Expressive hushes awakened me when Goldi first became friends with books. I would find her sitting on her bed with many books pressing on top of her. The weight was like an extra blanket warming her with words she would mysteriously hear first only in her mind.
When Goldi read aloud, there were windy whispers, deep bellows from her belly, or fluttery songs. She knew to raise her eyebrows or brighten her eyes as she browsed the pictures. She had the storybook voice that caused me to turn up my ears. She knew herself a reader without really reading.
At times, she turned the pages as though the book lay open on a windy day. The closing of the book said” I did it. ” She could go through the motions of real reading. But it really wasn’t.
How to teach an autistic child to read? Same way as everyone else? A special way like no one else? The teacher in me offered diagnosis. “She’ll just learn to memorize sight words and put those together to make sentences. ” But the mother in me wanted to have her snuggled on my lap, finger hop over the words, and soak in a good story forgetting the world around us.
Goldi began to know stories by way of DVD. ( The Weston Woods Series from Scholastic) She couldn’t help but love those classics all “jazzed up”. I continued reading aloud- in fast forward mode because Goldi’s quick page turns forced me to cut to the chase for each story. To her, the story just breezed by.
Then Goldi , the first grader, held Frog and Toad to my eyes and said “Read this!”
Well, I thought She’ll race through this story, but at least I’ll get a chuckle from Frog and Toad.. I held dear the. humor and simplicity of the two fellows. We turned to the story about the garden. Toad wanted one just like Frog. He planted some seeds then got impatient. “Now seeds, start growing!” Toad yelled as he laid down on the dirt.
I looked at Toad wiping his sweaty head in the last picture. “You were right Frog, Gardening is hard work.” says Toad.
I lay the book aside laughing inside at the way Toad went about taking care of his garden.I took a look at old tired Frog and contemplated the hard work he did just to grow a few seeds. Reading with Goldi was hard work.
“Now Goldi, slow down and pay attention to the whole story! Now, Goldi, follow along as I read. Now, Goldi start reading!” I wanted to shout. To get Goldi into really reading, it was going to take a miracle.
I was ready to give my usual orders “Brush your Teeth” when Goldi picked up the book. She opened back up to The Garden Story. She smiled and giggled. She turned to the page where Toad was shouting at the newly planted seeds, read his words with her best Toad voice. and belted out her contagious belly laugh. It echoed throughout the house.
Then she turned to the beginning of the story and began to finger walk along.
“One day Frog was working in his garden,” Goldi read. “It’s your turn mom!”
With a scratchy stunned voice, I uttered “Toad came along and said “You have a very nice garden. ”
Goldi snuggled her head into my shoulder and tip toed along with her eyes and ears soaking in the story.
“Now seeds start growing! ” I shouted in my best Toad voice.
Goldi belted out her laugh again and rolled over in giggles.
To me, it was a little miracle shown to me by the One who is working out His glory in an autistic girl named Goldi. And it began only with two simple but glorious words- “Read it again.”
Wonder and be Astounded, For I am doing a work that you would not believe even if you were told. Habakkuk 1:5