I was first introduced to Rett University when Amanda was in middle school. Her school team agreed to try some of the reading building blocks and quickly jumped on board when they saw the videos. But it wasn’t until Susan flew out and met with Amanda and her team that they truly understood that a child without speech and hand use could learn to read and write.
We had a rocky start at first, Amanda had a seizure before one visit from Susan, and allergies plagued another visit, but still we persevered. Susan was flying from Chicago, Illinois to Apple Valley, California for these visits. Then Coronavirus hit and the country shut down right when Susan had planned to fly out and work with Amanda. Our school team met and decided it would be in Amanda’s best interest for Susan to meet remotely with Amanda as one of her high school classes.
Susan has a passion and a heart for understanding girls with Rett Syndrome. Not just teaching, but truly understanding and communicating with them. She is very tech savvy and is able to remotely plug into Amanda’s Tobii and have conversations with her, while modeling for her as well. No teacher has understood Amanda’s Tobii device let alone communicated with Amanda using and modeling it for her.
During distant remote learning, Amanda has had her ups and downs at not being able to see other students/peers and participating in a classroom. There was definitely a time when I noticed Amanda not smiling or really engaging in activities. We talked about it with Susan and Susan asked Amanda questions about her mood and then explained that it was ok to have these feelings of sadness and loneliness because we were stuck at home. Once Susan talked Amanda through it, she smiled and moved on. This has helped me be more aware of Amanda’s mood and to comment on it and talk to her about it. It has helped Amanda as well, once we talk about her emotions or feelings, her whole demeanor changes and she relaxes.
Amanda has been using Rett University reading blocks since the 8th grade. These building blocks and a new Tobii communication system have improved her reading and writing skills. Remote learning has taken the stress off Amanda of trying to complete a task in a short amount of time and thus given her the self-confidence she needs to respond in her time, not the allotted time a teacher or therapist has. Writing has become a strength for Amanda, she enjoys writing her own ideas, whether it’s utilizing the ABC flip books or her Tobii Snap Core program. In April of 2020, Amanda had all but shut down every time someone tried to use flip books with her to write. She was not given ample time to get her body in a regulated state, nor told that they would wait for her to respond. She now gets excited and perks up at the opportunity to write her own thoughts and ideas. It takes her awhile sometimes, but with the pressure off of her to answer quickly she responds in her time.
I am so thankful for the positive influence that Rett University and Susan Norwell have had on Amanda’s academic career. Amanda’s school site and district have seen the difference in Amanda and are excited to continue services with Susan and Rett University post high school graduation.