One afternoon, four weeks ago, I get a text from Johnny’s EA (Educational Assistant)
“Johnny wants to read this on February 18th for Ash Wednesday in front of the school, can you practice with him till he has it down to a fine art please?”
I am a tad shocked and quickly text her back and ask if he volunteered.
“I asked him and he replied yes, very excited about it. He is amazing, I see his confidence grow every week”
When I attended a school Mass before Christmas I noticed that students from the other Grade 2 class were one by one going up and doing the responsorial readings. Johnny told me about it later and was excited to see some of his friends doing that. Then when we were doing a preparation day for “First Confession” or Reconciliation and we were in the church doing pretend re-enactments with some of his classmates, he went over to the lectern and grabbed the thankfully turned off microphone and said loudly to the parents that were sitting and waiting in the pews:
“I’m speaking into the microphone in church and now I’m going to sing because I’m a Rock Star” with a big smile on his face.” I just thought that he was “being Johnny” and enjoying the attention while doing something with his friends. I didn’t know then he wanted to do a reading.
So for the next 2 weeks, everyday at school the teachers had Johnny practice reading it over and over again. When the Speech Pathologist from the School Board for his motor speech therapy appointment, she took the reading and worked on his articulation because the “p” sound is still a challenge as well as the “k” sound. We had him read it, record his voice and listen to his voice every night too.
Because we are in the middle of deep freeze, Mass was held at the school and parents were invited to attend the Ash Wednesday service. I declined because I knew he was going to be nervous. Memories of the many attempts of the presentation of his Shark Report he made even though he was the very first child to volunteer and how we had to help him pre-record his voice to his iPad presentation so he could finally just hold up his iPad infant of his class and press the start button and hold it in front of his class. I asked one of his teachers to be sneaky and pull out his smart phone and try and record Johnny for us.
So last Wednesday, I get a text during Mass from his teacher telling me “He did it!!!!” He told me that the audio wasn’t very good because of where he was standing and videoing using his phone but that’s okay because I at least saw the video of Johnny actually standing in front of nearly 500 children and teachers and wait for his turn to read and then read to the school. I was happily surprised that he finally did it. Someone pinch me quickly because just four years ago I was still praying that speech would come to him and he would be able to talk to everyone.
Later when I watched the video I can see how after he turns his body so he can stand and look out at his peers and staff (and his baby sister in the crowd) and enjoy the moment. Then you can see his body become dis-regulated as he suddenly becomes clutsy and has to lean back and reach out and hang on to the table behind him. He then bumps into the girl next to him and then finds himself slowly in space. He then rubs one eye and then swipes his hands quickly across his eyes as he stops himself from having tears in front of so many people he knows. I could see him pull himself together as he acknowledges his big breakthrough. So proud of you sweetie!