We finished the PODD training today and the final thing that Linda Burkhart, the trainer, said was:
"Now go home and talk to your daughters."
Even as I write that I am tearing up again, as I did when she said it. Toward the end of the training I was having a hard time keeping it together, probably brought on by the drain of sitting for two days in a row in a training, being away from Lu, and just being away from home in general, but also because this is no small task we are about to take on and it is not a matter of little importance. It is HUGE! A quote that Linda used toward the end was:
"Communication is the essence of being human."
Yeah it is. And right now Lu has her own ways of being able to communicate some things to us, but as she learns to use this program and begins to understand that this book is her voice, she will blow our minds with the things that she will be able to tell us.
As we sat in the training I did my best to latch on as hard as I could to the main concepts behind the system so I can always bring everything back to those ideas. The very most important thing that we and everyone in Lucy's life will have to always, always keep in mind is what I just said above: THIS IS HER VOICE! She currently uses her voice to vocalize and laugh and do all kinds of things, but by saying "voice" we mean it is her way to communicate and this book needs to be with her always. It is not work, we won't take it out, practice with it, and then put it away; it will need to always be present, or it won't work. And it is not a small book, nor is it inconspicuous, stylish, or convenient. But I said to Danielle and Chad that we need to think like this and so does everyone else: we would not duct tape a child's mouth shut for parts of a day because it is easier for them to not talk at those times and not having her book available to her is essentially doing just that.
Linda Burkhart, was trained by the woman who created PODD, Gayle Porter, from Australia. Gayle said that her best advice to us as we begin the process of learning to be fluent in the system so that we can model it and teach it to our children is to
"Be Zen." Easier said than done for myself because I do not tend to be zen when it comes to something of great importance to Lucy's well-being. I tend to be anal, worried, tense, and vigilant. Why she says that though is because it is not something that is going to be taught overnight. It will be a process and Lucy will not just pick this book up once I have it made and tell me things...we have to be patient, relaxed, and not pressure her.
Another key thing I need to keep in mind to help me stay focused as we learn is that the PODD is a "visual language". It is just like learning sign language, or a second language, or even like children learning a first language. It is not just a picture book. It is a whole mind shift, it is not very widely known in the United States either. Linda is the only trainer right now that is certified to do trainings in the U.S. So, when people see me lugging this book around with us everywhere we go, they will not know what it is or why we are doing it, which is a little intimidating to me. But below is a picture of some new bracelets Chad, Lu, and I will wear when we start using the book. We will model for Lucy how to lift up her arm with her bracelet on to let us know that she has something to say. Let me repeat that...to let us know that she has something to say!