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  • Maureen Westropp

The Weasel

The drive to Chicago was slow and boring. Hauling across Interstate 70 you see all flat land and RV sales lots. But Max was digging the ride and doing well. We had about an hour left of the drive when suddenly, Samantha and I see about 200 yards in front of us, smoke coming out of the front of an 18-wheeler that had stopped in the middle of the right lane of the freeway. We were in the left lane and unsure if we should stop or keep going. It wasn’t until we got closer that we saw flames shooting out from under the hood of the truck! I had about two seconds to decide if I should stop or keep rolling. I gunned it and we drove past it. We could feel the heat from the flames against the right side of my car.


Thinking back on that, it was dangerous, and we really should have stopped behind the truck and pulled away from it. However, it was also very symbolic. Our family had gone through what felt like the fires of hell to get to somewhere good. Somewhere that everything would change for the better.


We made it through the fire and just north of Chicago to Lincolnshire, IL. The next morning was our first meeting with Maria, the S2C Practitioner, and Max’s first two sessions – one at 9:00 am and the next at 1:00 pm. It was August 19, 2021, and it was about 88 degrees in Chicago. I was excited and doubtful and nervous all at once.


We arrived at Maria’s practice, and she invited the three of us into her cozy space and explained everything to Max directly. Maria’s voice was mild and calm. Max seemed at ease in her presence and was happy to sit side by side with her at a table. Samantha and I sat behind them so we’d have full view of the letterboards and all the action that would take place.


Photo of Maria & Max sitting at desk in her office in Chicago.


We were still in the height of Covid, and Maria was wearing a mask. It was the clear front type of mask, so that Max could still see her mouth moving when she talked or smiled. I asked her if she wanted Max to wear a mask and she said no. However, Max started sneezing. He has never been able to get himself to cover his mouth and nose when he sneezes, as many years as we’ve tried to instill that habit. Something in her office kept making him sneeze, and sneeze and sneeze. He must have sneezed 50 times that day. And wiping his nose with his fingers and his arm. Oh gosh – we had barely begun, and this poor woman was being sprayed by Max and his marathon of sneezing! I was facepalming myself and started to sweat. “He’s not sick, he has allergies,” I implored her, hoping she wasn’t going to bounce us out of her office in a Covid-induced panic. But she was cool. She got us a box of tissues and kept going.


She introduced the set of three stencil boards to Max. He began to verbalize each letter as he pointed to it with the pencil, however he then started tracing the outline of each letter on the stencil boards instead of poking through it. Maria decided to switch to the laminate boards for him to begin the first lesson.


It was a lesson about sea otters and their habitat. Maria read about a paragraph then stopped and had Max spell the words otter and saltwater. He got through both with some prompting from her. I wasn’t sure what to think yet. Then she asked the question:


“There’s a cousin to the sea otter and he lives on land. What is he called?”


Samantha and I were sitting side by side, and turned our heads sideways to look at each other, both scrunching our brows as if to question each other. Neither of us could remember if that information was in the lesson Maria had read aloud.


Maria presented the third board and Max audibly said and pointed to “W”

Samantha and I looked at each other again – both puzzled, not remembering who the cousin to the sea otter was.


Maria flipped to the first board and Max audibly said and pointed to “E”

Then Max audibly said and pointed to “A”

Samantha and I quickly looked at each other again, with our eyes bugging out. Holy shizzzz – we realized he was spelling Weasel.


She flipped to the 3rd board – Max audibly said and pointed to “Z”

It sounds like a "z" when you hear the word, right?

Maria gave Max a redirect to the left – Max audibly said and pointed to “S”


She then flipped to the first board – Max audibly said and pointed to “E”

She flipped to the second board – Max mis-poked the board 2x then got the “L”

Weasel – he had just spelled WEASEL basically by himself.


Video of Maria & Max spelling "weasel" in S2C lesson.


Samantha and I had turned our heads back and forth looking at each other, then back to Max so many times, I thought we’d have whiplash. We then sat staring forward with our mouths gaping open. We were floored.


As Maria continued to read from the lesson, I sat there trying to recall if I had ever said the word WEASEL to Max. It’s not a word or animal one would normally mention. It was never in any book I read to him. How in the HELL did he know how to spell it?


He went on to spell all the following words and phrases on his first day. Some with help from Maria, and some all on his own.












4 Months




Under their arms


Pacific Ocean


We went back to the hotel and our heads were spinning. How did he just do all that? How did he comprehend all that information and turn around and spell all those words when he doesn’t even talk? And how did he sit there in a chair for 40 minutes and do what was being asked of him by a complete stranger?

It didn’t make sense. It didn’t add up with everything all the doctors and teachers and therapists had told us for the last 13 years. Was it real what I just witnessed? Was Maria somehow guiding his answers? I knew that wasn’t the case because I heard Max verbalize each letter as he pointed to it. It was still hard to believe, even though I just saw it with my own eyes.


And weasel. I couldn’t get the weasel out of my head. I knew I had never uttered that word to my son. Ever. For the love of God, how did he know how to spell WEASEL???


Read about Day 2 in Chicago Next!

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