Part one, as relayed to me by my husband
Today, my hubby picked J-man up at preschool. As is often their habit, he swung into the drive-thru to grab dinner on the way home. When they left the drive-thru, J-man called from the backseat,
'ar-get??" J-man said, reaching forward. He said it again, reaching toward my husband with serious intent. My hubby, always a softy for the J-man's desires, turned the car around and drove to the Target down the road.
When they arrived, my husband went around to get J-man out of his carseat. Upon doing so, J-man lunged toward the front seat, repeating over and over "ug-get, ug-get".
J-man did not want to go to Target.
J-man wanted a chicken nugget.
Part two: The OT evaluation
Yesterday we took J-man for an OT evaluation. We have taken an "OT break" over the past year, and recently decided to start it up again. We found a place that had similar philosophies as us, and we were visiting for the first time.
When we arrived, the director gave us a tour. The clinic is.. in a word... awesome. I wished I was a kid again. There are multiple gym rooms with swings, mats, toys of every kind. There is a blacklight room, with stars on the ceiling and big floppy cushions. They have a POOL for aquatic therapy. It was a child's dream playland come true. J-man was nearly giddy with excitement.
And that tour, my friends, was a singular mistake. Because once you have been in the candy store, you just don't want broccoli.
The evaluation took place in one of the many gym-like treatment rooms. There were plenty of toys, all well out of reach, to just tease the J-man. And clearly, doing the standardized testing they wanted to do was soooooo not what J-man wanted to do. The temper tantrum was fairly fierce.
Abandoning any hopes of formal testing, the evaluator tried to get J-man to play with some of the equipment. But by this time, he had reached Defcon 4 of Crabby. Eventually, he requested a ball, and they went into the next room to get one. When they got back, J-man was still unsatisfied. He came up to me and said over and over "be-ball, be-ball". He signed ball, over and over. We showed him the balls that had been brought in, but he still looked at me with these pleading eyes... "be-ball, be-ball".
The visit was something of a total disaster.
As I lay in bed that evening and went over the events of the day, I suddenly had a flash of insight. I recalled that on one toy shelf, toward the top, there was a toy basketball hoop.
Be-Ball. Basketball. He wanted the basketball hoop to go with the ball.
Part three: The Transition
J-man transitioned from the young preschool room to the older preschool room this week.
It was a day I had been secretly... or not so secretly... dreading. I feared. What if J-man couldn't handle the transition? What if he couldn't leave his beloved teachers? What if the couldn't keep up with the demands of the other room? So much doubt has been spoon-fed to us recently (and you know who you are), that I was on pins and needles.
J-man rocked it.
From all reports, he was in bliss to be in the new room. Everyone... and I mean EVERYONE... was shocked at how well he did. I received an email today from the Director of the center with this simple message in the subject line: J-man is having a GREAT day in the FISH room... with this picture attached:
When I picked him up on the first day of the transition, I had an opportunity to talk to his new teacher, Miss H. She was glowing. She told me that when J-man came over, the other children were full of questions. She introduced him to the class and reminded them that they had all been classmates before, and that he was moving into their room now. She told me that several of the children said "Oh YEAH, I remember J-man. He is my friend", and there were several volunteers to be J-man's "buddy for the day" to help him learn about the classroom and the toys. It seems that the children welcomed him with open arms.
To them, he isn't disabled. He isn't "defective" or "wrong" or "delayed". He isn't one big, fat negative... a never-will... a can't do. He isn't "other". How the adults in his life fail him, time and time again, and yet these children just open their arms and accept. Today, he is their friend.
To them, he is just J-man. Perfect as he is.
I am not sure what I am trying to say with these stories. I have been thinking a lot lately about our issues with the school district, of the choices we are making and the decisions that others have made. I have been trying to read the tea-leaves of the future, to try and anticipate what our next, best move is. As he now moves into his new room, I still fear. I still wish that he could have more support, so that when he tries so desperately to communicate, someone would be there to hear. To understand. To be his bridge.
But maybe I, too, underestimate him.
Maybe he will just be his own bridge.