Philip and I had a great time at Lowe's the other day. From the start, I had been encouraging him to use his Dynavox more. Well, maybe "encouraging" is slightly deceptive - I told him he had to use it more! I think sometimes it is intimidating to him to use it in public with people who aren't familiar with how it works. Also, I think it seems sort of laborious to him in a setting that, in his mind, is supposed to be all play and no work, simply devoted to the pure joy of forklift spotting. And I don't blame him a bit for being hesitant. I understand. But I have had to crack down on him; from my perspective, going out in the community and interacting with people is the whole goal of my training with him. Having experience communicating with people who aren't completely familiar with the Dynavox is so valuable. Most of his friends at Lowe's know a little bit about it, but there is enough "foreign-ness" about it so that it's almost like being with strangers. If that makes any sense. In a lot of ways, it's a perfect situation - the people care about him and will talk to him but they don't always understand how it all works and about the fact that you often have to wait a minute or two to get an answer. So it's a little challenging because it can be awkward, but it's very good experience for him. And for the other people too.
So, yesterday, I emphasized several times on the way to Lowe's that I was expecting him to use the Dynavox in more than one conversation. And he did! Oh me of little faith.
My favorite interaction happened like this: We followed a forklift from flooring out to the front where the driver and spotter were going to deposit some boxes into a customer's vehicle. There was some sort of minor delay and we had to wait a bit, and while we waited, I struck up a conversation with the forklift spotter girl who, for those of you who know who this is, reminds me of Queen Latifah. Only a slightly toned down version. With a small amount of prompting, I got Philip involved in the conversation. He asked her, "How was your day?" and after she told him, she asked how his day was. I quickly moved over to the adjectives page, and Philip replied, "fast" and "beautiful." I was so thrilled! This is what I had been wanting to happen - real interaction - back and forth... Oh, I was so excited, but pretty much kept it all inside, just acting like this happened all the time, not wanting to embarrass Philip. Then, Queen Latifah had to go back inside, and she raised her hands like she was parting the Red Sea so the automatic doors would open...kind of making a big joke out of it... and walked inside. The adjectives page was still scanning and suddenly Philip clicked on the word "open" and then almost immediately afterward "funny." I said, "Yes!" and laughed aloud and wanted to jump up and down point and tell everyone what just happened. I pictured myself doing just that: "He said, Open! He said, Funny!" and how, to people who don't understand what a momentous thing this was, it would sound so silly and simple...like I was spelling out the punchline to a totally obvious joke. She opened the door in a funny way. So what? But to have the right word - not to mention wordS- available at exactly the right moment is so rare for him that I was just practically falling on the ground with joy! Instead of simply laughing about it, he got to comment on it, and thereby participated in it. To participate in a joke is such a basic event for most of us that we hardly consider what a privilege it is to communicate about humor.
I've thought since then about how there are moments going on like that in all corners of the world - moments of something small but wonderful happening, and somebody noticing, and wanting to shout it triumphantly to the whole world...but most of the world doesn't understand or appreciate the deep joy and satisfaction connected with it. And it made me even happier to think about that. For all the sorrow, disconnectedness, mis-communication, limitations and suffering in the world, there is a vast amount of unheralded good. Boy, I feel like Andrea, with all her philosophy about the connectedness of man. :)
And even if most of the world doesn't understand or appreciate the significance of this small but illuminating event, I'm going to tell it anyway...because I know at least a few people will have the imagination and insight to understand and smile about it.