Susan's Blog

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Opening the Box

A teacher who will improvise and innovate is a beautiful thing. I have been marveling at the way Ali got Nat to tell his story about camp, by using fill-in-the-blank. She structured his story, which I think is genius, given that Nat has difficulty verbalizing sentences that he originates. He is much better at being asked a question than given an open-ended assignment to talk about.

I love it when one of my sons is able to tell me what he’s been up to and what made him happy about it. They each have different ways of doing this, although Max and Ben both tend to pick unexpected moments, when the conversation is about something else, or the activity is about something else; and suddenly they bring up this thing that has been pressing in on their thoughts. I always have to stop, regroup, try to grab onto the salient points, try to remember what they’re referring to. Basically it is a big effort, but worthwhile. A glimpse into a loved one’s inner life is probably one of my favorite things to experience.

I’m convinced that Nat’s issues with speaking are exactly what his very first teacher (“Debi, You Teacher”) told us: that he tries to access the words but something gets in the way sometimes.You have to guide Nat. You have to know a little bit about what happened to him, so that you can provide him with that event’s structure, and let him come up with the rest. So The House people call us each night and tell us things like, “Nat played Connect Four with another kid,” or “Nat went shopping with Martin,” and then Nat calls back and I can ask him pointed questions, and get the precise info from him: “Nat, did you play Connect Four today?” I ask him this to alert him to the fact that we are going to talk about Connect Four, and get his mind switched over to that track. Then, after he answers, I can ask him a question I don’t know the answer to: “Nat, which boy did you play Connect Four with?” And 9 out of 10 times he can come up with an accurate response immediately.

I am imagining now how it might have worked with Ali and Nat at camp. She wrote up a basic letter home to Mom and Dad, and asked him questions, and told him to write down his answer, and she then wrote the answer next to his, in case his was too hard to decipher. My heart was in my throat as I read this letter, that had both Ali’s and Nat’s voices in it, and the artifacts that accompany the story, in a little box with “Aspen” carved on the lid.

1 comment

How awesome!! Jared pencils in "The end" in all of his favorite books. It is so invigorating to see your child reach for things that used to be out of his grasp. Hooray!! Lisa

— added by Anonymous on Monday, August 24, 2009 at 10:32 am