Friday was Gracie’s last day of summer school. To say that she was relieved is putting it mildly. She was completely ecstatic. That doesn’t mean she didn’t fight me about getting up that morning and getting on the bus, but it wasn’t quite as difficult as it was for the entire previous week. By “it wasn’t quite as difficult” I mean “my bruises aren’t as bad.” Let’s just say I can’t wait to get into that class for learning therapeutic holds.
Gracie looked so pretty. She let me brush her hair up into a pixie tail and put fresh clothes on her. She let me put clean socks on (inside out, of course) and tighten up her sneakers (Hello Kitty). She even let me put her back pack on (also Hello Kitty). We sat on the front steps together waiting for the bus. I tried chatting with her, but she was resistant although not clipped and rude as getting up early for a bus ride she doesn’t want can make her. I told her that I was coming to see her in her play with her sisters, and that I would drive her home. She smiled her gentle little “I’m hiding something” smile and cast her eyes down, and that was my only acknowledgment that she heard me.
I had learned only a couple of days earlier that she was going to be in a “play” or “reader’s theater.” For Gracie, it’s part of her IEP that she take part in these things. It helps her with her reading skills; silent reading, reading out loud, putting herself in someone else’s place, turn taking, practicing, public speaking, and incorporating some social skills. Of course these are all a Very Big Deal for Gracie because of her Autism Spectrum Disorder. The night before, she read a script out loud in its entirety called Maisy‘s Piggy Bank. She read every part and included voices. She used inflection in her tone and held her script away from her face. I could tell she had practiced.
My other daughters and I arrived at the class room an hour before school ended for the play. I spoke with her paras for a few minutes and even had a chance to speak with her teacher before and after the performances. The kids spent a week practicing their plays and you could tell who had practiced very hard and took it seriously. I admit, I was worried that her social anxiety would kick in and we wouldn’t get to see her “perform” but my darling girl didn’t disappoint! She’s been bitten by the acting bug and seems to enjoy “being someone else.” We saw a glimpse of that in the Spring Concert this past Spring when she belted out the songs on a real stage and we could hear her above everyone else in a crowded auditorium.
So when it was her turn, she was eager to stand at the front of the classroom with her script and four little boys to be in Pinocchio. There was Geppetto, a cricket, Pinocchio, a narrator, and Gracie the Blue Fairy. 🙂 Who of course was all dressed in pink that day. Of course. She made and colored the whale scene with a lovely, huge blue whale grinning like the cat that ate the canary but I suspect was grinning because it had just eaten Pinocchio. She smiled sweetly and shyly, but she spoke/squeaked her words (because as you know, fairies have voices that are fairy-like and not like humans at all) as a true fairy would. She stole the show with dear old Geppetto and was openly praised by the teacher and paras for doing such a wonderful and “serious” job.
If that wasn’t enough she also got to be Puppy Number Two in a second play called Mother Dog and Her Puppies. She had made her own costume (puppy ears) and gave her puppy its own unique voice and vibrancy. She was all smiles and you could just tell that she was happy to be up there and performing and doing a great job.
I can’t express enough how proud I am of my daughter. This is such a big deal because even a year ago I don’t think she could have pulled it off. Her special services have been such a blessing.
I’m grateful that she has summer session in her IEP for so many reasons. Mainly, though, it helps her retain much of what she learned over the past school year. Why is that important? Because the average child loses three or four months of what they’ve learned from the past school year over each summer. That’s why with the beginning of each new school year the teachers spend the first month or two reviewing material from the year before. It also helps her with concepts she may not have grasped during the past school year. That’s important in helping her catch up with her peers. She also gets some help on getting started with the new school year. She doesn’t transition very well, so having school during the summer with therapies and teachers on her team geared towards helping her specifically to make transitions the easier it will be when she gets a new teacher with new classmates.
We also can’t praise the structured environment of school enough either. It’s been vital having that sort of experience during the summer. Mommy can structure the day and schedule things to do and make sure that the routines are essentially the same, but it’s not the same as what she gets at school. She needs and thrives on that rigidity. It’s reassuring and consistent.
But at the same time she gets to try new things! My girl was the Blue Fairy!