Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Baby Steps

I believe I recently mentioned that for parents of kids with special needs, we do endure some very hard times. But the highs, even over things that seem small can be so invigorating and renewing. To me, it seems as soon as a frustration is running my life a glimmer happens to give me the boost I need to keep going. I am always, ALWAYS amazed when this happens. Partially because it always does. Some people would say it's God lifting me up, some would say the universe, some would say it's a coincidence. I don't know what it is for sure, but there is one thing that is certain. I'm glad it happens. Even beyond that, I'm thankful it happens.

That is probably way too much of a build up for what happened yesterday, but I'll try to explain the importance of it as well as I can. It's one of those things that you continue to bring your child to therapy and they work work work, and you get to a point where you think, "why am I paying this money week after week?" He works on skills in speech at school too, over and over. Then one day, in every day life, not a controlled therapy session, it, unprompted, spills out of his mouth. I LOVE WHEN THAT HAPPENS.

Yesterday, I picked Daniel up from school, as usual. I told him I didn't need to go to the bus stop because Zachary had baseball practice after school. We came inside together and he was very excited about some items he "bought" at school. Over the last few weeks they have had jobs at school. Daniel has been given jobs that he can handle easily enough. The kid loves a job. Why not? It gives him purpose. It makes him feel good about himself. His jobs have been 1. being in charge of the computer, shutting it down for the night, cleaning it etc. 2. washing down the tables in the classroom, and 3. some sort of trash duty that I couldn't quite get the specifics out of him. The kids have been getting paid in "Toad" bucks (their class is the TOADS, I don't remember what that stands for but it has something to do with totally awesome diverse students) Taxes are taken out of their earnings etc. then get to spend their money in TOADS town. They have all been working on goods to sell in toads town. Yesterday was the first shopping day. Daniel came home with an array of interesting items that will end up sitting on his dresser getting dusty, but hey, he was excited and carefully showed me each item and told me who made it. It was worth it just for that interaction!

Later, I decided that cooking was out of the question and we jumped into the car to go to Olga's Kitchen. One of our favorite spots. It's a restaurant that we can actually all find something we like to eat, even my food allergy ridden son Zachary, and everyone is happy. Hurray. When we got in the car, Daniel and Zachary settled into their spots. It was really the first time they'd seen each other since the morning and instead of Daniel's usual scripted greeting of "Hi Zachary, how was your day?" that his group therapy gave him(and he says to every person he sees, exactly the same way) he said, "How was baseball today Zachary?" I almost came out of my seat. It wasn't scripted, it sounded so completely natural and APPROPRIATE. Zachary wasn't even wearing his baseball gear anymore. Daniel had remembered that I said he had practice and asked Zachary about it at the first opportunity. After the answer, I praised Daniel all over the place about what a great question that was and how proud I was. It was truly exciting. Maybe it doesn't sound like a lot, but it is one of the basics of conversation that he has been working on for a long long time. To me, it was astounding.

Not two minutes later we were driving by a local jewelry store and Daniel said, "Dad, a few years ago we were in that store together and I was singing Beauty and the Beast under the giant chandelier". What? Daniel's sense of time is terrible. Everything to him was "yesterday". I know the way that he remembers information is so very different from ours that I truly believe things seem like "yesterday" to him all the time. I have read many many articles on this topic and they all say something different. Probably because all of the children they were studying are different. It seems that my own "research" shows that DANIEL, not ALL children with autism, but Daniel remembers episodes very very clearly but he can't determine when they happened. In this instance, he was correct. Apparently, the time he was talking about was a present for my 40th birthday which, unfortunately, was already nearly 2 years ago. Was it a coincidence? I don't think so. I've never heard him lead with "a few years ago". This is something that is worked on in his speech therapies, not regularly or directly but they keep coming back to it. For instance on Monday they might talk about what happened on the weekend. While this seems like a standard thing to do, it is to help him recall what happened that past weekend. Not a weekend six years ago when he went to Disney World. While that information can be retrieved and spouted off at you in amazing detail he, normally, can't give you any indication of where that is in time. My heart leaped again and I was still basking in the glow of the baseball comment!

I don't know what you, my dear readers, will think. Are you thinking, "wow this woman is really searching for something positive?" I hope not. I hope you understand, as I do, that to get to your goal, to improve and build on a skill you have to go a little at a time. Baby steps. Slow but sure. Hopefully on this slow but sure journey you will take the time to be thankful for the little things, understand their worth, and take in the scenery, because it really can be a beautiful thing.


Laura Grace said...

Oh my goodness... I've got tears in my eyes, because that's really spectacular. You are correct in your jubilation, my friend!

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Michelle, I'm so there with you. I completely understand celebrating the "little things" that really aren't so little - because our kids work so long and hard to achieve them. Thanks for sharing these moments about Daniel. It's wonderful!

Jeneil said...

Yes! Yes! This is wonderful and amazing and little and huge! Wow. I am celebrating with you, and completely understand the feeling when these little miracles seem to fall right out of the sky and drop in your lap. Thanks for sharing - it is truly encouraging.

Carolyn said...

Hey MIchelle,
Found your blog through another blog that I follow and was completely taken by this post. I know EXACTLY what you're talking about! The ability to recognize the gifts that we get from our special kids (like an unprompted word, phrase or sentence) is one of the blessings of being in the "A Club." I loved this post and look forward to reading more from you.

BTW, I grew up in MI (apparently about the same time you did!) and have longed for Olga's ever since I left!!! My husband swears that the only reason he'll go back there is to get some Olga's!!!

Keep up the great parenting!!!


Laura Grace said...

My mom & I are sitting here together in Decatur, and she had asked about the "competition" between you & Judy T, so I read her this whole post.

She says to tell you that at 84 years old, her philosophy of life is that little steps are so important...

now on to "The Other Blog" ;)