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Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Experiences and Outlook for the New Year

The end of the year is a time to look back. Project Bow has many supporters, some very vocal and others more hidden. We received cards and donations and good wishes and even reviews. I'm very grateful for all of that!

You probably are curious to know what Bow got for Christmas. From Lawrence, he got in one gift-wrapped package a pair of shoes about his size, a little toy tractor that makes sounds when you push the right buttons, a green hulk like little humanoid figurine with huge muscles that has arm action, and a green octopus like plastic mold. From me he got two new blankets, not for sleeping with, but to have during the day, as long as he is good. One is brown, and the other has an orange reddish brown pattern. (He calls the second blanket "the pretty one".) From his uncle, he got a fruit basket, full of apples, oranges and pears.

Bow enjoyed all his gifts, but sometimes being too happy makes him act up. So he got in trouble several times over the holiday. Sometimes he is very sarcastic when he answers my accusations. "Did you drip on purpose?" I ask.


"So this was your plan? You planned this?"


"It was your intention to get in trouble and ruin everything?"


Believe me, I'm not making him say "Yes." I would rather he said "no" and "I'm sorry", but he looks at me totally defiantly and intentionally spells "Yes." I guess I have another tween on my hands.

We hand him the computer, and he has sense enough and self control enough not to destroy it now. But if you ask him to say something, he spells "Why" and then promptly turns it off.

So what is my plan now? I have to find a way to motivate him to do something constructive. I'm also planning over the next few months to contact colleagues and try to arrange for them to share their grad students with me, so that I can have help with the project,  and Bow can have more friends, and my colleagues can have access to a chimpanzee who has language abilities. There are many ways that people can help each other achieve their common goals. One of the challenges that we face is finding creative ways to do so.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"See Yours"

Bow and I got a Christmas present ready for Lawrence this Wednesday when he came. Before Lawrence came in, Bow spelled in Hebrew on the glass: "Give Uncle Lawrence the present." I guess he thought I might forget.

I didn't forget, so when I left Bow and Lawrence alone with the touchscreen computer, I had already given Lawrence the gift. It was in one of those gift bags covered with tissue paper, so it wasn't hard to see what it was.

When Bow got around to using the touchscreen, sometime later, he got the computer to say: "See yours." At first, Lawrence wasn't sure what Bow meant by that. Then he realized that Bow was indicating the present.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Lawrence was here yesterday, and he tried to encourage Bow to use the touchscreen. Bow was less "destructive" of the virtual screen, only reducing the keyboard in size a couple of times, but not closing the program. He didn't say much, though.

Once, he said "it." Lawrence wanted to  know: "It, what?" Bow hit a few random letters and numbers, and then a little later he spelled: "Take." When Lawrence asked him what he meant by that, Bow gestured at the computer, and then at the door to the pen.

"You want me to take it out?" Lawrence asked. "You want me to take the computer out?" Bow seemed to sanction that interpretation, so Lawrence acquiesced and took out the computer. Which means that now Bow is using the touchscreen to tell us that he doesn't want to use the touchscreen. How's that for progress?

Meanwhile, on a related topic, Simone at Hubpages has notified me that my "developmental delay" hub has been nominated for a contest. If you would like to go read it and vote, here is the link:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Compulsive Behavior, Catching Mice, and Command Prompt

Yesterday, in the morning, there was a little mouse in the pens and Bow's attention was all riveted on the mouse. He alerted me to its presence by my making a low gentle, bilabial kind of sound that seems a little like "boo". This is a sound he makes when something unexpected emerges.

Just as I was trying to figure out how to catch the mouse without doing harm to it or letting it bite me, Lawrence arrived. He went through the usual routine of locking the glass doors behind him when he came in, and then unlocking one of the grated doors to go into the pen adjoining where Bow was, and just as he did so, the mouse scurried out, but it was trapped in the small anteroom between the glass doors and the pen. Lawrence did not notice the mouse till I drew his attention to it. Then he said he could kill it for me if I wanted. I said it would be better if he helped me to catch it, so I could release it away from the house. He trapped it under a miniature Folger's coffee can (made of red plastic), but he could not slide the black lid under that, so I gave him a laminating sheet which was a better fit. Then Lawrence turned the can over and instructed me to hold the laminating sheet down tight, because otherwise the mouse would escape. Under these conditions, I could not take the mouse far. I couldn't drive to the wildlife preserve and not accidentally release the mouse in the car.

So I walked in the freezing weather with no coat on, holding on to the can with one hand and the laminating sheet with the other, until I reached the barbed wire fence next to the road. But when I removed the laminating sheet, the tiny, tiny little grey mouse could not scamper up the steep walls of the coffee can by himself. I had to gently tip it the ground to help him escape. It was not an adult mouse. I thought it was a baby, but Lawrence said it must have been a juvenile. I wonder if it found its way right back to the house, or decided to find a new home.

When I got back to the pens, I set up Bow's computer so that it was plugged in on the inside of the pen adjoining Bow's, so Lawrence could take it in with him to play with Bow. Bow is less destructive than he used to be, so he can have direct access to the computer under close supervision. We were hoping that if Bow were allowed to have the touchscreen with him, and did not need to use the chopstick to touch it, he might be able to spell out words better.

But you know what he did when he had direct access to the computer? He closed the program with the talking keyboard, and he opened a window in Command Prompt.

"He made the screen go black again," Lawrence reported to me. This happened twice. Once in the morning, and a second time in the afternoon.

