“This is your last time being ‘Newbie3495.”

I was in the living room trying to keep the new dog out of the way of Howie’s home therapy session, when I heard him say this. It’s his last time with his beloved therapist Miss R.  She’s been with him – with all of us – since November of Howie’s kindergarten year almost four years ago.  She started the week when everything fell apart for Howie at school.  The week when I looked around the table and said “we’ve all failed him here”.

“I’ll log on first and then you join my world.  I’ll show you.”

Miss R gave her notice two weeks ago.  Howie didn’t react well to the news when I told him over the weekend.  He got very quiet, asked who his new teacher would be, and then walked away from me to sit with the dog.

“Okay.  Now join.  I see you!  Do you see me? Hi there Newbie3495!”

I listened to them as they talked back and forth about Howie’s Minecraft world. He had created the account for her a few weeks ago so they could play together at the end of their sessions.  Howie took her step by step through all the iPad controls, and taught her how to move, how to dig, and how to place blocks.

“Wait!  Did you fall into a hole? Let me help you out. Okay.  Come closer to me and I can help you find an emerald.”

I sat on the floor in the other room playing tug of war with the dog and his rope, and I tried not to cry.

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From my thank you note to Miss R:

Dear R,

There’s not enough thank you card space to express what you’ve done for Howie and all of us these four years.

Thank you for helping him when he would only eat four things. Now he eats Thai Hot Pots and tacos from Chipotle.

Thank you for taking his “enthusiasms” and working with him, not against him.  Thank you for drawing parts of Hot Wheels cars every time he took a bite of food so he would eat. Thank you for encouraging his invention sketches as part of his homework. Thank you for using and playing Minecraft to work on his conversation skills.  You never once disparaged them as “obsessions” to ignore and replace, but rather as a tool for connecting with him.

Thank you for working with Howie when he couldn’t sit for one minute to do his homework.  Now he completes the worksheets in five minutes.

Thank you for scribing sentences and for working through third grade word problems with him.

Thank you for playing games with Howie when losing for him was so hard.  Now he says “good game” and moves on.

Thank you for teaching him how to swing on the swings.  And thank you for all the “underdogs”.

Thank you for waiting him out when he needed space.  And for knowing when he was all done.

Thank you for coming school shopping with us.  And to restaurants. And the park.  And the sensory gym.

Thank you for implementing a “Howie” program and not an “autism” program.

Thank you for being there when our dog Rocko died.  And now when the new dog Newton came home.

Thank you for building a trust with Howie. And with us.

Thank you for believing in him.  Thank you for calling him a hero and helping him show the world what he can do.

You will be missed.

*********

At five o’clock, Miss R turned to Howie, handed him back the iPad, and said it was time for her go.  I called him over and handed him her goodbye gift to give to her.

“It’s your favorite.  A coffee mug with the Patriots sign on it.”

Then he hugged her.

“You’ve come so far, buddy,” R said. “I will miss you.”

“I will miss you too.”

And I cried.

**********

This morning before school, Howie looked up at the white board that I use daily to tell the kids their schedule for the day.

“It’s Wednesday.  No more Miss R on Wednesdays.” Howie said quietly.

“No. Not anymore,” I said.  “But maybe I can play Minecraft this afternoon with you instead?”

“Okay. Just try not to fall into any holes. But I’ll get you out if you do.”

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There’s a sad sort of clanging
From the clock in the hall
And the bells in the steeple, too
And up in the nursery
An absurd little bird
Is popping out to say coo-coo
(Coo-coo, coo-coo)

coo-coo Regretfully they tell us
coo-coo But firmly they compel us
to say good bye
coo-coo
(All)
To you

So long, farewell
Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight” – So Long, Farewell from The Sound of Music

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