This picture popped up on my phone this morning on an app I use that shows past posts to Facebook over the years. This was 2 years ago when Eliza did a settling in session at school in her transition from mainstream nursery to special school. She looks so young. She was 4 years old and spoke only a handful of single words, the most popular being “no” and “mumma”. I stared at the photograph for ages, remembering how different she was back then. PECS on the table (Picture Exchange Communication System). So many hours of my life were given to printing and laminating pictures for that. We had picture prompts all over the house including ones that step by step told you how to use the toilet and wash your hands. Thankfully all our friends and family were quite aware that if they needed to pop to the toilet at ours they were likely to see instructions on the walls informing them of the upcoming process!
When she started school we were unsure if she could read so I made tags for her bags. One side had her name, the other had her picture. I laminated them and put ribbon on them and attached them to her school stuff thinking even if she can not read much, she could see her face and know they are hers. They were great and many other parents asked about them so it became an ice breaker talking point during her first few weeks at school. We still use a routine board at home but she doesn’t really need it anymore. We are moving to just a whiteboard and written words only which is what school are now doing. You see just before her brother was born (he is almost 18 months) her speech started to kick in and it kept going and going and going. We have not used PECS for 14 months or more. Still likes visual prompts at school but I think more for habit/comfort.
I look at that picture of her and her PECS and I think back to just last night in our garden where for a good 20-25 minutes she gave me (and the neighbours) a fantastic attempt at singing “Let it go” whilst splashing water everywhere pretending it to be ice. She sang! She tried so hard with all the words. A wonderful memory for me, one that makes me think back to that “specialist” who told us she would never speak and “don’t expect much from her”. Written off by him before she was even 3 years old. If I were to meet him now I would have some choice words just for him and I would show him the video of her singing. We only saw him once, after he decided she was nothing we chose to write him off and get a new Doctor. In a weird way I want to thank him. His appalling attitude and advice angered and hurt me so much that I was going to try everything to prove him wrong. I never stopped hoping she would speak, although at times I cried myself to sleep when the “what if she can’t” thoughts popped in to my head. I saw a beautiful post yesterday reminding us to always say ‘yet’ when talking about what our children can not do. I always did this, always. She can’t talk YET, she can’t ride a bike YET, she can’t read YET….. She can now do all of those things and she can sing. That picture has been my biggest reflection point to date.
NEVER EVER STOP HOPING, DREAMING, BELIEVING. It’s what keeps the parents going. Don’t be scared to push the comfort zones of the child now and again but know the limits too. Always add the word ‘yet’ as you never know when things will change. Then sit back and wait for that moment when you find a picture or a message from a little while ago that will smack you in the face and make you realize just how far you have come already. Hold on to that memory for when the next rocky period appears and you need a reminder of why you are doing this, why you keep going.