Thursday, October 18, 2012

58 Words

This week we celebrate a milestone in Aaron's life.

The boy who was labeled severely mentally disabled is reading!

No, he isn't reading Shakespeare and he isn't racing through chapter books but  - soon people - soon!!

I'll be honest - reading is highly prized in our house.  Rob and I both were early and voracious readers and both Ben and Elijah were early and voracious readers.  Ben was so consumed with books that when he was little we had to develop a system where we read each of his books only ONCE a day and then put it on top of the refrigerator in 'time-out' until the next day.  By the end of the day his entire library was in piles on top of the fridge.  I kid you not!  Elijah was just as obsessed.  He was never found without a book from toddlerhood on.  He started reading way before we thought it possible and by the time he was in kindergarten he was giving his teacher fits as she tried to keep him occupied.  

Of course we wanted Aaron to love books.  

We dragged a bunch of board and picture books with us when we crossed the ocean and on our first day with him Rob pulled Aaron into his lap and showed him his first book.

Aaron loved looking at the books from day one!  And it was the ONLY time he would EVER agree to sit on either of our laps.  So we tried to read a LOT of books to him.

He knew absolutely nothing.  Everything we showed him in the books was a complete mystery.  We marveled at his complete lack of knowledge of ANYTHING.  We are talking a complete blank slate.  Aaron only knew about machinas (vehicles), planes and birds.  They were the things he could see and hear from his shed.  

His language skills were nil to none and no one had ever taken the time to teach him anything.  Ever.  Yet he loved books from day one.  And as he moved out into the real world he began to make connections with the pictures in those books to real-life examples.  But he had so many holes in his understanding and his language  skills bordered on dismal for such a long period of time that we wondered if he would ever move from enjoying looking at books to being able to read them.

After working with him for two years and realizing that teaching him to read was a mountain I couldn't get over on my own (despite having taught numerous children to read) we made the decision to put him in a small Christian school.  

He absolutely loves it.  He loves his teachers and all his 'peoples' (the children in his classes).  They have been amazing with him.  Our county provides no services for private school children except speech and only if we take him out of his class, drive him 20 minutes to the public school and have him take speech there.  We decided that it would be counterproductive for him to miss even a minute of school this year so we opted out of speech.  So he is in a school with no special services to accommodate his special needs and HE IS THRIVING.  They do whatever they can to make it easy for him to learn and he is learning.   And they love him.  They love him.

And this week he brought home his first real reading book. On Monday night he was supposed to read the first 3 pages.  It took almost an hour.  It was tough going as he labored through a host of short vowel words.  He was so proud of his accomplishment.  I breathed a sigh of relief that we got through the pages.

On Tuesday night he came home and announced he had to read the ENTIRE BOOK.  58 words.  I gasped.  How in the world?  If Monday night took an hour - how long was it going to take to get through the whole book.  I questioned the wisdom of pushing him so fast.


My little son sat down next to me on the couch and he proceeded to read that entire book in half the time it took him to read it the day before.  THE LIGHTBULBS HAD CLICKED ON FOR HIM.  He still had to sound out each word but he was doing it at triple speed.  Aaron is reading.  He was sick yesterday and didn't go to school so I dragged out a whole host of phonics readers and he read a portion from each book.  He was beyond happy and I was in shock.


58 words.

I need some tissue.



  1. So wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to share with us. So proud of Aaron for never giving up :)

  2. Way to go, Aaron! (Take that Eastern Europe!)

  3. AMAZING!!! Way to go Aaron :) I can't wait to see what you'll do next!

  4. Yay for Aaron!!! What a determined little boy!!

  5. I saw this post on facebook "Liked" by Jennifer Montgomery, a friend of mine (I feel like I am stalking!). Mrs. Arnold was my first grade teacher and piano teacher for 10 years. I loved her dearly. I just spent time looking at your website, and I am in tears. She would be so proud. I had to smile to myself as I was also an avid reader early and kept her on her toes in 1st grade! My son is now in first grade and FINALLY caught the bug (and can now sail thru my McGuffy Primer from Leesburg Christian School). Best of luck and love to your family. Jenny Eshelman Hunter

  6. What a wonderful accomplishment Aaron! I wish the powers that be in EE could understand that these kids are not disposable! They are not worthless. They are smart. They are loving. They struggle to succeed at the smallest things more than any of us will every truly understand in our own lives. But through the struggle, they do indeed succeed!!! They have so much potential. Thank you for sharing this!

    Sue H.

  7. WOOOOOO-HOOOOOOO! This is HUGE!!!!!! I needed tissues, too, Julia!!! SO THRILLED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. You're not the only one looking for tissues... Have I mentioned that your son's my hero?

  9. Way to go Aaron!!!! This makes my day & gives me goosebumps. I think we all knew he is astounding. He is a brilliant & strong boy.
    Eastern Europe was woefully mistaken. I'm hoping they soon catch on that people do not need to be hidden away.

  10. Congratulations, Aaron! I hope you'll read lots of interesting and exciting books, now that you're a really, truly reader!

    Julia: See if you can locate some of the Harper "Early I Can Read" books for Aaron, if he doesn't already have access to them. Your public library children's room should have them. They are great for beginning readers - simple, funny, interesting, well-illustrated, and short enough to hold attention. I sent batches of easy readers to my young cousins when they were first home from EE - now they are teenagers, and confirmed readers. The right books work!

    The world of books is going to open up for Aaron - and with it, the greater world. So happy for him...

    Susan in Ky
    Retired Children's Librarian and
    Cousin to 2 from EE

  11. well, once i dry my eyes i'll finish this comment! soooo thankful that Aaron is reading. he looks so excited. praising the Lord that this new world of reading has opened up to him. i just love his smile!!!!!!

  12. Have I told you lately how much I love Aaron!? Ya'll are a blessing to me and I only know you through this Blog. Aaron is such an inspiration!

  13. What a big boy he is! Reading is one of life's greatest joys because it will let him go places and do things he never even knew were possible (but of course you know this already). Aaron, I would love to have you come read a bedtime story to my little ones any night! Way to go big guy!!

  14. Wonderful! He really is a brilliant boy!

  15. Aaron is amazing. As a book addict and mom- I share your joy. Truly there is nothing Aaron won't be able to do if he puts his mind to it. I have to tell you that just about every post about his accomplishments make my eyes well with tears- it's so hard to fathom this child's life (or any child's life) being treated as disposable. Thanks for sharing with us and - so much- for your advocacy.

  16. Aww... Yay for Aaron!

  17. Hooray! So excited for you all.

  18. Such a wonderful accomplishment! Keep up the great work Aaron!


Loving words from kind people make our hearts glad!