“My Story…” Monday: A – Your Baby (almost) Can Read

(You can catch up on A’s story right here: The Pregnancy, The Birth, The Infancy, The Quiet Toddler, Advocating, What He COULD Do, Just A Boy, The (Hard) Next Step, Making a Friend, The Autism Diagnosis, He Talks, Hyperlexia)

 

While the decision to send A. off to preschool at the tender age of 2 1/2 had been difficult and a little heart-breaking for me, an unexpected advantage emerged as we transitioned from early intervention into the public school system.  By the time he turned 3, our little guy WAS talking, albeit not nearly as much as you would expect from a typical preschooler.  The fact that his teachers had been around through the entire non-verbal/early-talking phase helped them to better understand our child, though, and that was a real blessing.  We were able to sit with a team of teachers, administrators, and therapists and develop a plan.

 

A. still needed a lot of therapy.  He needed to receive quite a bit of speech and he also qualified for occupational therapy.  Now, in his case, the OT had nothing at all to do with fine motor skills.  He needed to work on focus and attention during gross motor tasks.  In short, our boy simply could not stop jumping and flapping around when he was supposed to be, say, focusing on waiting to catch a ball or some such thing.  So, anyway, the therapies would take up a fair bit of time each week.  In addition, we wanted to make sure he had adequate “in class” time to keep practicing his communication skills, peer relations, and eye contact.

 

Ultimately, it was decided that A. would attend preschool five days a week for the rest of the school year (end of January through May.)  I had such mixed emotions because I KNEW I was going to miss my little buddy.  I also knew that he was going to benefit from interacting with his therapists and peers.

He did fine.  So did I.  Mid-Spring, his teachers switched him from the 3yo PM group to the AM group because it was a better peer fit.  I was pleased that they recognized this and it ended up being a good change.

 

But something other than continued preschool and therapy occurred during those next few months…

 

A. began to read.

 

Now, it’s true that he had read simple words before.  After all, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, that’s what helped him say his very first words.  But, before he turned 3 1/2, A. was reading books.  He could read all the words and labels around the classroom.  He would choose books off their little wooden classroom rack and happily read away.

 

Some silly, angry parents started complaining and demanding to know why the teachers had taught our son to read and not their children.  Over and over, they attempted to explain that they had NOT taught him to read.   The attention then turned to me and I had many a mother wonder what “program” or “method” I had used to get my 3yo to read.  I spent a whole lot of time trying to explain that three year olds are not SUPPOSED to be able to read and that they should be delighted with their happily chattering, social little children.  I don’t want to sound like we weren’t appreciative of our little guy’s skill — we were!  But it annoyed me that others didn’t realize that they were also very lucky in that they had had more “typical” early years.

 

It was important to us to never put A. on display.  We never made a big deal out of his ability to read so young and we never asked him to “perform” for others.  People noticed, of course, and we were willing to answer questions, but it wasn’t something we chose to focus on.

 

It was also kind of funny because I have really NEVER been able to be one of those parents who spells words so the child doesn’t understand.  What was amusing was when another mom or a relative would spell a treat in an attempt to be sneaky or subtle and A. would simply look up and say, “Cookie?  Yum!”   Life is just a little different when your three year old can read…

 

So, life went on.  Our little boy still needed his therapies and he was still a bit awkward socially.  He was able to read and his vocabulary grew by leaps and bounds.   He completed his “three year old” year of preschool and we were all set to move into the “four year” program.  I was pregnant with our third baby and things were going well.

Unexpectedly, over the summer between those two preschool years, we moved.  A whole new set of teachers and therapists were about to meet our little guy.  And I would receive a phone call that would change everything again…

 

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