May 8, 2007
Schuyler had a pretty good day.
She woke up in a good mood and insisted on taking photos of her bus when it pulled up. She took pictures of me, too, as I took pictures of her, and the ridiculousness of it made her laugh. When she climbed aboard the bus, she waved excitedly and blew her kisses to me, unaware of the tiny piece of me that died like it does every time her bus pulls away.
We met with two of her teachers today, the miracle worker who runs her box class and the mainstream first grade teacher who loves our daughter even though I think she's a little frightened by Schuyler's independent streak. She told us today, in the midst of reporting Schuyler's progress, that occasionally "she talks too much in class". Julie actually laughed out loud.
The general feeling of her teachers seemed to be that Schuyler is doing very well in some areas, lags behind in some others (she apparently has inherited a gene from me, the one that both hates and fears math), and can either reach for academic greatness or pull amusing but ultimately useless stunts, depending entirely on her mood.
(These include correctly writing, in her careful, jagged handwriting, the numbers up to 29 before getting off track for a few lines and then simply drawing little squiggles in every box, right up to the last one, where she wrote "100". Or the science question, in which she answered the question "What is the natural resource that covers over 70% of the earth's surface and is required by all living things?", not with the obvious junk science answer, "water", but rather that more controversial scientific theory, "ballet class".)
For the most part, however, she appears to balance that occasional lapse with genuine, true school-nerd enthusiasm. She raises her hand in class, whether or not she knows the answer or has even heard the question yet. Sure, I suppose she could simply be turning into a little kissass, but I think the truth is that she's happy to have a voice of sorts and is desperate to participate in the world around her. She's become excited about her Big Box of Words again, thanks to her ongoing transition to the higher level, and she's starting to show her classmates how to use it on the 84-key setting. Her teachers say she's doing well in school, despite her monster, and she'll be moving on to second grade next fall.
I worry about Schuyler, about the uphill struggle she faces in trying to keep up with the rest of the kids in spite of the huge disadvantage that she has with the BBoW. And let's be clear; it is a remarkable tool for her, it has given her a way to communicate that has changed her life and unlocked a lot of doors for her, but it is also a maddeningly slow way to speak, and that is going to make it very hard for her to function in class. There are time benchmarks that she is supposed to be able to meet according to state guidelines, and they don't lend themselves to augmentative communication. But there are adults who do it, and Schuyler will, too.
I also worry about her social development, particularly how she'll be accepted by her peers. But school seems to be a haven for her in that regard; the neurotypical kids love her and argue over who is going to help her in class. She may still be the equivalent to E.T. to most of them, but we'll take it for now. Perhaps my expectations about mean kids will be proven wrong; they have been so far, I must admit. Grown-ups are often another story, but she doesn't appear to care too much for adult acceptance. We're the dinosaurs. Mean, old and doomed to extinction.
We saw her briefly when we went to the classroom to get some paperwork taken care of, and she was neither embarrassed nor clingy. She said her loud hellos, gave her big, Sumo-style hugs and then went back to her social circle, bragging about how her dad (the Hero of Inappropriate Movie Choices) took her to see Spider-man over the weekend.
When she got out of school, we gave Schuyler a surprise, a hand-crafted little monster that was made for her by an artistic reader. She loved it, playing with it and talking to it all the way home. She kept asking us for its name, and Julie suggested "Paisley", for obvious reasons. Schuyler liked that name, so Monster Paisley was born.
When we got home, I wanted to take a photo of it to put on the book site, and Schuyler eagerly helped. I had her gather the monsters that she'd been given as gifts over the past year or two, and as I took their photo, she kept bringing in even more monsters (along with Jasper, who gets to do whatever he wants, thanks to his role as Unofficial Big Brother).
Schuyler wanted a monster family portrait.
I've taken a lot of portraits, but this one was my favorite so far.
So it goes.