He is cuddly today. This 1st grade student of mine. He wants hugs and touches and warmth and kindness. He stands close and moves even closer. I’ve just entered his classroom and this is his greeting. This is his request. I know, not because he tells me with words, because he can’t. His voice often stays trapped inside except for some syllable sound combinations. Consonants and vowels strung together that are sometimes repeated and sometimes not. Sometimes just consonants come out and we play a game of imitation. Back and forth. Enjoying the rhythm of beginning speech and language. Sometimes just vowels make their way into the air and I imitate those too. He tries. He tries really hard. He has a fan club that cheers on his efforts on a regular basis and silently will his words to come forth. Today, he is giddy and excited and he oozes out giggles that are contagious enough to make our principal laugh out loud as she walks by our room.
I decide he might like to play our sound imitation game and I throw out a loud, open mouthed, and sustained, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh”. He knows the game and he stops his giggling and looks at me. I catch my breath and I hold it. I wait and I stay in that moment and I ask God for the patience to wait, to not rush through this moment, to stay and just be in this moment. I look at him and beg him silently to join me in this game we play. I want and will his voice to work. I want him to keep using sounds that I know will someday lead to stacks of words. But it is in our waiting, he decides that there will be a new game today. A different way. A change. I am honestly disappointed when he simply points to his eye because he must of thought my “Ahhhhhhhh” sound meant to point to his “eye”. I open my mouth to repeat “Ahhhhhhh”, but before I can he points to his heart. He’s letting me know he can use words. He can communicate. I begin to put the gestures together in my head….I, My…….I, Me….huh? I, ?? I don’t know!! He adds a third gesture and points to me and I know in an instant and in the only way he could; the words he chose to tell me today were, “I Love You.” 100% initiated by him. A surprise and incredibly rare sentence from him sent my way. A gift given to a grateful heart from a happy boy on a Tuesday morning. All orchestrated by my Heavenly Father reminding me once again that change is good and so is He.
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