9 words

Today was our Primary Program at church. If you’re not familiar with the Mormon Church, Primary is the children’s Sunday School program. And once every year in Sacrament Meeting, our main worship service, instead of sermons, the Primary children and their teachers give a program that teaches what they have been learning that year in Primary. It’s made up of lots of songs and cute little parts spoken by children in turn.

Patrick had a part. “When I pray, I feel better. Heavenly Father loves me.”

Ok, the part was longer at first, but too long for him to say. So we broke it down into a shorter message that he could pronounce or sign without much help. We’ve been practicing it for a month.

9 words doesn’t seem like much. But for Patrick, saying those 9 words in public was an enormous undertaking!

First, Sacrament Meeting is just hard for Patrick. The lights. The people. The expectation to be quiet and still. It’s a lot for a little boy with sensory processing issues to handle. And to participate in the program, Patrick had to sit away from mom and dad. On the stand where he could see everything.

Then there was the microphone. Most kids by the time they’ve been in Primary a year, have stood up at the microphone in the Primary room a few times to say a prayer, read a scripture, or give a talk. But Patrick, because he doesn’t talk much, has not. He was both thrilled and intimidated when they stood him up at the little microphone in the Primary room to practice. He just wanted to play with this new toy. We practiced a lot with the microphone. He really liked the way it made his voice reverberate and I was pretty sure he planned to shout in loud, long echos, the words of his part.

And then, as if nerves weren’t enough for any child, there’s his apraxia. Remember that apraxia is a result of his brain injury. It means that his brain has a hard time telling his mouth how to make sounds. He understands just fine. But getting words out is a very difficult task.

Because he understands, Patrick is aware of how awkward his language is. And, although he’s not normally a shy boy, when asked to speak he gets quite nervous.

We went to a practice yesterday morning. I stayed for support, but hid out of sight. And because Patrick was among Primary friends where he was safe, he played and jumped and shouted words he knew from the songs. And, with some coaxing, did a remarkable job saying his part when his turn came.

So program day came. Patrick sat with mommy and grandma until after the sacrament was over. (Teaching a teacher how much bread to let Patrick have to make sure that he doesn’t gag and throw up didn’t seem like a risk worth taking this year.)

Then, I took him to his seat on the stand. He played at first, but kept calling for my attention. Then he was done and wanted to come back to sit with us. When we didn’t let him, he cried. Loudly. Daddy went and sat with him and comforted him and stayed on the stand for the rest of the meeting.

When Patrick’s turn to speak came, I wasn’t really sure what would happen. But, he bravely walked with his teacher up to the podium and tried to kick it while he talked. It took a few nudges to get him to speak. And then, in a tiny little voice, so shy you’d hardly recognize him, Patrick repeated. “Wen I pay, i peel bebber.” Then, when it was time to sign “Heavenly”. (He can’t say it, but the sign for Heaven is very cute and he loves doing it).. he couldn’t because the leader helping next to the microphone was holding his hands. (so he couldn’t grab the mic.) I think that was a bit of his undoing and that sign never came. But he mumbled “Fadder wuv me”, I think. And then went back to his seat.

That’s it. 9 words. But spoken before a very big congregation. A glorious acheivement.

And a bigger miracle than most people there may have realized.

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