Writing dreams

I keep this little stamp around as a reminder… 

that anything is possible.


At an IEP meeting a year and a half ago, a member of Rhema’s team stated that she would be taught to use a stamp with her name on it.

It sounded great, but at the risk of sounding completely clueless I had to ask,

“What exactly is the purpose of teaching her to stamp?”

Someone explained that Rhema would probably never learn to write so she needed to learn to use a stamp with her name on it instead.

The meeting continued. More goals and strategies were discussed. But I couldn’t tell you what they were. I was still shell-shocked by the words “probably never learn to write.” Brandon and I had been so focused on trying to help Rhema communicate vocally – it had not occurred to us to think about writing. I just assumed that she would learn to do it in her own time just like everything else. I did not know that the possibility had been ruled out behind my back. She won’t be able to write? Really?

At some point I found my voice and brought up the stamp goal again. They assured me that they weren’t giving up on writing. It was just that her pre-writing imitation skills were not progressing as they’d hoped. With a stamp she could learn to label her papers and other items.

It felt like they were giving up to me. She was just five years old then – how could they already know that she wouldn’t write? But what did I know? I went home, licked my wounds, tried to re-adjust my expectations.

Fast forward to this year’s IEP meeting. Rhema is in a new school. Heather, the occupational therapist, presents some testing results and goes over Rhema’s OT goals. One of them is:

Rhema will trace her first name, using age appropriate lettering…

I am surprised. I feel unsteady as all of the emotions from the meeting at Rhema’s old school come back full force. Where did I put that dream? That she would write? I had long since packed it away in my suitcase of “Dreams Deferred” for my girl.

Heather has no way of knowing how much this IEP goal means to me.

There is much discussion over the goal, and a liaison from the school district challenges Heather about it several times. She says that she does not want us to have unrealistic goals on the IEP.

I feel the tension in the room. It seems to me that Heather’s professional reputation is on the line, and I think that she’ll back down or at least agree to adjust the benchmarks, lower the expectations.

But Heather is not intimidated. She calmy and confidently says,

“Rhema can do it.”

I keep my poised face on, but I’m all kinds of crying inside. Ready to bust out in a tearful rendition of “To dream the impossible dream” from Man of La Mancha.

Because this is it. This is what I’ve been hoping for, praying for. Because all Rhema needs is for people to believe in her and think big for her. (Her mama included.)


It’s been six months since that meeting, and Rhema is learning to trace the letter “R”. Today I observed Heather working with Rhema. She started off by prompting Rhema gently at the wrist. By the end of the session, Rhema was tracing the “R” independently!! It was amazing and thrilling to watch.

full prompt

no prompt

Heather told me she had a dream that she came to work one day and Rhema was independently writing her name. In the dream, she is so happy and excited that she calls another teacher over and they record it all on video.

“One day,” she says. “It will happen.”

“Yes. One day,” I say.

I have no doubt.


And I keep a little, “retired” stamp around. To remind myself that anything is possible.


Rhema's "R", traced with no prompt!


Thanks for giving me back my dream, Heather.



8 thoughts on “Writing dreams

  1. Pingback: Saying Thank You « Autism In a Word

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  6. I know that this is an old post, but I wanted to say thank you posting this. My daughter, who can write her name, was just given a stamp at school because she is taking too much time. I didn’t think that stamping her name was positive in the least, but I wanted to know why they are doing it. I believe it is for their own convenience and not at all in her best interest. Now I know to look for other limiting goals as we approach her IEP.

  7. Pingback: The letters |

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