The night before we met with Clay’s “team” at school last week, my wife told me a story. A story I hadn’t heard before. It explained how—after years of silence from the little guy—we wound up at our kitchen table preparing for a meeting to integrate a computer keyboard into his high school classroom.
A year ago, we didn’t know if Clay would be able to type. We weren’t completely sure if he could read. We certainly didn’t know he could do addition, subtraction and multiplication in his head. He hadn’t used speech to communicate in five years. I had my darker moments, but I don’t think my wife ever stopped believing that underneath Clay’s often distracted and hyperactive exterior lived a boy who was listening, learning and longing to do more with his life than he had thus far. She had spent a weekend at Syracuse University learning about typing with support. She read herself to sleep at night with books on the key techniques and stories of people with autism who had broken through the silence.
We had talked about the possibility of Clay learning to type, but hadn’t taken concrete action to get it started.
Then we rented the movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The movie tells the story of a man who—after a massive stroke that left him almost completely paralyzed—managed to write his memoir by blinking his left eye.
My wife was moved to action.
“If that man could communicate, we could help Clay do the same thing,” she told herself. That was when she put aside her fears of how hard it might be and that it might not work. That was when she made the commitment to meet with a communications consultant and get to work.
Little did we know that Clay would start typing with support on the first visit. Or that a year later, he would be typing with more than 10 different people. Or that he would be asking to include the keyboard in his classroom and outlining a curriculum that included math, world history and music.
I’m sure glad we chose that movie that Saturday night instead of Step Brothers. And so happy my tenacious wife never stopped believing.