Ryan and Jane are classmates for the third year in a row. When we first met Jane, in preschool, she had no language. No words at all. She was like a wild animal - all grunting and shrieking and pushing her way through the world. But if you could get her to hold still for a moment, you could tell she was a sweet, lovable little person.
On Wednesday I brought cupcakes to Ryan's class to share for his birthday. When I walked into the classroom, Jane's eyes lit up. She ran over to me and threw her arms around me.
"Hi Jane! I'm glad to see you, too!" I said.
She pointed at the door. "Kadeen!" she announced. Kadeen was their teacher last year.
"Yes," I replied, "the last time I saw you was in Kadeen's class."
I read the kids a couple of stories, then broke out the cupcakes. The cupcake liners had little pumpkins on them.
Jane smiled and pointed excitedly at her cupcake. "Halloween!" she announced.
"Yes, those pumpkins remind me of Halloween, too. What are you going to be for Halloween?"
Jane pointed at her shirt. "Pih. Pih."
I wasn't sure what she was going for. I took a guess. "Something pink?"
She shook her head a little and tried again.
"Pih. Pih. Princess."
"Oh! A princess! With a crown?"
The teacher informed me that Jane was going to be having a Halloween party.
"Halloween party!" Jane agreed. She made a gesture that I think indicated she wanted me to come to her party.
Then she tugged at my sleeve and pointed at one of the boys in the class while asking "Halloween?" She wanted me to ask this boy what he was going to dress up as for Halloween.
I relayed the message. "Hey Craig, Jane wants to know what you're going to be for Halloween."
"Uh, a pumpkin," he replied.
Jane tapped my arm again and pointed to a different boy. "Halloween?"
She had me ask five different boys about their Halloween costume plans. The three that came up with any answer at all all said they would be pumpkins; I think that was the first Halloween-related word that came to their minds.
"Halloween party," Jane reminded me. "Princess."
I am so proud of Jane. She has worked so hard over the last two years, and has come so far. She has words, but more importantly, she has a newfound connection to other people.
I can't wait to see this beautiful princess, attended by her court full of pumpkins.