I am driving home from the first of two full day teacher workshops that I will run this week in late August. Three days ago I was on the beach in Wellfleet, Massachussetts listening to the water crashing, feeling the sun on my skin, smelling the ocean air and a welcome blend of sunblock fragrances. Now, I play the classical channel on XM to keep myself from completely losing it to the anxiety and disorientation that I feel. Making the shift from summer to fall is hard for everyone; I too cannot seem to shift my body and mind fast enough to engage in the way I know I am usually capable. My mother, who referring to this phenomenon meant to say "re-entry," once mistakenly said, "rear-entry." I think the latter term decribes the feeling best.
I pull into our driveway and park. I glance back at the bags I took with me to work and think better of taking them out right now. I leave the car and gear behind me and walk into our house. Tova and her friend Emma are at the computer looking at itunes and playing music. Declan is at the large white wipe-off board that sits on the clumsy wooden easel we bought at IKEA. Nothing unusual here. I go upstairs to change, still thinking about the board. I got my money's worth from that purchase. I remember buying it at Staples a few years ago, and though I bought it with the intention of working with Declan on it, I never dreamed of what an incredible tool it would actually become. I often scan the aisles of office and educational supply stores looking for unique possibilities for teaching Declan something new. It's impressive what one can do with a set of library book envelopes! But the board has become an institution in our household. Since it's arrival, it has played many roles, but mostly, it has become a sounding board for Declan. It is here where we get glimpses into what he is thinking, much more than we would ever hear from asking. He approaches the board many times throughout the day and just puts his thoughts down. One time, he used it to express his fear of a character on SpongeBob, which triggered a conversation about what is real and what is fantasy. Another time, Declan used it to create a multiple choice quiz for the rest of the family on how to handle different social situations. It was clear that time, that he was working through his own new learnings.
As I change into my comfortable summer shorts, I realize something. The board is really a place where he can make his thoughts visually accessible to him. Declan struggles with processing language and information, and the board gives him yet another way to work though new, difficult concepts. Further, he gets to do it at his own pace, and can erase whatever he likes in an instant. He is in control. I walk downstairs, now eager to see what deducing he has left behind for us this time. What I see is a list of what he has done and needs to do for the rest of the day, each job descibed in delightfully simple terms. Eat breakfast, go to school, come home. It looks so doable, yet school and days filled with to-do's are so difficult for him. But there it is, laid out in a list just like he learned from his favorite characters Frog and Toad. The tao of Frog and Toad, I think to myself. I smiled and let my shoulders drop to where they should be, as I often do when I learn something new from my son.