her scripting into more interactive games so that we can participate with her. Natalia, as it turns out, has a son who also scripts, and she was incredibly helpful to me. She told me that GemIIni has tactics to deal with apraxia, scripting, articulation and reading. Natalia encouraged me to make a lot of custom videos and move through content quickly, noting that once the video is scripted, the child knows the content. Moving through content quickly will minimize scripting and encourage the child to integrate what was being scripted into their functional repertoire while the new content they are exposed to will become the target of the next script. We discussed how to make custom videos and how to add fun segments to keep her attention on the videos. GemIIni has a large humor category filled with things that grab Danniah’s attention. Her favorite is a clip called “Going Upside Down” which features Laura and her daughter going upside down on a couch. Danniah loves it! Inserting clips like “Going Upside Down” between content keeps her focused, and I have to say, it works like a charm!
Natalia and I also reviewed reading. Danniah loves to read; in fact, she has been reading and spelling all kinds of words from amphibian to metamorphosis since she was about 3 years old. Recently she even won a trip to school in a fire truck for her reading. The problem has been trying to figure out if she comprehends what she is reading or if she is hyperlexic. Lucky for us, according to developer Laura Kasbar, GemIIni has been shown to convert hyperlexia to real reading. This is where Quick Start Reading becomes important. According to Natalia, we will need to do one book a day. Eventually, with repetition of all the books in the Quick Start Reading, comprehension develops and builds.
Natalia and I also discussed word retrieval problems, which is a big issue for Danniah. I learned that this is where sequential processing is important. Natalia told me that getting her up to 7 items will be really important in speech, language and word retrieval. You might recall from my last blog that Laura had also told me through emails that sequential processing working memory was crucial for word retrieval and language in general. By the end of the phone call, Natalia had recommended a program of two video sessions, one sequential processing session and one book a day for Danniah. (And, as an aside, Natalia is a saint for talking with me so long! She was a phenomenal help.)
So, now let’s talk about all the places where I have managed to mess this up. My first mistake was getting very excited about “Sequential Processing Working Memory,” while simultaneously not being able to reign in my decidedly type-A personality. I ‘needed to know’ where she was at with her ability as soon as possible. So, with the same questionable judgment as an inebriated amoeba, I decided to put Sequential Processing up on the iPad later in that same evening, after a very long day at school when she was clearly tired. I chose food as a category. (Seriously? Why did I do that? Eating is not her favorite thing to start with!) I chose a field of three. So, for example, to start she can view something like this for a few seconds
Then the screen will change to this
and she will have to touch the pictures to put them in the correct order. Well, Type-A Mommy over here loaded it onto the iPad and stuck it in front of her right after she’d already completed a book. She could not have been any less interested. I had this episode of monumental amnesia where I promptly forgot everything I’d learned in Son-Rise and pressed on ignoring every gigantic clue that said “STOP IT, MOM!” Can you predict the outcome? You bet. Disastrous. She was tired and cranky, and I was annoying her. She was not really paying attention at all, and who could blame her? The long story short is that she could not even do a field of one. But I didn’t know if it was because she was tired and didn’t want to, she didn’t understand the concept, or she just really couldn’t remember. She was frustrated with me and clearly anxious, perceiving it to be some sort of test that she was supposed to perform for. The result was that I had to completely bail and put it away for a full month, until tonight, when I took it back out to see if she would look at it again without yelling at me. I told her it was a game and had her pick the category. She chose clothes.
She did a field of two with ease, but she went back and forth between a field of three and two. When she focused, she could do the field of three easily. But I set the number of seconds too long, and she would lose interest and script waiting for the options to show up and she would forget. The good news is that she is looking at it now . . . and I am relaxed and just having fun with it all. Perhaps now we will be able to begin to work on this part.
