Friday, June 8, 2012


Yesterday was the last day of school for my Martha. It is officially summer vacation and she is delighted to envision the next 3 months lying on the couch watching endless hours of Sponge Bob and her favorite Food Network shows. Doesn't get any better...

I unpacked her backpack this morning for the last time until September and uncovered 500 more pencils than a household could ever possibly need, a priceless collection of Martha's writing and the little yellow post-it note in the photo above, folded into a tiny packet at the bottom of her pencil box. When I unfolded it and read the message I instantly teared up, for reasons I'm not sure I can pinpoint.

I have no idea who the note came from so I can only guess at the writer's motivation. The first sentence, "Keep eye contact," makes me wonder if it came from one of the special ed staff who works with Martha primarily on social communication, which is her main autism-related difficulty. She generally does okay with eye contact in a conversation, at least looking near a person's face, if not right at them, but there are times she drifts away, vocally and physically.

It's the second sentence that chokes me up, this simple but powerful statement about my dear child that is meant to boost her up high enough to shine for the world to see. I know it is true so it does not surprise me that someone else sees this in her, as well. And I am thrilled that the writer cares enough to tell Martha she is smart, wanting to bestow confidence in my little girl's ability. All children of the world should be so lucky as to have their own cheerleader, reminding them of their strengths.

When Martha was in pre-school I used to get almost minute-by-minute updates of each day at school; I felt like I really knew what she did for the two and half hours of class, what she looked like and what she played and what she said. But since starting kindergarten this kind of vision has been lost to me and I have only the dimmest sense of what Martha really looks like when she is at school. The post-it note feels like a little glimpse into Martha's day. I can see her, talking to someone but looking sideways, correcting herself and standing a little taller as she recalls that she is smart. I can see that Martha is connected to her world and the people of her little elementary school world are connected to her. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

It's a valuable reminder to us all: stay connected, remember you are strong. Keep eye contact. You are smart!

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