“The Day She Cracked the Code”

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Lisa:  As per instructions from Bob Doman at the National Association for Child Development (NACD), we began flashing picture cards to Sophie when she was 9 months old in order to build receptive language.  Cards were flashed in categories several times a day in short, high-intensity spurts.  When Sophie was about 23 months old, Bob was sufficiently convinced that these cards were her favorite toys, and he allowed us to begin flashing word cards to her as well.  I did what I was told, but even I became skeptical.  After having presented her brain with literally thousands of picture cards and a few hundred word cards over the course of over a year and a half, Sophie gave me no indication whatsoever that she could identify any.  I tried my best to hide my disappointment, but it was difficult.  As “commander-in-chief” of Sophie’s home intervention program, I had become the head cheerleader, the morale booster, the gal sporting a whistle around her neck/clipboard in her hand/pencil behind her ear; the gal who encouraged and prodded along all of our extended family and friend helpers.  Bob responded to my frustrations by saying,  “A child attending is a child processing.”  So my family and our little army of student volunteers from Christian and Nicole’s grade school persisted.  Flash, flash, flash…

Sophie got ear tubes in the spring of 2005.  This was a critical moment in her development because all that input was making more sense since she could finally hear it well!  (More on ear tubes later.)  And then one glorious morning in September 2005, the Lord decided to let Sophie show the world that she would defy the odds.  At the time, I was working 3 days a week at the hospital and was home alone with her.  Christian and Nicole were at school, and my husband John was in Lebanon since my dear father-in-law Souheil was dying from leukemia.  God rest his soul.

Sophie and I were sitting at the kitchen table just before noon, and I had finished flashing a stack of word cards to her when I inadvertently dropped a ziplock bag full of about 50 cards all over the table.  Then my little speech-delayed, almost 30-month old daughter with Down Syndrome picked up a card and defied society’s label for her.  As long as I live, I will never forget this life-changing moment.  The Lord answered my prayers in a miraculous way as the culmination of all of our efforts finally paid off.  Sophie picked up a card that I couldn’t see from my position at the table and struggled to say, “A-a-aaapple.”  My heart racing, I grabbed it out of her hand to look.  It read, “apple!”  Stunned.  Shocked.  Almost frozen.  Tears welled in my eyes.  Was this a fluke?!  Are you even KIDDING me?!!!  Could she really have cracked the sight reading code at this age?  I frantically sifted through the mess of cards on the table and grabbed another (nose).  “Sophie, what does this say?”  She replied, “no” and touched her nose.  Again…”Sophie, this one!”  (light)  My shouting almost startled her, but she pointed to the light fixture centered above the kitchen table.  My voice now louder, almost yelling,  “Sophie, read this word!!”  (Nicole)  And she replied, “Cole-Cole,” our nickname for her big sister Nicole.  Oh my God!  She was reading!  But wait…before I shout it from the rooftops, let me make sure.  (I can sometimes be a doubting Thomas.)  I grabbed the word card “refrigerator” and showed it to her.  “Sophie, read this!”  There was no way she could even begin to pronounce “refrigerator” at this point in her development, but I wanted to see what she would do.  A big smile on her face, she pushed away from the table with her hands, thereby sliding the chair away from it, hopped off her little booster seat, ran to the refrigerator, and patted it!  I called everyone I knew that day.  John sounded cautiously optimistic as the stressful events of the day in Lebanon had taken their toll on him.  (He would later react as I did once he saw his little girl in action with his own eyes.)  My sisters Rhonda and Samia were overjoyed.  My friends Linda, Lorrie, Molly, Patty, and the moms of the other student volunteers were amazed.  When Christian and Nicole (then ages 11 and 9) came home from school, Sophie moved them to tears as well, especially when she read their names.  She read 18 words that day.

Sophie:  I do not remember this.  Goodbye folks!