The next thing I messed up was not reading enough first. The secret Facebook group has a fantastic welcome document that really provides invaluable guidance. Additionally, the tactics document that I referenced in the first paragraph has exceptional information in it. Somehow I managed to only remember Natalia telling me that I would go through a lot of content, and I remembered her telling me to make custom videos, use the “Echolalia Buster,” “No Funny Talk,” and “Tell Me Three Things” videos to decrease scripting and to use “Bridge to Conversational Language” and “Fading the Prompt” to increase conversational language. So I dove right into making custom videos, nearly completely overlooking the very important guidance around ensuring receptive/expressive vocabulary by using the Quick Start Language, and then focusing on action verbs and prepositions before moving on to the other things. There really is a method. I’ve backed up a bit and have taken more from Quick Start and have had a bigger focus on action words. The result is a growing vocabulary, which is a critical building block. Today, for example, she told me she was going to examine my elbow. In some ways it was a script from an action verbs video that she edited, but used appropriately. She also seems exponentially interested in new words and delighted when she understands their meaning. That, in and of itself, is a delight to witness.
Despite all my faux pas, we have still moved forward rather nicely. You may remember from my first blog that Danniah was using some of the language from the “Manners and Greetings” video that she loved so much. I gave the example of a friend stopping by in the last blog. Since then, I’ve received a note home from her case manager at school stating, “Danniah arrived at school, and I stayed quiet. She made eye contact and smiled and said ‘Hello.’ I said, ‘Hello Danniah, how are you?’ She said, ‘I’m fine, how are you?’” Yesterday, Danniah had her dance showcase with the Boston Ballet’s Adaptive Dance program. One of the moms asked, “Danniah, how old are you?” Danniah looked at her and said, “I am eight years old.” The mom then noted that her daughter was seven and asked, “Are you in the second grade?” Danniah said, “Yes.” I was delighted!
GemIIni is clearly teaching her social skills, language and academics. It has piqued her interest in talking, and sharing not only what she wants, but what she knows and observes. There are videos that model commenting, which is something she has never done before. Ever. We seen undeniable changes in her language. When Danniah woke up to the alarm clock ringing the a few days ago, instead of yelling “OFF! OFF!” as she normally would, she politely asked, “can you turn it off please, mom?” Delighted, I happily obliged. Shortly thereafter she said, “I’m going to open the blinds. You wait right here.” If I wasn’t already lying on the bed, I would have fallen over. Yesterday, as we got off the highway to head to her dance showcase, Danniah commented, “Oh! We are going to go through a tunnel.” (What?! Yay!) This is salient because you couldn’t even see the tunnel yet and she spontaneously shared that knowledge (that I did not even know she knew!). That has happened a couple of times today. For example, it was finally hot here today. She wanted our pool open. Immediately if not sooner. Her Dad took the pool cover off, revealing a swampy green mess. I said, “Oh look! The water is really dirty.” Without missing a beat and very naturally, Danniah said, “We need to clean it!” Today her father was trying to get her to come in the house because it was getting late. The two of them had been playing outside. I heard him say, “It’s time to stay inside now, it’s getting late and colder.” She said, “But I want to stay outside.” And when I was putting her to bed tonight and was apparently being my annoying mommy self, Danniah said, “Stop bothering me.” We have never seen this kind and quality of language before.
Right now Danniah watches GemIIni twice a day for a total of 2 hours a day, sometimes much more. She requests it and often selects it on her iPad when we are traveling. She really enjoys it. I will admit that I am behind in the books and sequential processing pieces. But I have managed to do some testing. There are receptive tests that look like this
A word or sentence will play and she has to choose the correct picture. Thus far she has scored 100% on the receptive tests. She smiles when she hears the sound it plays and displays the yellow-you-got-it-right star:
The expressive test is a little different. It looks like this
She is supposed to tell you what is happening or say the word that it is describing. She can say the words without any trouble. When it comes to describing, however, she is not there yet, so she scripts the video instead (perfectly, I might add).
Now that we have hit the month mark, we have settled into a fairly nice routine. The learning and gains are undeniable thus far and we are very happy with this unique, convenient and easy to use program. I’m excited and I can’t wait to see what unfolds–I’ll be sure to let you all know what that looks like in my next GemIIni blog!
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