Please note: I’m VERY short on time this morning, so the following is unedited and lacking links that I’d normally take the time to put in. Good luck.
The hard part of yesterday has nothing to do with the theme of this post, nor what I really came here to share, which is the video you’ll see shortly. But I needed you to know. Because although I’m about to share the awesome, if it’s the only thing I share then this blog is bullshit.
You see, yesterday was hard. Yesterday was shrieking and screaming and spinning hard. Yesterday was lying down in the middle of the floor at the Gap shouting, “I QUIT THE GAP!” hard. (Which was either Alanis Morissette’s ironic or anyone else’s completely appropriate given that they are currently running an autism awareness campaign. As I told a friend last night, I was waiting for them to ask for a donation so that I could laugh maniacally, but I think they were just, ya know, happy to let us leave.) Yesterday was sobbing in a dressing room and finally running for the parking lot with Mama hard.
There was a time that I would have given you far more detail, but I just don’t feel like I can anymore. My daughter is ten. And although she said that I can share the story, a) I don’t think she really knows what ‘sharing it’ means and b) it doesn’t really matter because I’m her mom and I just can’t – or won’t – put my child on display in her most vulnerable moments. So just trust me when I say that there was more — a lot more, and it was hard.
On the way home, I started to compose a Seussian poem in my head — There are days when an outing is funner than fun, and then there are days where my girl is just dunner than dun.
Yeah, it was that kind of day.
But then there was the awesome.
Once we got home, Brooke found her calm by planning a party. She announced that it was YoYo’s birthday and that all his friends would come to a surprise party. And she began to draw them. All of them. From YoYo and his best friend, Hoops to Rapunzel, Cinderella and every character from Blue’s Clues. She methodically drew each one, from Paprika to Side Table Drawer, then colored them in and cut them out. She was at it for hours, with a short break for dinner in between.
And while she worked, we did scripts.
She did the Hump Day camel from the Geico commercial and the Godspell stories where Jesus is too big for the bouncy house and then John the Baptist is too big for the slide. And then we did Shuddup and Trouble. Four hundred and thirty-seven times. And every single time, Brooke laughed. Hard. The good kind of hard. The cleansing, freeing, we’re going to be okay kind of hard.
And I asked her if we could record it. And she agreed. But she needed to prepare. So she wrote the script out. The one we’d just done four hundred and thirty-seven times. The one we do all day every day. The one that she found online in a video that three sisters made of a silly skit that she’d learned in school. A skit that turns out to be all about how a misunderstanding of another’s intentions (because of a misread of their actions) affects how that person is perceived and subsequently treated. Yup, seems we do nothing without meaning here.
She then disappeared into her room.
When she finally re-emerged, she had a bag full of her “guys”. They were to be the audience, she said. She went about setting them up facing her where they could watch the action. She also got her “phone” (iTouch) because apparently, we couldn’t do the skit without applause. Clearly, one needs applause.
And then we got to it.
The skit is about a girl named Shuddup and her little dog Trouble. Trouble runs off just before school starts. To complicate matters, it’s her very first day in a new school where she knows no one. A teacher comes upon her and asks her name. When she says, “Shuddup,” the teacher gets angry. After a few more chances to “answer the right way,” she sends her to the principal. The rest, I’m pretty sure, will be obvious.
Brooke’s scripts started out as no more than a repetition of the last word she’d heard. Then they moved on to two-word phrases.
“Brooke, would you like milk or water?”
Her early attempts to interact verbally consisted of her saying the first half of a word as a bid for us to complete it. It was frustrating as hell because we couldn’t always figure out what word she was trying to get us to say and she didn’t have the wherewithal to tell us. We often flailed and she melted down because we just couldn’t get it.
But we began to get better at it. And eventually, she learned that she could tell us when we couldn’t get it on our own.
And then the scripts got bigger. They were lines from books and television shows or bits and pieces of dialogue that she’d overheard. She’d repeat them again and again and again, using them first to self-soothe and then to communicate with us. She would use the emotion of a character in a script to tell us how she was feeling. We didn’t know it at first, but when we would go back to the scene in the show or the page in the book and ask ourselves what was happening around the words that the character was using at the time, we saw it. And hot damn, it all started to make sense. The scripts were always “functional.” It was just a matter of us discerning their function.
Later, she began to carve out strings and chunks of words and use them in a way that made sense to those around her. They were unreliable, as they didn’t always convey exactly what she needed them to, but it was a quantum leap toward more widely understandable communication.
Over time, she began to be able to use the scripts nearly seamlessly. Those who don’t recognize them often have no idea that they’ve just heard them.
Except for the stories. Those are different. Those are a group activity. Those are interaction. Those are belly laughs. Those are an invitation. Those are the gift that we got in return for diving into the scripts and playing a role.
Those warrant an audience, and applause.
And this is what they look like.
Incidentally, a fringe benefit of all of this is that we get to see my girl’s beautiful eyes full-on. While she tends to be overwhelmed by eye contact with other people, she is able to look at my phone without reservation while I record her, and the result is, well, pretty damn incredible.
I give you … Shuddup and Trouble