Monday, February 28, 2011

Michael's goal is to be a Librarian's Assistant

Throughout his 17+ years in school, Michael has been instructed to complete the same type of first grade level worksheets over and over again.  It's not unusal for people who don't speak to be thought of as lacking intelligence.  Michael has said people don’t realize he is smart – especially people at school (he calls them “the people who raise you”).  Since he’s been typing to talk over the last year, he’s revealed he has an intellect that none us realized.  His mom said she would have never believed her son would be practicing job skills to become a librarian’s assistant.  She astonished, as we all are, as Michael, now 20 years old, shows us he can learn to alphabetize books.  The great thing is rather than get stuck in being frustrated, Michael can tell us - by typing - when he doesn’t understand a concept.  It’s our responsibility to be creative at accessing Michael’s way of thinking so he can put the pieces together for himself.  Learning how to alphabetize library books is not done by rote memory.  Michael understands he has to think.

S:  how's it going practicing with grand mom?
M:  I think that I understand the alphabet better

S:  ok. Let's practice the letters A B C D E F G.

I handed Michael the lettered cards and he quickly and correctly sorted them A - G. 

S:  That is perfect!  Let's practice with library books. I brought some that have these letters A B C D E F on their spines.  Put them in the right order on the shelf.

I handed Michael one book at a time in random order.  He put the books on the shelf in the order I gave them to him.

S: We need you to put them in alphabetical order.

I handed Michael one book at a time in random order, and this time he shelved them correctly A - F.

S:  Perfect!  So you know the alphabet rule. are you ready to learn the next rule?
M:  ready to learn the next rule

S:  The letters on the spine are the first letter of the authors last name. What is the first letter of your last name?
M:  H

S:  Yes, great.  In this book, G is for Garrison. When there are books with the same last name, use the first letter of the first word of the title. The first letter of the first word of the book by Paul Garrison is
M:   (no answer)

S:  The title of the book is Red Sky at Morning. so the first word of this title is red. What's the first letter of the first word?
M:  R

S:  Great… just like h is the first letter your last name is h
Get it?
M:  yes

S:  What's the first word in this title (Paul Garrison’s other book)?
M:  sea

S: And the first letter of sea is
M:  S

S:  I’m going to use the letter cards to help you understand the rule. 

I put the letter cards R and S in front of Michael. 

S:  R comes before S when the author has two or more books, alphabetize the first letter of the first word in the title.

Michael sorted the books incorrectly.  He put the S book in front of the R book.

S:  Tell me what is hard to understand?
M:  you don't easy to understand

I realized I had given him too much information at one time.  I placed the R and S letter cards on the table and handed Mike one book at a time.  I showed him how the title with Red as the first word went “on top” on the R letter card and the title with Sea as the first word went on the S letter card.  I gave him lots of opportunities to put these two books in their right places making sure to hand him the books in different orders.  He soon began sorting the books correctly: R before S.

S:  Is this helping?
M:  I think so

S:  You will understand this rule soon... maybe today maybe tomorrow just like you did with the A B C D E F books.  Now add the two Garrison “G” books to the shelf with the other (A B C E D E F) books on it.

Michael put the Garrison’s “Red” Sky first on the shelf next to the F book and then shelved Garrison’s “Sea” book

S: Perfect!  Excellent!  You shelved two Garrison “G” books! The R in Red comes before S in Sea.  You did it.  Fantastic!

We repeated the process 4 times and I handed Michael a different book each time.  He sorted the books correctly – the first letter of the first word on the title.  Michael was gleeful.  He rocked, and laughed, and maintained huge smile. He was very pleased with his accomplishment.

S:  Now shelve two more books.  The author of these two books is Lehrer.  L in Lehrer goes after the G in Garrison.  Two Lehrer books means go to the first letter of the first word in the title. The first letter in the first word (I held the book up to him and was careful not to point to the first word or its first letter so as not to give him the answer)
M:  p (for purple)

S:  Yes, great.  The first letter of the first word in this other book by Lehrer is
M:  m (for Mack)

S:  Wow!  Now put them on the shelf in the right order.

Michael put the two Lehrer books in the correct order immediately after the Garrison books.

S:  Michael this is amazing!  Look how much you learned in one day.  How do you feel?
M:  I easy do it and I feel terrific

S:  Excellent. Ok grand mom will help you practice this week.
M:  ok that sounds great cool,

S:  We are very proud of you!!


  1. My daughter is also 20 and autistic. I know that she can read and she is very intelligent. How many hours a day do you work with Michael on his typing? How did you get started helping him learn to type?

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