When you have an atypical child, the little strides they make in life seem to be so much more monumental than if a typical child would have accomplished them. For example, a couple days ago, Jeremiah fed the dog from the table. Now, if he were a typical kid, I might laugh, and then teach him not to toss the dog food he doesn’t want. Jeremiah’s not typical, and first the fact that he recognized the dog and touched the dog without trying to move him out of the way was pretty cool in itself. The fact that he held food out to the dog, dropped said food, and watched the dog eat it, is awesome and I’m jumping for joy, just as with so many other moments in my sons life.
Because events in his life don’t come as expected, we really celebrate small, fragmented moments. They are rich, memorable, and worth celebrating. And we’ve been blessed to have many of these occasions lately.
I’ve been working on playing with a ball with Jeremiah for over three years now, not as consistently as I should but…This past summer he dropped a ball and picked it up, BIG deal! I worked with Jeremiah all summer on kicking a big ball in the backyard, he tolerated it some, and I didn’t push it when he was finished. Then, I found out that his school has been working with Jeremiah on rolling a ball back and forth with a friend. The teacher would sit behind Jeremiah and roll it with his hands. Well, before Thanksgiving break, he rolled the ball ON HIS OWN to his friend twice!
Not only is rolling the ball important, but he was playing with another child. This was the main component we focused on when making a case that he should stay in preschool another year. (Ha, question whether God exists? Read what happened with that in LINK (school boards decision).) We needed Jeremiah to have a foundation of play before he moved on in school, we know this essential piece would be missing if he didn’t have more time to engage with children his age in a play based setting. And here, three months after school started, he’s playing with another child. Utter elation!
This summer play dough experiences didn’t go so well, but it’s been improving at school this year, he’s licking it, but not eating it – hey, he loves salt! Over Thanksgiving break, Payton was playing with play dough. I sat next to Jeremiah and I was able to press his fingers in it, roll the play dough, make it into balls, I made different sized squares and talked to him about biggest and smallest. He sat there and didn’t pull his hands away, or if he did, it was only momentarily, and he stayed, he didn’t flee from the fun. It was a blast! I was so happy, I sounded like a preschooler, making up songs with my daughter as we played – all three of us together. Lovely.
When Jeremiah was three, he would scream and cry when his play dough was squished or made into a different form, he couldn’t handle the change, so this is wonderful.
Another day at Grandma’s, he wasn’t eating lunch there, but she had set the table for the other kids. He has his spot he sits at to eat, and it was empty. He moved everything from one kids spot to his; cup, plate, napkin, and silverware. I think things he does are funnier because he doesn’t talk. We talk for him, “Um, you forgot about me. I’m eating here by the way.”
These are things that so many parents take for granted. They take so many moments with their children for granted, even I take them for granted with my daughter.
We Autism parents get to experience this exceptional joy when our child does something we’ve been waiting years for.
Maybe we don’t even know we’ve been waiting for it, but when it comes, we smile ear to ear, nothing seems more important in that instant. I wasn’t waiting for my son to fly planes through the air, I don’t have these dreams of my son playing football, or kickball, but when and if it happens, I can’t tell you the exultation I feel.
It’s beautiful. It’s exceptional. It’s Autism.
I owe my outlook on Autism to Ariane, Emma’s mom, and author of Emma’s Hope Book, and A Diary of a Mom, Musings of an Aspie, and other Autistic adults, and our past Developmental Interventionist, Lia*. If it weren’t for them, I feel I would be stuck in a “poor me, my poor child, my poor family” mentality. Although I hadn’t fully gone there, I definitely used to focus more on the negative and stopping behaviors than looking at the positive and working with those to help Jeremiah develop.
It’s because of these great advocates that I’m able to feel so much joy when Jeremiah gains a small skill or does something out of the ordinary. If I was focused on the negative I would be depressed and not able to see what’s really in front of me. Beauty. As Emma, the inspiration of Emma’s Hope Book says, “Autism is not a developmental delay, rather it is a different road entirely.”
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