As I looked through Jack’s backpack on Friday afternoon, I found a small whiteboard and a note from Monica (Jack’s school aide/school mom). She said that she had bought the board for Jack thinking it might be interesting, “He’s doing great answering questions. He’s so smart!”
I almost ignored the note. We get a lot of “great ideas” here at 26 Clinton Avenue, and most end up being less than successful experiments. The whiteboard lay on the kitchen island until later that night when Dan and I finally tried a few simple “yes” and “no” questions. Jack quickly and clearly circled the appropriate answers. We were impressed, but got distracted and didn’t think too much about it. Saturday we tried again with Anna, and she didn’t give her brother an easy time. She started asking questions, requiring Jack to read the options himself before circling the correct answer. Question after question he answered them all without hesitation. Eager to test how much he was reading, Anna took it a step further. She started writing out the questions silently. No hints or help. Jack didn’t miss a beat. He’d look at the question and circle the correct answer.
Over the last eight years we’ve seen hints that Jack could still read, but we had no idea to what extent. Until now, his fine motor skills have prevented much progress with holding a pen. Even something as simple as a circle was out of his reach. Now, Jack might not need to relay solely on his smile to get his point across. He may finally have access to words. AMAZING! Jack being able to tell us what he wants for dinner OR how he’s feeling OR what hurts. The possibilities are endless.
We’ve shared this update with some friends and family and the news has been greeted with high-fives, tears and hugs. Everyone knows that communication has always been on the top of our “wish list”. I think people have been surprised by our calm demeanor while describing this new milestone. I know we should be opening the champagne and dancing in the streets and we will – in time. We’re simply being careful. It’s self-protection.
Progress doesn’t always happen in a straight line and for people with ALD the road can be particularly inconsistent. ALD can tease you with progress than steal it back without explanation. This makes celebrating successes a little nerve wracking. Our family braces for good news as much as we do for bad news. I think every day that Jack is able to repeat his new trick/mind blowing triumph, we will feel a little more confident about celebrating. Until then, we are quietly clapping, dancing and doing summersaults.
Our family has tried EVERYTHING to help Jack access language. It’s amazing that something as simple as a little whiteboard might be the start of a new chapter. Monica – we love you!!
Jack didn’t miss a beat answering this one!
Anna left this for Jack earlier today. He didn’t hesitate.