On July 6th, after last seeing Joey in the beginning of March, I was finally able to meet with Joey in person. As I walked up his driveway I found myself apprehensive about what I was going to find when we got to work. We had been working so hard during the winter months – tackling those early kindergarten skills of learning high frequency words, counting, phonemic awareness activities, and using his AAC eye gaze device to share his jokes, thoughts, and ideas.
I had a deep feeling of dread that I am sure every teacher feels as they think about where their students are academically during this pandemic- what happened during those long months? Will we still even have our rhythm? Will we be able to reconnect? What will we need to reteach?
As I settled into our session I tried to remind myself to go slowly and to focus on my relationship with Joey instead of the academic skills. I tried… but as we got into our work I would find myself pushing ahead, focusing on skills instead of communication. I could feel my own agenda to get back into normalcy.
In truth, I probably forgot more about where the words are on the device than Joey did. During our first ten minute data sampling he only used his device about 12 times. I began to worry when we finally hit our rhythm. We seemed to find our old back and forth and we both became more comfortable. In our last data sampling Joey used the device over 20 times. He showed me that he remembered many of his high frequency words. And of course he remembered where his jokes are.
More than anything I was surprised at how off my own rhythm was. It was not just Joey that needed to warm up – I needed to remember our patterns, routines, and even needed to remind myself where words were on his device. How did I forget so much in such a short time?
I left our session feeling hopeful and excited. We will take a few more sessions to fall back into our rhythm – and we may need to create new routines and rhythms. He has gone from being newly six to nearly six and a half. We have both grown and changed and our work going forward will need to honor that.
But the worry about him losing his skills is gone. We will need to keep working to return and exceed where our work was in the winter, but I do not think I will dream about this anymore. It will come back. The skills are there and the capability is there. I am excited to see where we will go from here.