Whenever I set up Bow's program, I always open a Command Prompt window first and then type in the name of the executable. I wonder whether Bow is trying to imitate me.

Anyway, even when Bow has given up his compulsive physical attacks on objects, he still feels the need to destroy the setup electronically. He seems to have a compulsion for behavior that is not constructive, albeit the destruction at this point is only virtual. He doesn't smash the screen. He just closes the communication program. Maybe he'd be good at writing computer viruses.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Thank you for giving grapes!"

This morning, as I was setting up breakfast in the pens, I was ranting to myself about an online discussion I had with someone. It was one of those things that had to do with a disagreement with one of my core beliefs, and so it touched a nerve. I was so upset about it that I was actually talking to myself out loud.

When I went in with Bow so he could tell me what he wanted for breakfast, he took my hand and spelled: "People don't understand that Mommy..." Then he stopped.

"What?" I asked.

He gave me a wise look, then spelled: "Thank you for giving grapes."

He doesn't usually thank me. He usually says: "Give me grapes." But I guess that was his idea of how to cheer me up.

"You're welcome, Bow," I said. There has been no more ranting on my part since then.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowed in

It snowed last night. We definitely can't go out and play. The glass doors that shut the pens out from the cold weather are iced shut and cannot even be opened. Bow and I were going to open them just so we could take pitctures of the outer pens, but even that could not be done. In the photo above, Bow sits in the corridor leading to the outside pens and looks out at the snow.

This is what the outside looks like through the steamed glass. It's not much snow, really, but it's the first snow we've had all year, and we cannot go out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Everyone Tries Not To Die."

Early this morning I checked the mousetrap on the kitchen counter. Two tiny mice were trapped inside. When Lawrence comes later, I will drive them to a wild life preserve far away from here and release them.

Is that the right thing to do? I don't know. If everybody did this, then the preserve would be teeming with mice. The balance of nature might be affected. But not everybody does this. I have a chimpanzee to think of who can hear mice scream when they are dying, so I cannot afford to do anything else.

In case you are not familiar with Bow's history with mice, you can read about it here:

Anyway, there are two of them in our trap: one small and the other even smaller. I asked Bow what he thought about the fact that they were caught and that I'm planning to release them far away from here.

He spelled: "Everyone tries not to die."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Picking up the seeds

This morning I served Bow a new type of grapes for breakfast. The Town & Country supermarket had them displayed so nicely and priced so reasonably, that  I couldn't resist, even though I know new things are risky. New things are risky, because Bow doesn't always like new things. He might refuse to eat them. After all, we all remember the incident a while back with the Concord grapes. It took me forever to convince him to eat them, on account of the seeds.

Today's new grapes were not Concord grapes, but they did have seeds. They are red grapes, but larger than usual. I think maybe some people call them "globe grapes". I served Bow, had my own breakfast, and then went to work on my CreateSpace blog, not paying much attention to Bow, who was still eating on the other side of the glass.
He was eating very loudly, with smacking sounds, but as long as he was happy, I was happy. (Sword was still asleep, as it is a weekend, and we had a late night.)

When I came in to take away the metal colander in which I served the grapes to Bow, Bow started busily picking up seeds from the floor and putting them into the colander. I didn't have to tell him! I might not even have noticed the seeds on the floor, because there were only a few of them. The majority of the seeds were already neatly piled up with the stems inside the colander. When he had finished picking up the seeds, Bow picked up the colander by its two handles and gave it to me.

"Thank you, Bow!" I said. He is such a help.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Playing with Links

Does Bow play with toys? Yes, of course he does. He owns a lot of toys, but he can be very destructive, so he gets to ask for toys one at a time, and he plays with them until he is tired of them. Among his toys is this set of magnetic links that he played with this morning. As you can see in the following video clip, Bow's way of playing with the links and my way of playing with them are different.
While Bow is aware that the links are magnetic, he prefers to play with them as if they were hockey pucks rather than building blocks. Is it because he's a boy and I'm a girl? Is it because he's a child and I'm a grown up? Or is it just because he's more athletic than I will ever be? Either way, he does eventually discover they can be linked.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Bottom Wiper is Still Intact

One of my readers emailed to ask me what the status of Bow's "bottom wiper" might be. Well, I am happy to report that the bottom wiper is still intact. This in itself is a sign of progress. Bow has mouthed it on occasion, and he takes every opportunity to play with it, when I am distracted, but he has not destroyed it! He could so easily do so, but he has chosen not to. While this may not seem like a very big deal to outsiders, to me it is a sign of growing self-control and self-discipline on Bow's part.

Of course, the "bottom wiper" is just a rubber lint brush, such as you see in the advertisement here. It is not advertised as something to use to clean bottoms, but every tool has many uses. Bow has not started using it for that purpose himself, but he allows me to do it.

"Bow, would you like to use the bottom wiper yourself?" I asked him this morning when bottom wiping was called for. He silently picked it up and handed it to me, as if to say: "No. You do it."

While on the surface potty training may seem to be all about hygiene, it's really more than that. It's taking responsibility for yourself, it's not being a burden on others, and it means self-discipline and self-control.

I am encouraged by Bow's growing level of self-control around material objects, because it is my hope that one day soon he will be able to have direct access to his computer as well. It will be so much easier for him to write if he's allowed to use his fingers on the screen, rather than a chopstick through the grid.

We may be taking small baby steps, but we are making progress.