Julia was willing to say that it was pain, fear, and sadness that was inside of her. She said that the pain was from China. Marilyn wanted to work on the pain to bring it out, to talk about it, to draw about it, but Julia was not willing to go further. She was willing to say that if there were three volcanoes inside of her (we are working on her past and her feeling using a volcano work book that has been very useful to Julia), the pain volcano was the biggest, the fear volcano was the middle size, and the sadness volcano was the smallest. I did not understand the sizes she assigned to her "volcanoes" but Marilyn thought that those sizes showed progress for Julia. She thought that the small sadness volcano might indicate that Julia has been able to share and integrate some of her sadness, and Julia is very willing to talk about missing her Daddy, her friend Abby from China, and her grandmother (Babja) who died two years ago. How I hope that we can chip away at that pain volcano and let her out from under that burden.
Julia's reading really does get better all the time. It is amazing. Like a switch turned on inside of her head! I remember Cheshire discovering reading when she was about 4 and wanting to read everything in sight. That is how Julia is these days. She wants to read things -- signs, newspapers, old letters, anything that strikes her fancy. Her actual reading is still slow and choppy, but looking at a new book she remembers many words and picks up new words quicker and quicker. She is also asking to spell. I have kept her away from the spelling work that they do in school. I didn't think it was appropriate for her to be memorizing spelling when her reading needed so much work. Mainly, I didn't want her to be turned off to reading or writing in any way. And I was afraid that boring spelling exercises, which was what was proposed, would turn her off to any spelling work at all. As it turns out, she is interested in spelling words she uses in stories. This summer we will work at a little spelling. Maybe starting with 3 or 5 words taken from what she is writing or reading. And with BIG rewards for learning them and getting them correct. Ah, tricking her into interest!
I was at a meeting yesterday about a presentation for a LEND seminar. I've participated in a very small way in some committee work that Connections -- a large statewide group -- does (http://www.waisman.wisc.edu/connections/index.php). A program director and a project manager will speak and three trainees. I have a bit to say but what surprised me was that I was able to add some interesting thoughts to the meeting. Oh, I know that sounds so lame! But here I was with people with much more experience and training in the developmental disabilities field and I was able to contribute to the conversation. I am sure I have done this before, but I noticed it yesterday. And it did fill me with joy. Maybe I do have something to contribute.
I talked to my LEND mentor about my plans for next year. I was honest about wanting an fallow year with only a bit of learning and some retained touch with the Waisman Center. I spent time on Wednesday observing an intake visit for a family looking to find out if their son is on the spectrum. Working with families is not easy work but boy, it is what I want to be doing. When I go back to LEND I want clinical work, in whatever capacity I can do. I have grown sure that I do not want to help with research or policy, I want to work with families.
And so pieces of my puzzle of next steps and how to get to where I should be are falling in to place. Slowly, and not without great deliberation and many experiences, but it is happening. I cannot forget that I see it happening, especially during the times that seem I am so stuck. Everything in my muddle of a life -- grief, family, loneliness, livelihood, home, companionship, community, art -- are a swirl right now. The change that I am committed to living in and with is hard, and sometimes I don't want to be strong enough move through the muddle with sure and steady feet. But I can, I am, and I will.
Yes, although joy is illusive and fleeting, strength is returning.