“Four, three, two, one,” Emma said, in answer to my request she brush her teeth in preparation for bedtime last night.
This was different than the “one more minute” response we have become accustomed to.
“Don’t you make me come get you,” Emma said in her cheerfully mischievous voice.
After the teeth brushing routine – a compilation of various techniques and quirks from all of us: flossing first – Richard’s contribution, brushing front and inside gums first, then teeth – mine, ending with brushing the tongue – Joe’s, concluding with a mouthful of fluoride, swish, swish and then spit – Emma’s dentist. Nightgown donned, Emma raced around the house on her scooter, until I interrupted her with, “Let’s do some work, Em!”
Emma ran over to the couch where I prepared her flash cards. These were sent home to her last week and have twenty or more sight words written in black marker on pink index cards. Words such as “huff”, “puff”, “blow”, “straw”, “stick”, “brick”, “pig”, “house”, “down”, words taken from The Three Little Pigs, which is being studied in Emma’s class. A week ago I laid out three random cards and said, “Emma, pick out the word, “pig”. Immediately she picked up the index card with the word “pig” on it. I continued to go through all of the index cards, with no hesitation on Emma’s part. Her accuracy was close to 100%. I then increased the number of cards displayed to four, then five, then six. By six, Emma was making more mistakes, seemed distracted and so I reduced the field back to five. Challenging for Emma, but still extremely accurate if she could be convinced to take the time to look and not stare out the window while idly jabbing her finger in the general direction of the table.
“Take your time, Em,” I encouraged. “Look at the word. Which one is the word “blow”? I asked.
Emma leaned over and blew the index card with the word “blow” written on it. Then she looked at me and laughed.
I pointed to the card with “house”. “What does that say?” I asked.
Emma stared at the cards lying on the table and sucked her thumb. She looked away, staring out the window.
“Hey Em. What does that say?” I asked again.
“Can you pick up the card that says, “house”? I asked.
Immediately Emma reached over and chose the correct card.
As with so many things regarding Emma, one is left with a feeling of bewilderment, curiosity mixed with wonder. Emma, who still cannot articulate the words in the song “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, will chose the word “brick” when asked to. Emma who appears uninterested in any stories remotely age appropriate, who continues to struggle and squirm when asked to attend to any one thing for more than ten minutes will sit singing song after song for hours. She will look at her pile of over one hundred photographs and knows, almost instantly when one is missing. Emma, whose memory for events and people in her life continues to astound us and yet is not able to identify the number one when asked to.
This is Emma.