Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Conversation With Sam!!

Today when I picked up Sam from his summer recreation program which is sponsored by Balance Inc., a mini miracle occurred.

Let me begin by telling you about the program he is in. We are so fortunate to have a summer recreation program in our area which is sponsored by Balance Inc. Each summer during the month of July, Balance, Inc. provides a summer recreation program for children with developmental disabilities between the age of 5 and 15. This program pairs up each child with volunteers who spend each day going into the community for recreation activities such as swimming, visiting museums, zoos, nature parks and reserves, water parks, and much, much more. The volunteers are primarily high school and college age students who devote 40 to 100 hours during the month to this program. Many students use this as a way to collect community service hours. Each summer more than 30 students volunteer to assist with the 24 children who participate in the program.

Today they went to the Milwaukee County Zoo. Sam loves animals and he loves the zoo. We have often gone as a family each summer but today when Sam climbed into the car as I loaded his wheelchair into the trunk he began to tell Danielle about his day.

Now to most people that's not a big deal because most kids like to talk about what they have done or where they have been but this has always been an area that Sam has struggled with. Normally if Sam went to the zoo, we could ask him:
"Where were you today?" His typical response would be "All done." Instead of listening and replying appropriately he just lets us know that he is done with whatever he was previously doing. We would then often prompt or ask him if he was at the Zoo or a park? Usually Sam picks the last thing you say instead of answering correctly unless the intensity of that situation draws him into the correct answer.

But today when I picked him up his smile was bigger. I remember thinking to myself "Wow, that's a great smile".

But what blew me away was when he opened the door and without any prompting or questions from Danielle proceeded to tell her:

"Danielle, I went zoo." "I saw zebra" "Otters diving (and he laughed)" Danielle asked him what else did you see. He told her "Elephants (and made his elephant noise), chickens an monkeys." Then he said "Danielle, quack, quack as he put his hands in his armpits and flapped like a duck."

Both Danielle and I were speechless. This was appropriate, spontaneous conversation and Sam had started the conversation. My smile was now bigger! Sam's conversations normally encompass what he wants, "I want (fill in the blank with normally a food item)." But today he shared with us his experience, where he went and what he saw. I can't even begin to tell you how amazing that is to me. Normally Sam talks about places he's been by using an experience book, pictures and text about his trip but prompting, no questions, no experience book...just Sam conversing. Prayers are being answered!

Later in the day I asked him "Sam, where did you go today?" He told me, "Zoo, ride train." More new and appropriate information, I almost fell over. Sam rarely listens with intention in order to answer questions and he normally will repeat previous information or tell you what he would like to do but today we were hearing about his day, he was sharing his experiences with us. I went a step further and asked, "What did you eat for lunch today?" I fully expected to hear Taco Bell because that is where Sam would like to eat but not what he ate today. Instead he told me "Carrots and sandwich, peanut butter jelly."

You could have knocked me over with a feather because that is exactly what I had packed in his lunch. After years and years of explaining to people that Sam isn't usually able to express to me where he has been or who he was with or what he did...all of sudden...this event...this experience was crystal clear to him. I thought it was funny how he looked at me after his response with a matter of fact kind of look as I looked back with astonishment and joy.

I have become so accustomed to Sam's typical responses that today's appropriate responses left me in a daze of blissful happiness and amazement.

I'm not sure if it was just this experience that held enough intensity for Sam to bring all the pieces together, and even if that is the case...God just gave me another little glimpse of the possibilities.

Thank you God, thank you Balance Inc. and your wonderful volunteers, thank you Milwaukee County Zoo. Thank you Sam for always keeping me guessing and giving me those little windows of possibility to inspire and push me to never give up. Good night everyone!


  1. That is the most exciting series of events! Way to go, Sam!! Perhaps he needs to go to the zoo more often - LOL.

  2. Wow, that is so great! Its funny what some socialization does. You don't really need a classroom, just other children and new things to explore!

  3. How awesome is that!! This is what I long for from Emma...patiently waiting to get there :)

  4. Way to bring a tear to my eyes. Absolutely wonderful!

    Ed -