Two weeks from today I will be heading to Pittsburgh for my younger daughter’s wedding. I have been trying to prepare my students for my absence — telling them when I am leaving, how long I will be gone etc. Last week I began a “conversation’ about my daughter with my totally non-verbal autistic student. Last year I introduced him to Co-Writer word predictive software and an adapted keyboard which he would sometimes use to answer questions I posed to him. The “conversations” were generally pretty one-sided and frequently ended in my getting head-butted or bitten or scratched. I really didn’t think he had bought into the program. So, you can imagine my surprise last Friday when HE asked ME a reciprocal question about our summer vacations.
We chatted a bit about my going to Pennsylvania to see my daughter. He ASKED ME her name and after telling him, “Her name is Ashley.” he wanted to know if we shared the same last name. I asked him if he wanted to talk some more or if he was ready for free time; he signed more and then typed, in capital letters, “KEEP TALKING PLEASE.”
Yesterday he wasn’t at all interested in communicating — in answer to my question about what he did on the long weekend, he responded, “I will scratch you,” which he indeed tried to do; and when I asked him why he would scratch me, he could only reply, “I don’t know.” So, we didn’t continue with the exercise.
Today after lunch, we sat down at the computer and tried again. He asked me if I was pretty. I told him I didn’t know, what did he think, and he told me he thought I was. He asked me when I was going to Pennsylvania and why. I told him about the wedding and that the party was going to be at the zoo. He told me, “Yucky at the zoo.” When I told him I really hoped not because the girls were going to be wearing pretty dresses and we were going to eat and dance, he smiled and typed, “I go too.” He was very relaxed, very happy and very much invested in the conversation.
It’s days like this, and kids like him, that remind me how much I really love my job. Today, I have the talent, I have the courage, and I am blessed.