Tuesday, November 2, 2010


His small elfin voice is lobbed through the playground chain link fence to where Addie and I rush to line up. He tells us about the pattern on his hat and on his shirt. Yeesh! That was the math homework - Addie was supposed to dress in patterns and be able to explain the pattern to her friends. I look down. Whew. She has a plaid shirt on, at least. But I didn't program anything in...

My lament is loud as I literally smack my forehead for my audience of 2 first graders: "I forgot Addie's talker!" (Her talker is what we call her communication device, a DynaVox V.)

In the morning craze, compounded by the first defrosting of the car of the season, I had forgotten to put her device in the car and didn't realize it until we were already lining up just before the bell.

I briefly apologize to Addie and assure her that as soon as she goes in, I'll swing right back home to get the talker and bring it to her classroom. I am still figuratively kicking myself - it's the first time I've ever forgotten it in 3 years of use at school.

The little elfin voice continues through the fence. "Don't worry, Addie's mom. Addie can understand ALL of our English and then she can just talk in signguage [a term Carl coined last year to refer to sign language - it just works somehow]. Because you know she can speak in signguage and in ah, her talker. She will be ok until you can bring it. You don't have to worry."

The bell rings as I think about what an honest and genuine friend this young fellow has been since he and Addie met last year in Kindergarten. Carl gives her all the credit in the world for being another goofy, fun-loving, endless-potential kid, just like himself.

Somehow he ends up in line in front of Addie. He is telling the fellows in front of him "Addie's mom forgot her talker!" Small outrage ripples forward. He lays out the plan for Addie's other classmates. "So, we'll all do signguage until her mom can bring it. If you don't know her sign, just ask me."

I scurry back home knowing that Carl, a 6 year old boy, will bridge this lapse for me until I can deliver for Addie.

As I shuffle back to the classroom fumbling with the device to have it powered up by the time I place it on Addie's desk, I see her special ed teacher in the hall, Mrs. M. Addie has an aide or the spec ed teacher with her at all times during her day in a regular 1st grade classroom. A grinning Mrs. M meets me and tells me that I need to bring it in myself - and take the blame - because Addie's been "yelling" at her for the 10 minutes since she settled into the classroom for the opening routine. Mrs. M demonstrates the very animated and adamant way Addie signed for her talker, complete with those focused wide eyes I know so well, locked on who she deemed the responsible party. Mrs. M added that Addie even got up to go look near the outlet where it sometimes charges. She was plain angry. As she should have been.

I slipped into the room and put the device in front of her on her desk stealthily. Addie reached for it with both arms and scooted it closer in a territorial way. She navigated to her classroom pages immediately. I crouched down and asked her to look at me. "I'm sorry, babe. I just forgot it," I signed and spoke. She leaned forward slightly to offer me her straight lips in a very brief and light kiss. As she leaned back into position facing her talker, the back of her right hand brushed my shoulder firmly to let me know that she was no longer angry, but that I need to go now. I did as I was told. Her classroom teacher looked on and offered a knowing smile.

Mrs. M and I chatted a bit just outside the door. I thought I might be keeping her from Addie in the classroom, so I began to back away. She stepped away, as well. She must have seen my flash of confusion. She explained.

"Oh, I have nothing to do at opening so I usually hang out in the hall working on other stuff. Addie doesn't need anyone until Reading and Language Arts starts. But opening? Your girl can do that on her own."

The energy I (willingly) spend convincing people of what Addie's abilities are, what she can do, is immeasurable. Today, Carl and Mrs. M have taken my work from me. Today a child and an adult assured me that Addie is seen clearly, that she has consorts outside her family who will take her lead to ensure that others see and hear her clearly.

Not only do I not have to do it all - I don't get to. It's between Addie and the world she lives in. And I'm good with that.


Brandi said...

Wow Terri, what a morning! Got shooed out of your daughters classroom, too funny. You, my friend have paved this path and Addie is sure setting it on fire! I hope there are more kids like Carl in this world that continue to treat Addie and everyone else with sincere respect! What a kid.

Cindy said...

More proof that our kids will MAKE themselves be heard. Way to go, Addie! Good on you, Carl!

Anonymous said...

I have had that feeling many times myself, that Sheridon makes herself known and that I must share her with the world (even when I may not want to). Addison stole out hearts the first time we met and I know she is a determined girl who will make her mark in this world!

Jessica mommy to Alex/ RTS said...

Yes, I believe Alex will be heard as well. Thank you for this.

Kelly said...

Sounds like my first grader. . . "do what you need to do and leave please!" Can't help but love the word signage and kids like Carl. Addie is an inspiring little girl!

I showed John the halloween pictures on facebook and he enjoyed the picture the Clay stance in front of the mirror. Kelly F

Kristi said...

Great story.. I smiled and got teary at the same time..