In a room full of school personnel, discussing Joey's strengths and weaknesses, it is much like a sea of fog with oases of insights into what Joey can and cannot do. His expressive language deficits are severe, yet he seems to speak because he scripts so well. This is not getting through to them, you can see it in the blank eyes and confused frowns. "Have you ever read A Wrinkle In Time?" I offer. "He's like Mrs. Who." Faces light up. Understanding is gained. We are all on the same page. How often does that happen?
I race over to the door of Andy's classroom- it is already open. I am late. Not much, but enough. He is left waiting. His teacher spots me, calls into the room. Out tumbles a small yellow thing, who pounces into my arms. The teacher gives me a double thumbs-up. Good day. No time-outs. The little yellow-clad child chatters at me, something about green, birds, and dinosaurs. The dinosaurs part may just be his inclination to add the word "dinosaurs" to the ends of sentences (kind of like King George in Blackadder adding the word "penguin.") He could very well have said "The trees are green and full of birds dinosaurs." In fact, he is saying something like that, as there is a shrub on the way to the car that is full of birds and newly popped buds of leaves, and he is drawn to it like pins to a magnet. If it's alive, Andy is all over it. He dances around the shrub for a minute or two before I get him to the car. He starts to yell, "No Grandma! Don't want Grandma!" until he notices that her usual seat is unoccupied. He stops. He stares. He turns to me. "Where is Grandma?" he demands sternly. "She's not here today, honey," I explain patiently. "We're going over to the office to see if she took her trip to Baltimore." He begins to melt down. No! No Grandma! Where is Grandma? (Grandma, never forget, you are loved...)
"Hard day." These are two words that strike fear and concern into my heart, especially when they are at the start of the conversation with Joey's classroom aide. I get to talk to her when I pick him up for therapy. Joey is not usually violent, but today he came for a classmate like a crazed thing as gym was ending. They had been sharing a ball, bouncing it between them in some kind of game. When it came time to put it away, the other child was putting it away when Joey came for him, and hit him. He also had been sassing the aide, also unusual. There had been an assembly, could that have set him off? I take him to the car, tell Grandma the news. There is nothing for it- we have to ask, even during after-school mood. "How was school today?" Grandma asks cheerfully, and we make ground right away (he's just been listening to Mrs. Shaw talk about his day, after all). "D. keeps taking the ball!" We want to cheer, he answered with relevant information, but we want more information. Grandma comes up with a usually calming question, as this response has upset him, "What color was the ball?" "Blue." Ah, the color of the week. All explained.
The boys bounce in, still in pajamas, having granted us the luxury of a lie-in to 8 am. I have spent another night in the recliner to accommodate our regular nightly boy visit. They happily pile on, a great heap of boys. Joey snuggles into my space, kicking me aside again. "Momma! Move!" he demands, "Not enough room! Get in the chair!" Ah, cast aside like an old shoe.
We decide to go researching some home repair materials, including a new bike shed for the bikes. Off to Lowe's! We pull around the corner in sight of the store, and Joey triumphantly reads, "Garden Center!" "Good reading!" we praise him and clap. Then Andy announces, just as triumphantly, "Dinosaur Center!" Laughing that hard while driving is very dangerous.
The pizza place is familiar, but crowded, so Joey takes in the toy du jour, a Leapfrog Phonics writing desk. Several other customers give us the hard looks of the unappreciative as the toy beeps and talks, announcing the letter and playing its little tune as it demonstrates how to write the letter. "G!" Joey announces, "My last name!" All well and good. I look over at what my kindergartener has written to see a perfectly done cursive "G". Ah yes, the toy has a cursive setting. I better send a warning email to his teachers when I get home.