Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And the Winner Is....

Not to sound like a proud mother or anything, but Joey's math team won their first scrimmage yesterday and I was there to see it.  This might sound like just another day in the life, but for Joey, this is a major accomplishment.  For me, it is a miracle.

Joey is an absolute whiz at math.  When he took the SOL's last year (Standard of Learning tests, for those of you who aren't inundated with the incredibly well thought out new educational system of "teaching to the test"), he missed two of the questions on the math section.  Two!  That's, like, brilliant, right?

Okay, not only is it brilliant, to me, it's surreal.  It's like I won the goose who laid the golden egg.  Why am I so excited about a little math scrimmage?  Because, Joey, like 1 in 150 kids these days, is on the autism spectrum.  He didn't talk until he was four.  We had no idea whether he was even going to be in regular school.  This summer, I got a notice that the middle school was placing him in the advanced math class.  Advanced, people!  This is news!

I've never been any good at math myself.  I'm more of a right brained person.  I tend to think in ideas, abstracts, stories.  I have a lot of words, which might be why algebra and geometry scared me in high school.  I leaned heavily on a boyfriend in the same classes who was better at math than I was.  I got through chemistry with an "A" because the teacher was an old pervert who liked the girls to wear shorts to class and sit on his lap.  I'm ashamed to say I took advantage.  Today, he would probably be arrested. 

I think I actually wet my pants when I found out I had to take pre-Calculus in college to get the bachelor of science degree.  I barely passed that class, finding the instructor's Asian accent, paired with formulas I simply could not grasp, more than I could handle.  I quit going to class except for tests after the mid-term and I think the instructor took pity on me when he passed me with a C.  Or maybe he was grading on a curve.

Joey, on the other hand, is extremely concrete in his thinking.  Literal.  If you tell him you're ordering pizza in the morning, there had better be pizza on his plate when dinner time rolls around.  If you say it's raining cats and dogs, he'll go looking out the window to see if he can add to our pet collection.  He's finally, at almost twelve, figuring out that sometimes people are joking when they say things, but he doesn't quite get why things are funny yet.  He can't yet wrap his literal mind around the concept of how a joke works, but he's getting there and he finds the little book of jokes my parents bought him hysterical.  I so hope that one day humor becomes something he really understands.  He knows it's funny.  He just doesn't quite know why it's funny yet.

On the extremely bright side, my son is extremely bright.  If it is a subject he is interested in, like math or science, he is actually brilliant.  And yesterday, my brilliant son, the youngest member of the math team, the son who actually loves math, got to hear them call his school's name as the winner of the scrimmage.

I wasn't sure that Joey liked math team.  Every time I ask him how the after school club went, the answer is always, "Fine."  It's really hard to get more than one word answers out of him, if it's not about Mario Brothers video games.  A recent conversation he had with my mother went something like this:

Mom:  How was school?

Joey:  Okay.

Mom:  What class do you have first?

Joey:  US History.

Mom:  What's your teacher's name?

Joey:  Mrs. Rich.

Mom:  Um, what's your next class?

Joey:  Are you going to ask me about every one of them?

Mom:  I thought we could have a conversation about your school.

Joey:  What's a conversation?

Mom:  We talk about things back and forth.

Joey:  Oh.

Mom:  To have a conversation, you need to say more than one word.

Joey:  Oh.

This is a typical "conversation" with Joey.  He's a loving little guy, but he's not verbose like his mother.  He prefers to be left alone to play his video games.  Reading is a recent acquisition, as it has been hard for him to understand the concept of a story that is made up.  I wracked my brain last spring trying to come up with a book I thought might attract his interest and lit upon the Harry Potter series.  I put the first book of the series on his bed, not knowing if he would even pick it up.  To my utter delight, he kept coming back for the next book and the next book and the next book.  I think we might be seeing another major breakthrough here.

Every developmental milestone that people take for granted is a cause for celebration in our house.  While my other kids sailed through the normal steps that all children take, Joey came stumbling after in his own good time.  And overcame every single expectation I had for him.  I never give this kid enough credit.

I hear that the regional math competition will be held at our own middle school this year.  To say I'm excited, would be putting it mildly.  To say I'm proud of this kid would also be putting it mildly.  Yes, Joey is different from the other kids.  And that's okay.  Because I wouldn't trade him for any other kid on the planet.  What Joey has taught me is how to celebrate when people are different.  Isn't it amazing how we learn from our kids?

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