R has just had her annual review meeting at school. This was one of the best of these meetings that I can remember. Everyone who was at the meeting now agrees that R is cognitively able and can learn. No-one mentioned the need for a sensory curriculum (hallelujah). The meeting concentrated instead on how the school can best support her in her learning (*actual learning*). Her teacher reported that R refuses to use her Tobii Eye Gaze in school. Or more accurately, that she uses it only to tell her teacher that she wants to do something else or quits out of the programmes altogether (thereby demonstrating to everyone that she knows perfectly well how to use it). This is frustrating for her teachers and for us.
EB has a chemistry test tomorrow. She remembered about the test half an hour before we had to leave for gymnastics training. So, as EB ate her dinner, I quizzed her on the material. R was interested as she often is when we are doing homework like this. A few weeks ago, for example, EB had a history test. The topic was “The Triangular Trade Route“. R appeared to be listening but as I repeated the questions over and over again she began to get agitated. EB was sure that R wanted a turn. I asked her about Glasgow’s Tobacco Lords giving her two options to choose from each time. She got every question right.
Tonight, I thought that I’d try again. We had been talking about the three states of matter – solid, liquid and gas – and their properties. I quizzed her on these. She had been listening. As an experiment, I asked her a question on the periodic table that we had touched on but not discussed in detail. She looked at both options, looked at me and walked off.
EB was very impressed. She asked R if she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. R looked aghast and “said” no. Then EB asked if she wanted to be a scientist. R “said” yes.
Tonight, R and I told her Dad about the chemistry test. R answered the questions again. I said to her Dad that R wanted to be a scientist and then I told R about Stephen Hawking. I told her that he is unable to talk or to use his hands but communicates using his Tobii. I told her that he is one of the most famous scientists in the world. I told her that she could become a scientist but she would have to use her Tobii too. And R just kept on pressing the “no” button on her Yes/No talker.
I don’t know why I’ve never done this before but I suddenly had the idea of showing R a video of Stephen Hawking. I showed her his TED talk on my phone. R looked amazed; in fact, she nearly fell off her seat. She was squealing and grabbing at the phone in excitement. And it occurred to me then that R really hadn’t, until that point, grasped the fact that the Tobii could allow her to say, well, anything.
I don’t doubt that tomorrow R won’t want to be a scientist. She will want to be an artist or a writer or a ballet dancer. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that R might just be beginning to see the point of the device that she has, up until now, ignored in our living room.