When Words Get in The Way.

There was an industrial grey, steel book case against one wall of her office, directly across from her desk.

And, there were lots of books jumbled together on the shelves, including several of the Carl books, written by Alexandra Day.

I bought two of the Carl books for my son when he was still a baby.

I’ll bet that a lot of other moms did too.

The books are all about the pictures illustrations and nothing about the words.

Which is part of the appeal to moms who want to introduce a love of reading to their very young babies children.

The Carl books also show us the different roles that dogs can have when they are a part of families.

When we think about the Carl books, we think of them as books for children.

I know I did.

Until the other day when I went to visit my friend who manages the Pet Connections Program. It’s an animal-assisted therapy program that the Ontario County ARC has just started. 

And, I remembered that sometimes, words just get in the way.

The way they did for me when my son was still in elementary school where some things were hard for him to figure out.

Like walking into the school cafeteria where a wall of noise from more than 75 kids talking with friends while they opened milk cartons, dropped lunch trays onto tables, tore wrappers off of straws and sandwiches and yelled across the cafeteria overwhelmed him.

Not only was it impossible for him to walk into that cacophony of noise, it was equally impossible for him to explain why he wasn’t able to.

Riding the school bus? Another nightmare of unfiltered noise that was too scary. Too much for him to handle every day.

When you’re an eight year old little boy, you don’t have the words for this. And, when you’re the mom, you find yourself walking through a minefield of educational language in your efforts to help your son.

You know some of the things you’re supposed to say because of your own teaching background. And, while this might have given you a head start in those early years of getting your child ready for school, you never relax.

Because the things that are easy for other children are achingly hard for yours.

“It’s not supposed to be this hard for him”

If I had a penny for every time I said that to myself, I’d be a millionaire today.

I knew how to make the educational system work for my son. I never fought the existing programs for special needs kids or railed against what other parents banged their heads against.

My attitude was,  “Let’s identify the problem and then come up with the support systems that will work.”  It’s better to play well in the sandbox than to play alone.

When some of those systems began to fail my son, I learned to think outside the box which is how we ended up ditching the Ritalyn and the anti-depressant that a pediatric neurologist had prescribed.

I had to throw out all of the words that were part of those failed systems because they no longer fit the alternative therapies that became an integral part of my son’s lifestyle.

Over the years, I tossed out a lot of words that didn’t fit; that wore out their usefulness or that simply didn’t work anymore.

Sitting in my friend’s office, I felt the weight of my experience shifting.

I realized that sometimes it’s not the words that are important. Sometimes, it’s the pictures that tell the story. When someone says, “I can’t read.”  And my friend says, “You don’t have to. You can look at the pictures and read the story that way.”

Then she pulls two Carl books from the shelf and offers them to a woman whose face is etched with fine lines of experience, framed by stunning silver hair.

Someone who might be an older sister, an aunt or a grandmother. Someone who is clearly not a child.

And I feel like I’m falling into all of the spaces between the words that make up their conversation – and all of the years that felt hard to me while I was raising my son float above me, like balloons that suddenly set me free.

















Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *