Happiness

We’ve had a great week here with lots of good school work, conversations on the letter board and the big event was James’ legend being published on Age of Autism. His SLP decided it would be nice to talk about happiness. And here is the discussion.  James basically came up with a guide to having happiness.  See below!

Happiness
“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Abraham Lincoln
Tell me what you think this quote means.  I THINK HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE.  YOU CAN CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY OR YOU CAN CHOOSE TO BE SAD.  USUALLY I CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY.
“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.” Helen Keller
Tell me what you think this quote means.  I WAS IN DARKNESS FOR YEARS.  I HAD TO LEARN HOW TO LEARN SO I COULD FIND HAPPINESS.  NOW I AM IN THE LIGHT AND NOW I CAN TALK ABOUT MY HAPPINESS.
Creative Writing:  What is your philosophy of happiness?  Create a “User’s Guide to Happiness!”  Be sure to state your definition of happiness and how one might achieve and sustain happiness!
JAMES’ ESSENTIAL STEPS FOR HAPPINESS
HAPPINESS IS A STATE OF MIND WHEN YOU ACCEPT THE LIFE YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN.
STEP ONE IS TO ACCEPT WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN BY GOD.
STEP TWO IS TO STOP COMPARING YOUR LIFE TO OTHERS.
STEP THREE IS TO LOVE YOUR LIFE AND ALL THAT COMES WITH IT.
STEP FOUR IS TO STOP COMPLAINING.  COMPLAINING DOES NOT CHANGE ANYTHING.
STEP FIVE IS TO LOVE OTHERS, EVEN THOSE THAT ANNOY YOU.
STEP SIX IS TO SHARE YOUR JOY WITH THE WORLD.  YOUR HAPPINESS SPREADS THIS WAY.
FINAL STEP IS TO BE GRATEFUL.
YOUR HAPPINESS IS GUARANTEED IF YOU FOLLOW THESE SIMPLE STEPS.

 

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James The Lyrical

Yesterday James learned about art and music in medieval times. His SLP keeps coming up with great creative writing assignments and this one really blew us away.  See below for the song that James composed as a troubador for a king!

Creative writing:  Imagine that you are an artist or musician in the Middle Ages.  You have been tasked to create a song or a piece of art for someone.  Create a story around this scenario.  Who would your patron be?  What would you create? Make sure that your story reflects your newly acquired knowledge of the Middle Ages.  

IN THE HISTORY OF THE MIDDLE AGES, THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A GREATER SINGER THAN ME, JAMES THE LYRICAL.  I AM THE MOST HIGHLY SOUGHT TROUBADOR IN THE LAND.  MY SONGS ARE HILARIOUS.  TIMES ARE HARD IN THE MIDDLE AGES.  KINGS HIRE ME TO ENTERTAIN THEIR COURTS.  THEY ENJOY MY STORY SONGS ABOUT GREAT BATTLES UNDER THEIR COMMAND.  I ALSO SING ABOUT THE PEASANTS AND THEIR LIVES IN THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.  LIFE FOR PEASANTS IS NOT EASY.  HISTORICALLY, THEY ARE THE SLAVES OF THE MIDDLE AGES.

TIMES WERE ALSO HARD FOR THE YOUNG MEN. THEY HAD TO COMPETE IN TOURNAMENTS TO PROVE THEIR BRAVERY AND SHOW THEIR UNUSUAL TALENTS.  SO I SANG SONGS TO CHEER THEIR COURAGE.  MY SONGS WERE SO POPULAR THAT EVERYONE WANTED ME TO SING FOR THEM. Do you think you can compose a song?  (James smiled at this, so I knew something good was coming!!)  HERE IS ONE OF MY SONGS.

THE TIMES LINGER

THE KINGS DO NOT LIFT A FINGER

PASSIONS ARE MIGHTY

NOBLES ARE FLIGHTY

WISHES FOR HEALTH ARE MADE

PLAGUE PUTS MANY IN GRAVES TO BE LAID

LEGENDS ARE TOLD

BRAVERY FROM YOUNG AND OLD

WICKED PLOTS ARE HATCHED

FOR NEW LANDS TO BE SNATCHED

KINGS PLUNDER THE LANDS

WITH NO THOUGHT OF WORK FROM PEASANT HANDS

MANY WILL SUFFER

WHILE KINGS HEAR ME SING AT SUPPER

MY SONGS PLEASE AND DELIGHT

IN THE TIMES OF SUPERSTITION AND FRIGHT

He wrote this on the spot, no time lapse other than the time it takes to spell out each word!

A body that doesn’t work

Yesterday we learned about another boy with autism who through RPM is starting a new life. His mother is blogging like I am and so we read a recent post of theirs where Phillip talks about how tiring it is to control his body when it doesn’t respond normally. He says that just trying to control his impulses is a monumental task and leaves him exhausted everyday.  This is James’ response to reading Phillip’s post.

I CAN IDENTIFY WITH PHILIP.  MY BRAIN AND BODY SOMETIMES FEEL LIKE STRANGERS WHO  HATE EACH OTHER.  THEY REFUSE TO GET ALONG.  MY BRAIN WORKS WELL ON ITS OWN.  I  CAN THINK, LEARN AND COMPREHEND.  MY BRAIN WORKS IN OVERDRIVE.  I THINK AND  REFLECT ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT.  I SOMETIMES WISH MY BRAIN WOULD JUST BE QUIET.   HOWEVER, IT JUST KEEPS GOING.  MY AUTHENTIC SELF IS CONTAINED IN MY HEART, SOUL  AND BRAIN.  MY AUTHENTIC SELF IS NOT REPRESENTED WELL BY MY BODY.    MY BODY CONSTANTLY BETRAYS ME.  IT MAKES ME FURIOUS ALL THE TIME.  I AM NOT IN  CHARGE OF MY BODY.  MY BRAIN IS NOT IN CHARGE OF MY BODY.  MY BODY IS A RENEGADE  WHO IS OUT OF CONTROL.  YOU SHOULD BE GRATEFUL IF YOUR BODY LISTENS TO YOU  BECAUSE MY BODY DOES NOT.    I AM WORKING TO NEGOTIATE PEACE BETWEEN MY BODY AND MY BRAIN SO THEY MIGHT START  TO GET ALONG.  ONE BREAKTHROUGH HAS BEEN ON THE LETTER BOARD.  TO FINALLY  COMMUNICATE BY POINTING TO LETTERS IS THE FIRST SIGN OF COOPERATION.  I REMAIN  HOPEFUL.

 

 

Early Literature and a heartfelt fable

James’ teacher read the beginning of Beowulf to him this week and then his speech therapist continued the lesson with a discussion of early Medieval literature.  Here are some of his thoughts on Beowulf and then  a fable of his own in the tradition of medieval fables. 

James, before we get started, I heard that you really enjoyed Beowulf!  I am so glad to hear that.  What did you like about it?  I LIKE BEOWULF BECAUSE IT IS A VERY INTERESTING BOOK AND HAS A LOT OF ACTION.  How about the language – it is in verse and Old English, are you having any trouble understanding it?  IT TAKES A WHILE TO GET USED TO, BUT THEN IT IS EASY.  

The most popular medieval works were the fabliaux, or fables. These humorous short stories, penned by authors from varying classes, enjoyed an immense audience. While most of these stories developed from earlier folk tales, social commentary was woven into the fable. Most fables were quite humorous and often used the humor to teach a lesson or make a point. Recurring characters were visible in everyday life-merchants, students, husbands, wives, lords and peasants.
 
Tell me something about fables.  FABLES ARE HUMOROUS AND EXPRESS SOCIAL COMMENTARY. 
Now let’s do some creative writing.  Make up a fable that includes social commentary about life today.  
 
THERE ONCE WAS A BOY WHO COULD NOT TALK.  EVERYONE THOUGHT HE WAS NOT CAPABLE OF LEARNING AND COMMUNICATING.  THERE WAS A WICKED WITCH NAMED ______ WHO KEPT THE BOY LOCKED IN A TOWER OF IGNORANCE.  A BEAUTIFUL QUEEN NAMED ELIZABETH RESCUED THE BOY FROM THE TOWER AND TAUGHT HIM HOW TO TALK WITHOUT SPEAKING.  THE BOY SHOWED THE WORLD THAT YOU DONT HAVE TO TALK TO BE SMART.  THE BOY AND THE QUEEN WORKED TO DESTROY ALL OTHER TOWERS OF IGNORANCE.  THEY WERE THE MOST LOVED PEOPLE IN THE LAND.  THE END.  

 

Literacy, censorship and deep emotions

Our new unit on Medieval history is giving James a lot of opportunities to express things we didn’t know he felt so passionately about. Here is yesterday’s lesson with a very deep felt conversation. I think some of what he is expressing at the end is typical for many teens, not just ones with autism!

Monks and Illuminated Texts

Medieval monasteries were the refuges for book copying during the Middle Ages. The burning of the library at Alexandria in the 5th century had been a terrible blow to humanity. Countless scrolls containing scientific, philosophical, artistic and mathematical knowledge were destroyed out of ignorance. Surviving documents were rare, and were often brought to monasteries to be copied for future generations.

What event was a blow to the humanities?  THE BURNING OF THE LIBRARY IN ALEXANDRIA
Can you think of another time in history when there was a great loss of books?  HITLER’S BOOK BURNING
 

The Bible was certainly the most copied book of the Middle Ages. Not only was the Church interested in using these Bibles to spread its gospel throughout the land, these volumes were to be a veneration of beauty. Monks would often work in large rooms called a scriptorium, and only those working on texts would be allowed in this room.

What purpose other than the spread of Christianity did the Bibles of the Middle Ages serve? OBJECTS OF BEAUTY
Where did the monks copy the Bibles?  SCRIPTORIUM 
 

Monks became specialists. The antiquari were masters of calligraphy. Rubricatore illuminated the large initials at the beginning of a page while miniatore illustrated the margins. Monks called illuminators painted intricate designs and biblical scenes on pages, to supplement the text. One of the most famous of these, the Book of Kells was written around 800 a.d. and can still be seen in the library at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

Name one specialty of the monks?  ILLUMINATORS
 

Some monks made tremendous strides in changing the acceptance of non-biblical writing. Thomas Aquinas rattled the foundations of the Church when, instead of denouncing early Greek thinkers, he read ancient texts to reconcile their philosophies with Christianity. The illuminations also went against the convention of “never paint a picture of Christ.” These illustrated scenes became masterpieces, and aided in the peasants’ understanding of biblical stories.

What did Thomas Aquinas do? INCORPORATED ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY INTO CHRISTIANITY 
 
What purpose, besides beauty, did biblical illustrations serve?  MAKE BIBLE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO PEASANTS.  
 
Let’s talk about access to literacy and literature.  Throughout history, that has been something that has been variously controlled.  Explain how.
OVER HISTORY, LEARNING TO READ HAS BEEN A PRIVILEGE EXTENDED TO VERY FEW.  READING HAS BEEN USED TO SEPARATE PEOPLE BY GENDER, RACE, AND WEALTH.  READING IS ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE AND THEREFORE ACCESS TO POWER.  I DON’T THINK IT IS ACCEPTABLE TO DENY ANYONE THE ABILITY TO LEARN TO READ.  IN MY OWN LIFE, I HAVE EXPERIENCED DENIAL OF INFORMATION WHICH PUT ME IN A METAPHORICAL PRISON.  I HAVE A NEW FOUND FREEDOM NOW THAT I HAVE ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE THROUGH EDUCATION. I TREASURE THIS ABILITY TO LEARN.  
 
What are your thoughts on book burning, banning and censorship? 
I THINK BOOK BANNING IS CRIMINAL AND SHOULD BE MADE ILLEGAL.  READING WHATEVER ONE WANTS SHOULD BE A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT.  I WANT TO BE ABLE TO LISTEN TO WHATEVER BOOKS THAT I CHOOSE AND NOT TO BE RESTRICTED IN MY ACCESS TO KNOWLEDGE.  I DON’T THINK IT IS ACCEPTABLE FOR ANYONE TO DECIDE WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT READ.  I HAVE SPENT MY LIFE HAVING PEOPLE MAKE DECISIONS FOR ME.  IT SUCKED.  NOW I WANT TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DECISIONS IN MY LIFE.

 

 

 

Books, reading, and unknown interests!

Our new unit in James’ homeschool program is the Middle Ages.  The lesson he had with his SLP on Thursday was on “books in the Middle Ages”.  The lesson led to an interesting discussion on the kinds of subjects that James would like to listen to on audio books.  He explains how his eyes and hands prevent him from reading books on his own.  As usual we were surprised by some of his interests, read below!

The Middle Ages saw the beginnings of a rebirth in literature. Early medieval books were painstakingly hand-copied and illustrated by monks. Paper was a rarity, with vellum, made from calf’s skin, and parchment, made from lamb’s skin, were the media of choice for writing. Students learning to write used wooden tablets covered in green or black wax. The greatest number of books during this era were bound with plain wooden boards, or with simple tooled leather for more expensive volumes.

Tell me one thing about books in the Middle Ages.  MADE FROM LAMB SKIN
 
Who copied and illustrated books?  MONKS
 

Wandering scholars and poets traveling to the Crusades learned of new writing styles. Courtly Love spawned a new interest in romantic prose. Troubadours sang in medieval courtyards about epic battles involving Roland, Arthur, and Charlemagne. Literature exploded from the universities as scholars began to question convention and write social commentary, as well as poetic fiction.

How did the Crusades influence medieval literature?  EXPOSURE TO SO MANY NEW PEOPLE EXPANDED KNOWLEDGE SO IT INFLUENCED LITERATURE.  
 

