ten – please explain this, with monkeys

Two weeks later, David and I find ourselves in Dr. Ivy League’s waiting room again, this time to discuss the results of Dora’s Educational Assessments.  This is a fancy way of saying we will learn Dora’s IQ test results, along with the results of a bunch of other tests which are not Dora’s IQ test. 

It had never even occurred to us to worry about Dora’s IQ until the Dr. recommended testing it as “part of a standard panel of educational assessments”. This suggestion feels roughly the same as when the person interviewing you offers you a breath mint.

I squeeze David’s hand as we settle in for a second time across from Dr. Ivy.  My brain keeps replaying the scene where Forest Gump asks Jenny the question we all want to know about their son; “Is he …(gulp)… smart?” 

Thankfully, Dr. Ivy begins by informing us that Dora is very bright and doing academically fine and also, P.S., she has some sort of writing issue.

To be fair she didn’t say, “some sort of writing issue.”  She said many sentences about the mechanics of Dora’s writing issue, an issue which, she explained, “doesn’t necessarily have a ‘name’, per se.”

Like all good parents, David and I ask many earnest questions. I write snippets of the answers in a fresh notebook, things like: Cerebellum. Motor Cortex. Parietal lobe.  Writing them down feels good, scientific, concrete, as if we’ve got a handle on this thing, even if I’m not quite understanding it.  How can this Doctor’s answers seem so clear and confident, yet it stills feels so vague?  Eventually I stop asking questions for fear of looking stupid. 

Thank God David is here, I think, turning the tail end of the word “lobe” into long, vine-like doodle in notebook margin. Surely David will clarify this on the way home. He is the man who taught me how a motherboard works using an analogy involving monkeys and mailboxes. 

Which gives me an idea.

“Dr. Ivy, is there a simple way we can explain this to Dora?”

The analogy she offers contains zero monkeys, but it does the job:

Tell Dora, ‘Your brain is working fine. You are very bright. Your brain knows what to write and it knows how to write. But imagine that your brain is a computer and your hand is the printer. Your printer is not working as fast as your brain is working, which feels frustrating, and that’s why it’s hard for you to write.’

The best thing the doctor says is this: “She’ll grow out of it as soon as she can type.”

Just as my shoulders loosen with relief, she adds this: “In the meantime you’ll need to request special accommodations from the school so Dora can speak her answers, or perhaps use a scribe in the classroom.” 

“Accommodations”? As in leg braces and special shower handles?

Can a kid be “fine” while also needing “accommodations”?

And what does she mean by “scribe”? Isn’t that a tool for doing scrimshaw?  Or does she mean “scribe” as in an actual person, like an Anne Sullivan?  I’m worried and confused and seriously I just want to take a nap.  I liked life way better before we walked into this stupid office, back when “accommodations” were part of vacation planning.

“So, just overall –“, I stutter, “Dora’s, like, normal, right?”   

What I mean to ask is this:

Will Dora have sleepovers and babysitting jobs and a passionate crush on some boy-band who make terrible music?

And later, will she turn into a swan who floats off to college to flirt with Ayn Rand and learn about guns-and-butter economics and, for a brief period of time, denounce daily showering as part of the patriarchy?

Will she find her tribe, forge a meaningful path, text us a photo of the Peruvian pan flutists from some foreign city square? Will she learn from heartbreak and choose reciprocal love, or will she date someone with a handlebar mustache who insists on calling David “Dave”?

Doctor, look into your crystal ball and tell me: will our child be okay, in life, forever? 

Dr. Ivy places the folder on her lap and leans toward me. She’s intense, this doctor. Formidable, even. She locks straight into my eyes, Listen. I see a lot of kids in my practice who I am worried about, but your daughter is not one of them.”  

It’s funny to think back on that moment, because, oh, how she should have worried.  Dora should have topped the list of kids she worried about.

And I should have asked more questions and gotten a second, third, and even a twelfth opinion until some explanation felt right.

The “writing thing” was a missed signal, like wind kicking up dust on the edge of town just before the big tornado.






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