28 June 2011

Dum spiro spero

If you know me well - or at all, really - you know about my affinity for words. Turning a phrase for a project at work, attempting to wipe the floor with you in Scrabble ... I like words.

Never more than when they come out of Emma's mouth, which they've been doing a lot more often lately. Doesn't that seem crazy? In the first two weeks since her ABA program started, she's been coming home and talking to me. She repeats more. She requests more. She talked to Grandma on the phone instead of just smiling at her picture.

And Saturday morning, she grabbed a DVD case and turned to me.

"Watch puppies?"

She was holding up 101 Dalmatians.

I'd been awake for more than a day at that point, so it took me a minute to find my own words and tell her "Yes, yes, yes, of course you can watch puppies. You can watch puppies all day long if you keep talking to me."

"Want bread." I handed her a piece, hoping for the next step. She frowned, handed it back to me, and walked into the pantry to grab the peanut butter. She shoved the jar into my free hand. "Want sammich." Maybe you can imagine the silly victory dance I did. Use your words, baby, and I will make all the sammiches you want.

"Go in the car." It is no hardship to invent a quick errand so I can let her know I understand what she's saying to me. That her words have power.

It's progress; it's measurable, visible progress, and watching it happen is such a thrill. I worked hard to get her here, and now she's the one doing all the work.

I have loved her fiercely since before she was born. I believed in her potential before her diagnosis, and I've continued to believe in it since. But I can't remember the last time I felt so much hope, so sure that some of the things I want so desperately for her are reachable now.

These steps forward may not always be so big, and loving Em has taught me about the inevitability of the in-betweens, when progress stalls or even vanishes. I know my girl, though, and she never stops trying.

Right now I'm listening to her sing herself to sleep, and I could not invent a sweeter way for her to remind me that what I say matters.

"Yes, Jesus wuv me. Yes, Jesus wuv me. Yes, Jesus wuv me. Bible ... so!"

I love her words most of all.

19 June 2011

hello, goodbye

As soon as we walked in the door, Em let go of my hand and sprinted past the smiling therapist who'd knelt to greet her. I'd wondered how well she'd remember this place, having been there twice before. When she made a beeline for the trampoline, I knew: she remembered perfectly.

Day one at her new center got off to a happy start, not that I'd expected otherwise. Happy is my girl's usual state of being, usually interrupted only by hunger or sleepiness, and sometimes not even then. We walked through the center, putting lunch in the fridge, snacks in the pantry and diapers in her cubby. Before I knew it, I was standing outside in the sunshine, and Em had begun her new adventure with ABA.

The week went by in the same blur that first drop-off had, but the constant was Emma's smile. She was always happy to step into the center in the morning, and after a day that was busier and longer than she was used to, her grin was always there when I came back.

As usual, the adjustment was far easier for her than it was for me. I needed a few days to miss what she'd left behind: a wonderful place with people who genuinely cared about her, not just for her. But because they cared about her, each and every one of them took the time to tell me how excited they were for the possibilities of this new program. How amazing they know it will be. How much progress they hope she'll make.

Me, too.

It was easy to look forward when I read the binder that gets sent home every day. Notes from her first week: "She's asking for items she wants!" "She had a great day!" "She is doing a SUPER job." "We had so much fun."

I believe she will thrive here, that the one-on-one attention from people who've devoted their careers to understanding and working with kiddos just like mine is going to go far toward unlocking her potential.

I've heard from other parents that a month in this program has brought their child a year's worth of progress. I can't imagine what that would look like for Emma, where that would take us.

I can't wait to find out.