It’s two thirty on a Thursday. The other teachers are making their way out the door and the boys are either racing home to change out of their uniforms or refusing to leave their desks because they don’t want to go home yet. I’m not going anywhere. I’m waiting for my classroom to clear out and then I’m going to fetch a second grader from his afternoon nap next door to lug him back to school and teach him how to sign the alphabet. The one and a half semesters of sign language I took my first year of college are suddenly coming in handy…
This particular boy, his teacher tells me, is the slowest in his class. He doesn’t talk. He grunts and points and gestures to communicate. I’ve gotten pretty good at understanding him. Actually, I can decipher just about everything he says to me. But now, we’re taking the way he communicates to the next level. We’ll see what happens from here. I don’t know why he can’t talk. I suppose it could have something to do with the fact that he’s never had a family to speak of. Maybe being in institutions his entire life has stunted him. Or, perhaps, some other form of trauma, neglect, or abuse has left him unable to put his thoughts into words.
He’s a little teddy bear to me. He’s the only boy who hugs me on a regular basis. The others hug me, but he’s consistent, so obviously he’s already won me over. When his teacher requested that I work with him after school, saying “yes” was easy. I’m not sure if this little guy will ever be able to speak coherently, but I’m optimistic that he’ll continue to improve. He’s able to (mostly) say the majority of the letters as we write them down and practice signing them together. We’re already making progress; I’ll start to sign a word and he’ll start grunting, indicating that he can do it on his own, he doesn’t need me to show him how to sign “B-O-Y.”
This is my latest project.