Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summmmertime, and the livin' is . . .

And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

Oh, your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby,
Don't you cry.

—Gershwin and Heyward*

Full-on summertime has arrived at Autism's Edges and this year the livin' is easy. And not because our girl's daddy's rich, or her mama good lookin'.  This year the livin' is easy because, for the very first time since our girl was diagnosed, we've found a summer activity that works brilliantly for her.

If you've been visiting Autism's Edges over the years, you know that we've tried a lot of things: day camps, inclusion programs, and horseback riding therapy camp. For the most part,"camp" has been a word associated with misery. With experiences that ranged from mixed to awful, in the past two summers we had opted to go with Camp Dad, using the summers to hone some math and reading skills, but missing out on the essential peer social skills activities that camp settings provide. For spectrumy kids like ours, who don't have an extended school year (or the daddy who's rich or a mamma who's good lookin'!), summertime livin' isn't always so easy.

Electronic hand puppets. Facilitated
by Becky Heritage at the Tech Kids
Unlimited Workshop. The eyes lights up 
when you close the circuits.
But this summer is different thanks to the amazing work of Beth Rosenberg, and her teams of technology educators who put on week long Tech Kids Unlimited workshops. Last week our girl took part in a computer animation and electronic puppet workshop held at the Jewish Community Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side.  

And this coming week, she'll head downtown to Pace University for a video game design workshop.  In just one short week, twenty hours all totaled, workshop participants made electronic puppets and "bugs" where they learned about circuitry, and short animated videos where they learned the fundamentals of animated movement, as well as programs like iMovie and iStopMotion.

One of the secrets to the success of Beth's workshops is that she programs the week with some of the finest tech education talent in the city, including Becky Heritage, who worked with the kids on electronic puppets; Gabriella Levine, who worked with the kids on making "Blinky bugs," whose antenna cause their eyes to light up; and Ardina Greco and Mark Dzula, both of whom are doctoral candidates at Columbia University and art educators extraordinaire. Along with amazing volunteers, the ratio of adults to kids in the room is more or less one to one, which is the golden ratio for our girl.

The electronic puppets, facilitated by Becky Heritage, was the week's first activity, and one of my personal favorites: the eyes light up when you put the hands together and close the circuits. Seems the perfect metaphor for what happens with our kids in these workshops: help them put their hands together, close the circuits, and see their eyes light up!

Our girl made this short, but epic, film:

For the first summer in a very long time, we've arrived at a feeling that Gershwin and Heyward captured . . .

One of these mornings
You’re goin’ to rise up singing

Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky.

•   •   •

Postscript: The show tune Summertime was written by George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Heyward, and DuBose Heyward. Don't you love the fact that like most great works of life and art, it was a team project? The copyright for the lyrics is held by © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., EMI Music Publishing. Used here under the fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law.


Anonymous said...

That sounds awesome! We are still feeling our way with the summer camps around here. Trying to balance with two other kiddos in the mix is a challenge.

I love the story she put together - it's EXACTLY the kind of story my daughter would have done!

audball said...

Absolutely wonderful! The video was super cool (love Indy music :)) - particularly sweet was the ending where the heroine got spun around (or did the spinning)...I plan on showing my DD and see if she is inspired. She makes fantastic, small polymer clay/model magic creatures and putting them in a video would be a neat project.

Glad to hear that you found a program that works - it sounds terrific. We are doing a summer program too (had a bit of a rocky start): Summer Academy
Paired with our new-found love of bouldering/rock climbing, this has been summer so far.

Does your M like computer graphics? My El has been spending lots of time creating creatures using the Spore Creature Creator program. It's downloadable on the Spore website but she doesn't play the game (I think it's $9.99 for the program). Lots of fun with imaginary creatures with sounds. Just a thought!