Yesterday was the social studies fair and "publishing party" at Sweet M's school. All the children in her class had made diaramas and notebooks about the ecology of the rainforest. (You remember the question the precipitated the Central Park zoo meltdown moment: What can you get from a rainforest? Answer: Chocolate!) And they'd each written and published a book modeled on Laura Nemeroff's If You Give a Pig a Party.
Sweet M's was called If You Give a Dog a Donut. It went like this: . . . . If you give a dog a donut . . . he will want a glass of milk. If you give a dog some milk . . .
Nearly all the parents came to class, eager to see their little one's accomplishments. (Sweet M's father had to stay home as he has been suffering from a dastardly case of shingles, which makes him contagious with the chicken pox virus, and in some serious, serious pain.) So it was just me, the mom, on site yesterday.
One by one each and every child went up to the front of the class, perched themselves on the table with their teacher, and read their stories aloud.
Each and every one, except, of course, Sweet M, who sat in a chair in the corner twisting a paper clip into a hundred permutations, and fiddling with a stack of Legos.
I asked her if she wanted to be the official publishing party photographer and use my camera — usually this appeals, and offers her an option to participate and yet remain at the edges of the social milieu — but she demurred, so focused was she on the possibilities for this particular paperclip.
On one hand, I don't really care that she didn't want to be center stage. At a birthday party we went to this weekend, I was literally breaking up fights among a whole posse of girls because all the girls in her class wanted to hold her hand. So she's not lacking for attention, friends, or social interaction — something that was not the case last year.
It's been an amazing year. She learned to read: from no reading to a first-grade level of comprehension after just 4 months of Swain Reading. She had multiple playdates and is beloved in her little posse. And she's doing double-digit addition and subtraction with regrouping.
And on the other hand, the sight of her perseverating on a paper clip can still break my heart. She'd written a great book, made incredible strides, and she didn't get to stand up and take a bow for all of her amazing work.
I hope she knows how amazing she is. And how incredibly she did this year, all year long, not just on the last day.
And to remember for next year: If you give this girl a moment in the spot light, chances are she'll want a quiet corner and a paper clip.
(With apologies to Laura Nemeroff.)
Keywords: autism • Asperger's Syndrome • ADHD • learning disabilities • speech-language disorders • special education parenting • children's art