Today, Rémi figured out how to use the mouse.
His brother has been computer literate since he was way younger than Rémi is now. When Gaston was three or four, his ABA therapist would come to our house armed with a laptop loaded with games and videos which appealed to young autistic boys. He had some great ideas on how to teach Gaston how to use a computer, including bringing in some special, easy-to-use mice. After a couple of months, Gaston became adept at starting his own videos and playing a couple of games. I introduced him to a painting tool on the family PC, and I downloaded a tool for playing with virtual Lego (here: http://ldd.lego.com/). After less than a year of playing with both real and virtual Lego and of drawing both real and virtual pictures, Gaston was a 5-year-old boy who could double-click, scroll, select options from menus, minimise windows, type words… Pretty much anything one would need to do to get around on a computer.
Today, Gaston is seven years old. His only limits on the computer are his limits in real life. As his real-life drawing and Lego-building improve, so do his skills in the virtual medium. Now that he can write, he can google stuff. He uses YouTube to feed his obsession with trains, similar to the way he uses paper and pencils to feed his obsession with trains. I feel as though the home computer is complementing his education.
Rémi, however, has not shown as keen an interest in using the computer. The same therapist who successfully got Gaston to use the mouse failed to reproduce this feat with Rémi even after some years. Now, Rémi is about to turn six and he still takes us by the hand for us to start videos for him. Or points at the screen and says "that one". Or he's completely at the mercy of his older brother, who might decide to pause a video halfway to draw the featured train.
I've occasionally tried to teach him how to point and click, but the best I get is a click. Mice are so touchy that I end up breaking my back trying to get him to click on the right spot, while Rémi watches the screen ignoring the attempted lesson.
We had a breakthrough recently, when I caught him trying to place his hand on the mouse in the correct way. Rémi is obsessed with his hands (he can watch his hands for ages!), so the hand placement was more about seeing how the mouse would fit--a bit like a fashion accessory. But I'll take what I can get. Every time he asked for something, I would make him point and click by placing his hand on the mouse and putting my hand over his.
Today, I found this video (if you can't see it, it's the Gracie Films and Fox logos which they show at the end of every episode of The Simpsons and other sitcoms):
Rémi loves it and it's hardly ten seconds long. This forced him to click on his own and to figure out how to drag the cursor. Within twenty minutes, he was restarting the video on his own, even if the cursor got moved away from the video icon and he had to drag it back without any help from me.
How did I know that this video would finally motivate him enough to use the mouse? I only figured it out today.
In one of Anne's girly magazines, there is an ad for The Simpsons season 27 coming out on DVD just in time for Christmas. The set (and the ad) has a picture of Ralph Wiggum on it, and not much else. Rémi has been staring at it non-stop for days. He carries the magazine around the house, staring at that half-page ad while making some sort of strange, train-like noise. I found it strange because he's never been particularly interested in The Simpsons, and this was a particularly uninteresting sample. Today, I figured out he was actually interested in the tiny little Gracie Films and Fox logos in the corner. They're really tiny: the Fox logo was smaller than his smallest fingernail! And the "train-like noise" was actually the orchestra music we always hear when we see the Fox logo at the end of a show. Rémi has been interested in DVD cases for as long as I can remember. I knew he had a thing for the DreamWorks logo; it would seem his interest in studio logos has expanded. The interest is so strong, in fact, that I managed to use it as a carrot to get him to learn.
So, as of this morning, Rémi can use the mouse to kick off the above video. This is a huge breakthrough in the lebelinoz household, one that's been a long time coming. The list of things which Rémi can't do but Gaston could do at the same age seemed to be growing, and little victories like this fill me with hope for my little guy.