Ashish’s first letter-boarding session was truly a special one to remember. Up until then, we had only witnessed other children undergo their own miracles by using the letter board. This device certainly seemed like a “magic wand,” but like anyone else new to the bandwagon, we were skeptical at first. We had already tried years of various different therapy options for Ashish, and couldn’t help but wonder: would this work for Ashish? Was it just a visual trick?
Ashish’s first letter-boarding session deftly began to sweep away the doubts and misconceptions. The lesson was about an explorer named Ernest Shackleton.
Another brief technical explanation: The way letter-boarding works is that the content is presented through an interactive lesson. The content is divided into chunks/paragraphs, and every chunk is followed by a series of questions. First, a chunk of content is read aloud to the individual. Autistic individuals tend to have extraordinary auditory channels due to their heightened senses, and therefore absorb knowledge through their powerful listening skills. After the content is read, the questions are asked, and the individual is able to answer the questions through the letter board.
It was amazing to watch Ashish demonstrate his ability to absorb and report knowledge for the first time. Below is a transcript with some the questions asked, and his answers:
WHAT IS THE FIRST NAME OF THE EXPLORER WE ARE TALKING ABOUT? ERNEST
WHICH CONTINENT DID HE WANT TO CROSS? ANTARCTICA
HOW MANY MEN WERE THERE ON THIS EXPEDITION? 27
WHAT WAS SHACKLETON’S SHIP CALLED? ENDURANCE
WHAT SEA DID THE SHIP GET TRAPPED IN? WEDDELL SEA
In addition, there were a few questions asked that didn’t have a clear-cut answer in the paragraphs. Through these questions, we saw the first glimpses of Ashish demonstrating his own knowledge to us:
WHAT IS ONE WORD YOU COULD USE TO DESCRIBE THE MEN WHO RESPONDED TO SHACKLETON’S AD? BRAVE
WHAT LANGUAGE DO YOU THINK ‘FORTITUDE VINCIMUS’ IS? LATIN
WHAT DOES ISOLATED MEAN? NO ONE LIVES THERE
HOW DO YOU THINK THE CREW FELT AFTER BEING RESCUED? THE MEN FELT RELIEVED
The answers to these “semi-open” and “open-ended” questions left us in awe. For the first time in his lifetime, we were beginning to recognize Ashish’s true cognitive ability- and so far, it was looking to be very impressive. Ashish’s letter-boarding coach shared with us that it usually takes some time for autistic individuals to open up on the letter board and give open-ended answers. However, Ashish’s intelligence- coupled with his excitement to start using the board- really shone through when he answer open-ended questions in his first letter-boarding session. From this day, we knew Ashish was a powerhouse. We were ready for the journey to unfold.