Anna’s Sandwiches

Anna and Col

Anna is the light of my life and Anna has autism. I took a break from my graphic design career for three years in order to work with her and my life has never been the same (in a good way!)

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The first word Anna ever said to me was “sandwich!”

She wasn’t speaking and would sort of just wander around the classroom. I worked with her every day with books, counting ducks, asking questions about pictures and identifying objects.

She never spoke to me.

As a matter of fact, she’d be walking in one direction and if I went over to her, she’d turn and walk the other way, like a magnet repelling its identical pole. I felt pretty bad about that. Until the day the Anna’s physical therapist Christina told me it was actually a good sign.

She said Anna knew that if I was there, she’d have to communicate or something would be required of her and she walked away because she wanted to stay in her own little world and not face the challenge of me.

That made a whole buncha sense (and felt better). Even so, a small child running from you wasn’t exactly the ideal work situation!

Still, I knew that she was capable of great things so I’d read books with her anyway and keep trying to make contact. Each day I’d get Anna off of the bus, ask her to look up and talk to her about the weather, “Look up in the sky … I see blue sky … It’s sunny!”

I’d talk to her about what we were doing each step of the way so she could hear how sentences were put together, how ideas were expressed and how things were described. “What am I doing? I’m tying shoes.”

Never any response or sign of recognition.

One book had pictures of food objects all over the page so I’d point and ask, “What do you see?” No reply. I’d tell Anna, “I see sandwich … fries … apple … muffin …” pointing to each.

No response.

One day I went to get Anna from the bus as usual. I stood on the sidewalk and the doors opened. Anna appeared at the top of the stairs and as the attendant was putting on her backpack, Anna looked directly into my eyes and exclaimed, “Sandwich!”

I was floored, stunned for a second, and then I recovered replying, “Yes, yes, sandwich!”

Funny how a thing like that can make your whole day.

From then on, our conversations went something like this …

Anna: “Sandwich!”
Me: “Sandwich!”
Anna: “Fries!”
Me: “Fries!”
Anna: “Apple!”
Me: “Apple!”

(Pause as Anna’s eyes searched an imaginary page in her mind, deep in thought… )

Me: “What else is in that book?”
Anna: “Muffin!”
Me: “Muffin!”

(Another pause)

Me: “Burger!”
Anna: “Burger!”

When Anna would communicate this to others, they would often reply, “No, silly, you can’t have a sandwich now, it’s not lunch time!” and I’d tell them, “No, no, she’s telling you about a book she read.”

When we ran programs, I’d get all excited and happy if Anna got something right, I’d exclaim, “YAAAY!” and hold out my hands palms up. Anna would put her hands on top of mine and give me this gleeful look, like she was so delighted that *I * was so delighted. If she got an answer wrong, she’d look at me and ask, “yaay?”

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Carly: “ANNA is the CUTEST KID in the WHOLE school!”
Molly: “She’s cuter than a TEDDY BEAR!”

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Find out more about autism and what you can do to help children who have this puzzling disorder at Anna Rose.

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Share on Facebook :: Photo by Anna’s sister Maria, a loving, supportive and precious girl as well as a kick-butt photographer!

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~ by gigablonde on August 6, 2008.

5 Responses to “Anna’s Sandwiches”

  1. Hi Col,
    Great to hear of Ann’ wonderful successes! Inspirational stuff. Your total love shines through in everythin you do Col.
    I know your purpose in life will be a success.
    Brian

  2. Hi Col and Anna 🙂 You are probably aware of this actress/writer Jenny McCarthy. I saw her on Oprah a couple of months ago. She has made amazing break throughs with autism, you can see it at: onhttp://www.oprah.com/search.jsp?query=autism.
    Your love and encouragement of Anna was truly beautiful to read. I wish you both continued happiness as you journey through life. You are SHINING in this challenge and I feel blessed to ride the rainbow with you. much love, shoshana

    Encourage one another. Many times a word of praise or thanks or appreciation
    or cheer has kept people on their feet
    Charles Swindoll

  3. Hey Col,
    My daughter has autism or is on the spectrum at the very least.

    I would love to have you on my show and tell my listeners about your experience and what you learned along the way.
    We’ll be starting up our internet radio show again in September so let me know!
    Jenn

  4. Wonderful story of a sweet breakthrough! You express yourself so well, Col.

  5. Isn’t it amazing to see the life changing power that “love”, understanding and a unselfish willingness to apply it can create?

    You’re an incredible lady and your caring and willingness to share the love you exemplify has made a tremendous difference in the life of Anna and I know touches and impacts the lives of countless others.

    You’re a “special” gift Col and your “angel quality light” illuminates the lives of others…Big Time.

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