Thursday, September 15, 2011

Social Stories and Kindergarten

Comicbook makes customizeable comic-like pictures

Part 1:

Lily loves books.  She thumbs through them incessantly if allowed, sometimes not even glancing at the pages, other times, keeping her gaze fixed on a picture of particular interest and discussing it with us perseveratively.  They're a fantastic reward for her and very motivating. . . but. . . Lily rips books.  At one point it was a primary focus of our IEP, "book intervention: stop the ripping". 

She can rip card books or paper, it doesn't matter, and we suspect that she gets some sort of sensory feedback from the act of ripping, because the one type of book she's incapable of ripping, cloth books, she's completely disinterested in.  Some strategies we've tried:  Eliminating books for two weeks entirely and bringing them back slowly, providing her with scratch paper and taking the book away when she appears to be starting to rip (telling her that THIS is the paper for ripping), sitting with her hand over hand, allowing her to turn pages but only if her hands are in certain locations on the books, none have really ameliorated that desire to tear the pages.

Part 2:

One of the guys at my office had a new project come in for a major company.  They wanted all their project documentation sent on this special paper that costs about five times what normal paper costs.  The admin at the time grumbled ceaselessly about what a pain in the ass this special expensive paper was because it couldn't be fed through the copy machine for printouts.  The pages were too heavy or too slick or something.  It always, ALWAYS jammed.  So each piece had to be fed through singly, and for several copies of a several hundred page document. . . that takes time and considerable patience. 

The copy guy was summoned.  He fixed it!  But then it started jamming again and he'd be resummoned.  Eventually the project ended and the admin was laid off and there was a box of special expensive paper left over. 

It turns out that paper was nominally "unrippable".  Oh it CAN be ripped.  You have to be really, really serious about ripping paper in order to get it to work though, and then only if you know the trick, and possess grownup size hand strength.  It appears on very close inspection as if each sheet is encased in an invisible coating of some polymeric material, laquered so closely to the paper that it feels like. . . well like paper.  When you finally do rip it, it will rip all the way through, but getting that coating to tear is a bugger.

Part 3:

I downloaded an app for my iPhone called Comicbook.  It's pretty nifty.  It takes your pictures and allows you to lay them out in selectable comic book layouts, adding speech bubbles and text, "stickers" and special effects, creating a pretty good approximation of a comic book. 

Nags Head, NC
I put together a couple little collages just to try it out, adding some speech, a graphic or two, and combining it with other pictures to create one page of a hypothetical comic book from a trip we took to Chicago and another of a day we shared at the beach in Nags Head, NC.  It got me thinking, wouldn't it be a cool scrap book/memory book for my eldest daughter to commemorate the trip to Chicago (for her 9th birthday) in a little printout comic book that she could show her friends?
THIS got me thinking further, heyyy, wouldn't this be an AWESOME social story generator?!  It seems custom made for that sort of thing.  I mean, isn't the textbook document on the subject even CALLED, "Social Stories and Comic Strip Conversations" (Gray 1995)?

The only problem would be, once I printed it out, Lily would rip it to smithereens. . . but. . . but wait!!  I have that paper!  Yeah, that's right, I took it home (office theft is frowned on, but I asked the project manager, I swear) with me to print out a social story her BSC had written for us a while ago, then never got around to tackling.  Then, as now, unrippable stories for a girl who loves to rip pages seemed brilliant.

Part 4:

I want this to be just as simple as writing a story for Lily about her morning preparation for Kindergarten/Daycare.  Lately she's been saying "I don't want Kindergarten".  And while I don't know this for certain, I suspect it's just daily apprehension.  Once she's actually at Kindergarten, people whose feedback I trust are telling me that she's really integrating nicely, behaving appropriately, and having fun.  It's just the before daycare ("I don't like daycare" is also a familiar predaycare theme) and kindergarten perseveration that leads me to believe she's anxious about them.

I thought perhaps creating a social story for her with my Comicbook app, on unrippable paper, and reading it to her in the mornings before school might help her perceived anxiety.  Maybe allowing her to script her morning a little more positively.

My brain is interfering with the whole process though (stupid brain) because I want to do it RIGHT, and I'm aware that there are recommendations for how to structure a social story in order to make it more effective, things like "two to five cooperative, descriptive, perspective, and/or affirmative sentences for every directive or control sentence" is an example of a tidbit I unearthed as I researched my "project".  So I'm stymied, paralyzed into inaction by my fear of messing it up if I do it.  Or doing it all then realizing I did it wrong and having to RE-do it.

I may end up just deferring to her BSC and saying, "Please write me a social story tailored to fit the following sequence of events, wake up, potty, TV, breakfast, car ride with music, daycare, bus, etc".  I've read the social stories. . . they're EASY. . . but like so many other things, it just makes me aware of the level of expertise required for ANY given task no matter how small that it seems possible I could screw up a story that starts, "Mommy and Daddy wake me up in the morning.  I am sleepy, but excited to wake up for the day.  Mommy holds my hand and walks me to the potty.  Etc."  Ditch diggers have their own set of guidelines and arcane knowledge about which I'm ignorant, and so too do social story writers, it would seem. 

I just want to make a nice story for my little girl.

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