September 24, 2014
The phone is ringing as I make a mad dash through the front door from getting the mail, but try as I might my middle-aged body just can’t reach the kitchen in time. I have a moment to see that the caller is my eldest son’s school before my cell starts ringing, and I head for my purse hoping all is okay with Justin because his bus should be here soon.
I pick it up on the third ring and hear the happy voice of his speech therapist, and immediately I relax. It seems she’s calling with good news, will be working with Justin’s teacher to create a book using the words my son has recently acquired. It’s an idea I had after Justin mastered about thirty or so spoken words, a skill he’s worked on for the better part of a decade.
Honestly, it’s much more than an idea of mine. It’s a dream.
When Justin was little tantrums and behaviors dominated his days, and only two things seemed to quell his rage- Baby Einstein videos and books. No matter how upset he became I found a cuddle and an Eric Carle story could often calm his tears, and I lived in fear one day he’d outgrow these distractions before I could find a replacement.
At eleven these are still two of his favorites.
Back then I learned to relinquish what I thought would be the “norms” of most kids’ childhoods- the playdates, the “mommy and me” classes, and if I’m honest, my personal favorites, the mommy playdates I’d anticipated having at Starbucks. I let a lot go and learned to focus on what we could do together- our long strolls through the trails of northern Virginia, our power walks through the mall where Justin was always strangely happy, and most importantly, our coveted reading time. Even as a baby my boy loved books. Since stories have been a staple of my life since childhood, I became determined my non-speaking son would read.
And when he was three-and-a-half years old, we discovered not only that he could, but that words on a page or a computer screen helped him make sense of his world.
It’s been eight years since the momentous day one of Justin’s therapists asked him to pick out sight words from an ever-growing field of two, then four, then ten words. Since then he’s answered reading comprehension questions on his computer program, and he still loves to have his momma read to him. I’ve been thrilled with his progress.
Until recently however his reading has been a silent affair. Now his teachers are putting together a book of his acquired words. They will ask him to read it aloud to them, and will query him with follow-up questions to check comprehension.
I know they’ll send a copy of this book home. We’ll sit, me and my boy, and cuddle post-bath in the rocker I can’t bear to be rid of, and he’ll read me a tale. It will be a basic story, a construct with few twists and turns, a simple plot.
But to me it will sound like a door opening to a world of greater possibilities.
I hang up the phone in anticipation of his arrival, already eager to lay my hands upon his latest triumph. I smile, and head toward the door.
I can’t wait for this new chapter to begin.
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