A Sucker for You

Communicating with Wil is an incredible experience. Though he has been in speech therapy since he was months old, he has always been one savvy communicator.

A tilt of his head and a smile melts you into a puddle of mush on the spot. When music takes him over, his good vibes serendipitously course through your veins with no conscious thought on your part; you find yourself both curiously and delightfully boosted. When Wil walks out the door and is hit by a breeze, he opens his arms wide and spins round and round. “Fresh!” he says into the air — this one word an invitation to open yourself to the dizzying, fresh new moment with him.

To hear Wil put words to his emotions is one of my true delights. A back-and-forth conversation with Wil was once a dedicated dream, and is now our reality. Though Wil now has a full and colorful vocabulary, he continues to be the master of condensing a myriad of meaning into one word or action.

In October, I shared with you a story about Wil refusing to sleep in his own bed. He was not forthcoming about the reason for his refusal, though he has the words. I peppered him with questions and eventually drew out one key word from him: “cats.” From that one word I had my answer. The source of Wil’s bad dream was from an “Elmo Pets” DVD. There is a “Cats” segment where a puppet tiger pounces onto the scene with a roar. The puppet is soft and cuddly, but the element of surprise combined with the loud noise terrifies and mystifies Wil. Before the bad dream happened, I found him in his room playing the tiger scene over and over. Like cranking the handle of a Jack-in-the-Box, the predictable surprise continues to startle. I removed the DVD, and the DVD player, from his room.

He’ll now sleep in his own bed for short bouts, but invariably I’ll wake up to find Wil camped out in the living room in his sleeping bag. Whenever Wil spends the entire night in his room, I commend his progress: “Great job, Wil! You slept the whole night in your room. How about we go for another night?”

After a considerable moment, Wil replies, “Maybe.” Oh, the ubiquitous power of one word!

Last week at school Wil walked down the hall with his paraprofessional, Kristi Campbell. He held a fistful of Blow-pop suckers he had been given as a gift. It was nearing time to pack up his things. While many days this is not a problem for him at all, on this day the transition built up in his mind and became overwhelming. Though he has the words to express his feelings, when the overwhelm overtakes him, sitting on the floor gets the point across much more efficiently.

Many passersby offered Wil encouraging words to motivate him up off the floor. On certain days, this encouragement breaks up the overwhelm for him. But there are also days when Wil needs a total 180 in thinking to turn his thoughts around. Kristi read what Wil was communicating that day as he remained unmoving on the floor.

“Hey, Wil,” Kristi said matter-of-factly, “can I have one of your suckers?”

“Sure,” he said.

“Ok then, let’s go.” Wil stood up, handed Kristi a Blow-pop, and they walked to his locker to pack up his things.

While Wil speaks volumes with one word or action, cracking his code can be another thing altogether. Yet when one savvy communicator meets another, it can be as easy as asking for candy from a 13-year-old.

(photo: Kristi and Wil)

The Science of Galileo & Prince Wil

Like Galileo in the cathedral observing a lamp’s swing, I, too, marvel at the back and forth motion of Wil’s days. On Monday and Tuesday Wil swooped back. He refused work and escaped the school, with his paraprofessional, Kristi Campbell, hot on his heels (I joke that Wil has turned her into a runner). The oscillation was complete with a full swing forward on Thursday that held through Friday morning. Wil lit up his reward chart with stars. By Friday afternoon, the pendulum reversed its motion to start another cycle.

Each day I evaluate Wil’s oscillation. I look at the forces that contribute to the cause. What motivated a good day? What set off a challenging day? Did he sleep well? Is he congested? Were there any changes in class transitions? Was a friend absent? Maybe a teacher out ill? A bad hair day?

Kristi told me his science teacher was out ill. And that was his first hour. Backswing. Wil likes his science teacher, but not science. So without his teacher, the subject holds little interest. Kristi has worked hard to adapt the work to capture Wil’s interest (Kristi has a hidden halo that reveals itself in photos) so he can better retain the information. But it’s just not his thing. Sorry, Galileo.

I watched some of Wil’s 8th grade science videos with him, and his mind was clearly elsewhere. I’d pause the video and ask him questions to bring back his attention. His repeated response: “We done now, Mom?” Except when we watched the video about Gregor Mendel’s discovery of genetics by crossing pure-bred green peas with pure-bred yellow peas. Wil asked to watch that video over and again. I should note that this video featured animated kissing green and yellow peas. When you are 13 years old, kissing is a very interesting subject.

As I sat and pondered Wil’s pendular days, Wil sat in his resource room hard at work. He loves to read, write and tell stories. And he loves love. We all have our equilibrium balance. Wil found his in an assignment to write about “Once upon a time…”

Wils fairy tale boock

Once upon a time there was a girl named ashley ashley was feeling good she was feeling  happy because she was going on an adventure she lived in a tower  life was weird because she was under a sleeping spell wil  the hero came to save her he did not go through troubles ashley learned wil is a prince  , they shared true love s kiss she is still asleep she woke up ashley was so happy to see prince wil the end.

I think Galileo would have approved.