La La Laser

Nicole, nine years old, was fixated watching her schoolmates use A.R.T. for the first time.

She saw what her pals who lacked the articulate use of their hands were doing. How they were choosing the colors, the brush, the size of the canvas. They were in charge and they were guiding rich bright colors with a flourish onto their paintings.

Nicole was so excited she rose straight up off the seat of her wheelchair, straining at the apex of her rise then gently crashing back onto the seat.

And now it was Nicole’s turn to paint. Our Tracker, always speaking with kids as if they were highly aware adults, asked, “Would you like to use the laser or the point system?” Before the Tracker could separate and repeat the terms so a nonverbal person could signal yes or no, in a voice both soft and clear Nicole announced, “La. La. La. Laser.”

At this Nicole’s aide dashed from the room hands over her heart.

When the aide returned it was clear she had been crying.

When we asked if she needed help, still quaking with emotion, wringing her hands, she said, “No. It’s just. It’s just that. It’s just that Nicole doesn’t talk!”

I said, “Well she does now.” This got a round of cheers from the kids and the Tracker.

The big reality we need you to wrap your head around is that for nine years no one knew Nicole could talk. Not her family, and not the staff of the school. When Nicole finally saw something she could do where she would be in charge, where she would make the decisions, and the results would be an excitingly intense firing within her, the power of true self-expression, she wanted this so much out came: la, la, laser.

Here’s a question for you. How many times has a kid’s first word been: laser? A.R.T. Rocks.