Bud's in a good school district, which means that the children have always been expected to do a lot of writing. Because Bud struggles with fine motor skills, he often dictates his compositions to an aide, who either writes or types his words for him. In the early grades, Bud used these exercises as an opportunity to script and he would often come home with pages and pages of dutifully transcribed episodes of Teletubbies, Sesame Street or Blues Clues.
As Bud got older and his echolalia became more sophisticated, he began mitigating scripts in his writing, swapping out details from the scripts with details from his life, so that the writing appeared to be original, but really wasn't. He got so good at it, in fact, that at this year's parent/teacher conference, his teacher proudly showed me a story he'd written about a trip that he and I had taken to a farm. Of course, we hadn't taken a trip to a farm. I recognized the framework of the essay as a direct lift from Elmo's World.
Some of the essays I saw at this year's parent/teacher conference, though, were not scripted. They were Bud's genuine attempts to tell a story - but they were not always true stories. They typically started with a germ of truth - he'd start with an event that had actually happened - but then he'd veer off into a story he seemed to find more interesting. Sometimes - I'm guessing when he'd had enough of the exercise - he defaulted to a script as the essay reached its end.
Last week, a stack of papers from last semester came home in Bud's backpack, and among them I found this essay:
I Went For A Ride With Mom
My mom and I went for a ride to return spoons that we used for a party. So we went to Kiki's cottage which is on Placid Lake, and we returned the spoons. Then we had to go to the gas station and fill up the tank.
On the way I listen to music on my ipod. My favorite singer is Dierks Bentley. He sings country music. Then we headed back home, but on the way mom hit a big mud puddle and the windows got all muddy.
I like to go for rides with mom in her car. I get all excited when mom says, "Lets go for a ride." I think mom's car looks like a red apple. I love to look out the windows and watch the other cars go by.
I was completely blown away.
The essay is well-written. It's well-organized. The language is sophisticated. And the story is told exactly as it happened. It's not a story his teacher would have known, so she could not have prompted him. It's got to be all Bud's.
I've re-read the essay a hundred times, and I'm still not sure which part of me is prouder: the writing instructor or the mom.