I love Fridays. I always have. Even now, that I am a stay-at-home mom and every day is just as much work as the next. But this last Friday was an extra special day to me. It was a crisp, sunny morning and it was the morning of Marley’s Poetry Appreciation Day at her school where parents of all the kids come to listen to their children read one original poem that they wrote.
Marley is my oldest child with autism and she is in a “system-level” classroom at school but since we started Brain Balance in the Fall, she has been mainstreamed more and more into the regular education second grade classroom. Although writing is one of the few subjects she is not mainstreamed for, her mainstream teacher still wanted to include her for poetry appreciation day. So the day before the reading, her special education teacher sat down with Marley and helped her write her own original poem. It was, of course, about her favorite subject. Fairies. Her poem was based on her favorite fairy book.
I was nervous and excited to see how Marley would handle all the sensory input. Would she meltdown in front of a crowd of parents if she made a mistake? She is after all, a perfectionist. Would she cry when she realized that today, she would not follow the same structure as other days? Would she be okay with the increased noise level in the classroom? Would the crowded classroom bring on a meltdown? Would she smile? Would she speak up?
In the past, I wouldn’t dare let her attempt such a thing, as I knew it would end in disaster. But this day, I felt good. I felt positive. She has made incredible amounts of progress this year. She is healthy now. No more GI pain. We fixed that. Her sensory regulation is much better due to the Brain Balance program. So I was excited for her. I wanted to see how she would handle the situation. And indeed…it turned out to be quite an emotional experience for me.
I watched her as she walked into the classroom…nothing as it usually is. She knew today was poetry day. She knew I was there to see her. So she looked around the room until she saw me. When she caught my eye, she smiled and said, “Mom!” I smiled back and motioned for her to sit down with the other kids who were sitting on the rug awaiting their turn to speak. She waited patiently…every now and again looking back to see if I was still watching. I was. She was a bit wiggly and stimmy, but not too bad. She remained quiet and listened to each child take their turn. When it was finally her turn, she jumped up excitedly and took her place on the bench in front of the class. And she read:
Ruby’s Story, by Marley
Rachel and Kirsty need her help
Amber, Sunny, Fern, Sky, Inky, Heather
In big trouble!
Had a ball and the frog orchestra played
Saw King Oberman and Queen Tatiana
Saw the rainbow
Red dress and ballet shoes
In the middle of reading, she lost her place and looked up at the teacher for help. She said, Marley you can start over. So she did. Even louder and more confident the second time. No tears. Just a big smile, then she finished and took her seat on the floor again.
She had done it!! I exhaled. I teared up. It was a moment to remember. This is what we have been working so hard for. What most parents take for granted….I never will. Afterwards, there was coffee and tea for parents and bagels and bananas for the kids. I brought Marley her apple from home and she sat quietly at her table and ate while I lavished her with compliments.
Then something wonderful happened. Kids in her class started coming up to me to tell me that they thought she had done a great job. I smiled and said thank you. Then another child came up and said, “I like sitting with Marley at lunch. I enjoy talking to her.” While Marley sat there and ate, kids were coming up to me, introducing themselves and telling me that they like Marley. She was completely oblivious to their comments and was too busy snacking to even notice. But they noticed her. They liked her. They complimented her. They even came over to sit with her with their own snacks.
I felt that was my time to exit. She could sit with her friends. Oh my God....she has friends. Kids that understand that she is not like them…but that it is okay. I can only hope that the sweetness of these second graders stays in their hearts as they grow older. My daughter is a great kid. She is funny and sweet…but she is clearly different. May those kids keep their compassion and understanding. May my daughter continue to heal. And may I continue to witness such beautiful things as my children grow.