This morning, right after breakfast, my son was a little anxious and kept pulling my arm and it was quite obvious he tried to tell me something. I didn’t understand what he wanted, or perhaps I did, so I asked him to get his Ipad and show me what he wanted. Within seconds he had it in his hand and tapped two pictures before he gave it to me. “Geocaching” and “By Car” was what he told me and by that he decided how we spent this Saturday morning. For someone who can’t speak, verbally or with sign language, he’s starting to get good at telling us what he wants.
Geocaching + By Car
Here is a tip for all geocachers out there that like me tend to get stuck when trying to solve mystery-caches. I quite often understand the mystery and how to solve it but I don’t know where to find the tools to complete the task. I have now found a tool to create my own tools in the class “An Introduction to Interactive Programming in Python” hosted by Coursera.org. It’s not any fancy programming but it’s enough to create your own decrypters, bearing calculators and small tools like those. Go and check it out, it’s almost halfway through the course but all the material is there for anyone to take for free.
I have told you readers a few times about the lack of communication skills that my son suffers from and thought I should elaborate this a little more.
My son has sounds that often are connected to his mood. As parents we can hear if something is bothering him (hunger, sleepiness, need to go to toilet) or if he is content at the moment. He does listen and understands simple communication like come, wait, sit and, shoes. Up until now we have tried different things to boost his communication skills but nothing has worked as good as we hoped it would. Sign language is to complicated for him, we tried PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) which worked but was very restrictive due to the number of pictures one could carry around. After PECS we tried a small HP Ipaq pocket-PC with a program for pictures and speech synthesizer that didn’t work very well but it was what was available then.
Now times have changed. We have used a new app for iOS devices for about 6 months that is called Grid Player and it seems to work really well. Grid Player (no, the name has nothing with geocaching to do) works on most iOS devices and my son uses it mostly on his iPad. Ha also has an iPhone as a more portable version. My wife has configured Grid Player to contain pictures in categories for my son. The pictures are representation of sentences starting with “I want to..”, “I need to..” and, “I am..”. I need to give my wife credit for all the work she has done in order to get this working as for a while I had given up the hope to find anything that works well.
One moment I’d like to share is a few months ago when we were flying back from Thailand after 2 weeks of vacation. The flight is good 12 hours and that puts a bit of strain on both my son and the parents as the situation is a bit out of our control. He was sitting next to me playing around with his iPad, and looking at cartoons when I suddenly heard “I want to go to the toilet”. At first I thought he might have been pressing the button without meaning anything but I followed him to the toilet anyway. Normally he is afraid of the toilets in aircrafts but this time he didn’t hesitate, did what he needed to do and we went back to our seats. Two more times during the flight he swapped from cartoons to Grid Player and asked for the toilet. I didn’t think of it at that moment but a day later I realized that it was the first time my son “talked” to me in long, long time, if not for the first time ever. Today he talks to me almost daily when he pushes the “geocaching” or “car trip” symbol
Another gadget I just found out about in the PodCacher podcast number 406 is something called StickNFind. This is a small bluetooth button that is attached to things you don’t want to misplace. Immediately I thought of another use for the StickNFind and that to stick it to my son when we are out geocaching. As he doesn’t have a verbal communication it’s easy to lose track of him even if he’s just 20 feet away but stands so I can’t see him. This StickNFind would tell me if I get closer or further away from him when I look for him and it also has a virtual leash function that will tell me if he gets more than, for example, 50 feet away from me. Too bad it’s only available for iOS and Android devices at this moment as I really like the Windows 7.5 and 8 mobile devices and, hopefully that will change.
Well, to be honest I don’t have an iPod. But I have a Windows smartphone that works just as well, and sometimes it’s an invaluable friend when we are out geocaching. Not as a tool but as company. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to go geocaching with anyone else than my son, but since he doesn’t have the ability to talk, our discussions tend to be a bit one-sided. He understands simple instructions and carries them out when I ask him to, but he doesn’t respond by talking or even shows that he is listening. Very seldom does he see the need for any kind of non-verbal communication like touching, or making sounds to get attention. His communication skills are very, very basic and used almost only when he urgently needs help with something; and this is why I listen to so much music, books or podcasts when we are out geocaching.
Recently I have found the PodCacher podcast and now have no trouble choosing what to listen to when we are out. I love the podcast and its content and the style of it feels conversational which is just what I’m missing when out geocaching with my son. And the best thing of all is that there is 400 episodes of the podcast to download so I’ll have my need for conversation in the wilds covered for a while.
So thanks S, S & S and Keep on Caching!