Language saw further development during the Middle Ages. Capital and lowercase letters were developed with rules for each. Books were treasures, rarely shown openly in a library, but rather, kept safely under lock and key. Finding someone who might loan you a book was a true friend. Some might rent out their books, while others, desperate for cash, might turn to the book as a valuable item to be pawned.

What was one development to language?  UPPER AND LOWER CASE LETTERS WERE USED IN WRITING
 
People in the Middle Ages treasured books.  Do you think that is true today?  SOME PEOPLE TREASURE BOOKS BUT OTHERS TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED BECAUSE THEY ARE SO READILY AVAILABLE.  EV: “How do you feel about books?”  I LOVE THEM AND LIKE TO BE READ TO.  EV: “Can you read them on your own?”  NO, BECAUSE I CANT TURN THE PAGES OR TRACK THE LETTERS WITH MY EYES.  EV: “Have you ever thought about trying audio books where you could independently listen to them on your phone or iPad?”  THOSE WOULD BE GOOD.  I WOULD LIKE TO TRY LISTENING TO THEM.  EV:  “What genres of literature interest you?”  I AM INTERESTED IN HISTORICAL FICTION AND BIOGRAPHIES OF FAMOUS PEOPLE.  EV: “Let’s narrow this down a bit.  Tell me three people whose biography you would like to read.”  ABRAHAM LINCOLN, POPE FRANCIS, UNDERCOVER AGENTS. EV:  “What era or events interest you in terms of  historical fiction.”  HITLER’S NAZI GERMANY.  EV:  Something particular in that era?  CONCENTRATION CAMPS.  CIVIL WAR, PARTICULARLY THE LIFE OF SLAVES.  GUYS PLACED IN WITNESS PROTECTION SERVICES
 
EV:  How do you see yourself listening to audio books?  I WOULD LIKE TO LISTEN TO THEM WHEN I NEED TO RELAX AND BE BY MYSELF FOR A BIT.  I AM EXCITED TO TRY AUDIO BOOKS.  IT WILL MAKE ME FEEL MORE INDEPENDENT AND GROWN UP.  
 

Miscellaneous Topics

We had an opportunity to work with another RPM therapist two weeks ago and it is always interesting to see what James says to people with whom he doesn’t normally get a chance to converse. This therapist asked James what he thought the purpose of interviews might be.  He answered WE CAN GET INSIDE SOMEONE’S MIND. She asked him if there was a certain career expertise that he might like to interview someone about and he said I WANT TO LEARN ABOUT TWO THINGS: ARCHITECTURE AND BEING AN EYE DOCTOR.  Well once again we are surprised by James!

Unfortunately I am pretty sure the reason he is interested in being an eye doctor is that his eyes bother him a lot.  We have always known that his eye muscles suffer from low tone just like most of his other muscles and that they do not converge or focus normally.  The very same motor issues he has with his body and mouth he also has with his eyes. I think that is one reason that RPM is such a nice change for people with autism. Soma doesn’t ask them to look at the board.  She holds it based on where their eyes seem to be that day and if they are spelling accurately she doesn’t ask for them to look at the board–they can look wherever they are comfortable!  What a nice break from the constant demands often placed on them to look in a certain place. James is now able to tell us how  much his eyes bother him and we have been to the developmental optometrist again as well as consulted with  his main motor therapist who has increased his eye exercises a great deal.  James asks to do these everyday so he must feel the benefit.  For those of you learning about RPM from this blog please keep this in mind.  We have had to slightly reduce the letter board work in order not to overstrain his eyes.

Now onto architecture! He was asked to interview an architect and he said, NUMBER ONE QUESTION WOULD BE, DID YOU WISH YOU BUILT DISNEY WORLD? SECOND QUESTION, WOULD YOU EVER LIVE SOMEWHERE YOU DID NOT BUILD? THIRD QUESTION, WHAT IS THE BEST SKILL FOR AN ARCHITECT? FOURTH QUESTION, ONLY TIME YOU DID NOT LIKE YOUR JOB?

They wrapped up their session with one more discussion which was on sleep! Brianne told James that she had read an article about sleep and that it plays an essential role in forming and consolidating memories. She said the brain plays a role as sort of a mental janitor. She asked him to explain this.  He said, IT CLEARS THE FILES. TINY CELLS THAT NEED TO BE RECYCLED. She liked that he used the word recycle since it was a janitor analogy!  Then she told him that some scientists were trying to develop a drug that would allow people to not need sleep and what did he think would be different about the world if people didn’t sleep? He answered, SOME TECHNOLOGY WILL DEVELOP SOONER SINCE PEOPLE WILL HAVE MORE TIME BUT I DON’T KNOW IF THAT IS SMART.