I was sitting on the flight home reading about mindfulness in a magazine – a way of meditating and bringing yourself back into the moment – when my mind began to wander. The exact reason that I would be appalling at practicing mindfulness – I couldn’t even stay focussed on an article, never mind perform a bit of meditation 15 minutes a day!! I’m the person during the relaxation part of a yoga class who fidgets, sighs and can’t wait for it to be over. But as a friend of mine recently wrote in her blog entitled “Why I’ll take ‘winefulness’ over mindfulness any day.”, my preferred escape from reality and my way to destress is to see my friends and laugh or talk it out. And yes, quite often there’s wine involved.
Sorry, I digress! So, back to my flight home. My mind wandered to thinking about Tilly and the Gemiini seminar I had just attended in London that day. It was a fantastic session, so interesting, inspiring and informative, and undoubtedly worth the trip down there. Laura (Kasbar – the founder of Gemiini) mainly talked about children who were using the program who either had Autism or Down Syndrome. Initially, I felt myself panic that, once again, we were going to fall into that ‘rare genetic condition’ hole; that this seminar wouldn’t be relevant and we’d be back out on that lonely limb with nobody able to help. But as Laura started to talk, I was able to relate so much of it to Tilly and how she functions. We were presented with research on why and how Gemiini (which is a form of discrete video modelling) works. It was fascinating. In very (VERY) simple terms, our brains have 2 sides – an active network and a default network. When we’re in a dreamy state, we’re using the default network and our active side isn’t switched on – think about if you’re daydreaming and someone tries to talk to you. All you probably hear is noise in the background but your brain isn’t actually listening to the words. You need to snap out of the daydream to come back to reality and hear what that person is saying to you. Children like Tilly spend a lot of time using their default network and what discrete video modelling does, is it maintains the child’s focus so they’re always using their active network. And by using repetition (they suggest a child watches each video around 40 times), the neural pathways in the brain will start to form, resulting in the child learning and retaining new words.
It’s all so fascinating, and my attempt to explain the science behind it probably doesn’t do it justice, so apologies to anyone reading this who has a bit more insight into the scientific bit!
As Tilly’s diagnosis is so rare, Laura wasn’t able to tell me that Gemiini would help Tilly to speak. She couldn’t give me the guarantee that this would be the answer to all our prayers. But, if truth be told, she probably wouldn’t have gained my trust in Gemiini (a service we have to pay for) if she had given that promise without even having met my daughter. What she did tell me was that it would very likely improve Tilly’s receptive language – by that I mean her understanding of what we say to her – and improve her chances of using a communication device, e.g. via an iPad, in the future. Presently, Tilly’s receptive language is poor for a child of age 6 but we have all (family and school) noticed it improve in recent weeks, or even months. What the seminar highlighted was that some of the most recent progress has more than likely been as a result of the Gemiini program, without us even realising it. I’ve not had a very organised and methodical approach to the system so far – I think that one of the negatives against Gemiini is that there are so many success stories that when a new user begins the videos, they expect to put the videos on and watch a miracle happen. I am definitely in that camp! But what I should have been doing was note down every new behaviour, expression, understanding of receptive language, gross or fine motor skill improvement. Evidence has proven that all of these things improve as a result of a child dong the Gemiini program.
One thing that I suddenly realised during the seminar was that Tilly has recently enjoyed using scissors to do simple cutting in her classroom. She’s never been interested in doing this before. I’m not sure about timings but I’m pretty sure it coincides with her starting the Gemiini program. She has made gains in other areas too – her eye contact has improved, it’s been reported from her (fabulous, amazing, wonderful!!!) 1-1 at school that she is suddenly very interested in what the other (neuro-typical) children in her class are doing. I have also observed that her receptive language at home is improving.
I now have some more relevant information on why Gemiini works and what it does to a child on a neurological level. And I have to be honest….I’m more excited about this than I have been for any other therapy we’ve tried. In the 5 or 6 weeks we’ve been (somewhat lackadaisically) doing Gemiini, we’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do. It’s so new and the system is continually being improved that I’m excited to be a part of it. It might not mean that Tilly will be able to talk but if we’re able to help her progress in other ways – and with access to hours & hours of therapy we don’t get from the NHS – that is just magnificent.