A funny thing happened today.
I got a phone call from the girl.
Just that its the first time she’s ever called me. Ever.
She’s had an iPhone for about 3 years now as I use the Find my Friends app to track her (we could have a conversation about the ethics of tracking versus the independence it gives her but that’s for another day) and also to try and get her to text. But she generally doesn’t, and I’ve struggled to find a way to engage her in the concept of keeping in touch to reassure me (the truth being that she might live with the label of autism, but she’s also 17 and that’s more often the presenting factor).
The reality of this has meant that, until the end of the summer term, she didn’t travel on her own. The boy was a different kettle of fish and learned very quickly that if he texted me to let me know that he was on the bus/had arrived at the shops/college/his friends house, then I would be more likely to let him do more things on his own. He’s now able to travel from Reading to Wakefield via London, checking in at every point and even dealing with a train breakdown.
At the girl’s education, health and care plan meeting last June, we made the decision that (if it killed us all in the process) she was GOING TO LEARN TO TEXT! The girl doesn’t use many words – one or two at a time …one if she can get away with it, and she has never been interested in talking on the phone. If I’m away and call home, the PA will always put her on to say hello and without fail I will get, ‘bye-bye Tricia’. If I call her phone she just presses the red reject call button. We figured that, if she would engage in a text conversation, that would be the (positive risk management) deciding factor that would mean she could get the bus home from school on her own, and that because she’s desperate for more independence, she might just comply.
We set to mapping all the things that would need to be in place for us all to feel confident that she would be safe – walking from school to the bus stop, crossing the road using the green man, waiting at the right bus stop, getting the right bus, asking for a ticket….etc etc…..then (critically) when she was on the bus texting me to say, ‘on the bus’. One of the teaching assistants from school agreed to support her after school to help her learn each bit of the jigsaw and then gradually reduce the support until she did the journey on her own. It took 7 days but she’s got it and she was able to travel home from school on the bus on her own for the last 4 days of the summer term. She loves it.
She’s been back at school for a few weeks now, and apart from some hiccoughs in the first week (lost bus ticket, narrow miss with the green man) we’re back in the routine.
She texts me every day to let me know she is, ‘on the bus’. She doesn’t, however deviate from that instruction; she still doesn’t reply to texts or answer her phone if I call, but hey, I can live with that for now.
So, when I was sitting in a cafe after an event today, waiting to meet my nephew and my phone showed an incoming call from the girl, my heart did miss a beat. I answered;
‘Hello sweetheart, how are you?’
‘Shower. Upstairs. Tricia’s bathroom. Later’
‘You want to use Tricia’s bathroom for your shower tonight? Yes of course you can, I’ll tell Tash (her PA)’
‘Bye-bye darling, I’ll see you tomorrow, have a lovely evening and well done for calling ……’ But she’d hung up.
Nothing remarkable then. Except that she had finally figured out that using the phone would get her something she wanted. I can’t wait to see her tomorrow.