Friday, March 5, 2010

The Conversation

Scene: A cold Monday evening in Michigan. Daniel's weekly group session. His therapist was working on conversations between the boys. Daniel is quite a bit older than the other boys but his speech is much more impaired than theirs. Despite their young age (and Daniel's giant body in very small chairs) their speech helps pull him "up", in my humble opinion. The therapist sets up a conversation between Daniel and a boy I'll call Sam. The subject; Mackinac Island, Michigan. There is more about this magical place here. The therapist has helped them with canned beginnings and transitions, well for years in Daniel's case. I was listening to this over a speaker while in the waiting room, I could not see them. I also do not claim to have 100% recall (as IF!) so let's just say the "spirit" of it is correct.

Daniel- Have you ever been to Mackinac Island Sam?

Sam- Yes, I have, have you ever been there Daniel?

D- Yes

(thought bubbles over their heads)
what's next??
do I continue?
when will it be 6:30?

D- There is a Grand Hotel there. Have you ever stayed in the Grand Hotel?

(are we seeing the scripted parts? and transitions?)

S- No, I've never stayed there, have you?

D- Nah.

S- I've ridden bikes all around the island. Have you?

D- No, I rode on a carriage ride. (thought bubble- it's a LOT less work that way)


D- Do you like the ferry?

S- What fairy, what do you mean? (this is an example of a huge problem with speech and conversations for those on the spectrum. Homophones are very confusing. I believe Sam was thinking of fairy of the Tinkerbell kind)

D- A ferry like the Arnold Transit Company. (this is seriously what he said!)

S- oooooohhhhhh.

D- Where did you sit? Do you like to sit on top?

S- Oh, I sat on top and I thought it was sort of creepy!

D- I sat on top. And I sat on the bottom, inside, when it was raining.

Then a lengthy conversation started about the seating on the ferry. By the windows, in chairs, outside, inside. I have honestly never heard such a long exchange. I never heard the therapist interrupt or interject anything. She might of been gesturing to continue, but she didn't say anything. By this time I was laughing out loud. Part of it was it the joy of hearing my oldest son, at age 13, engage in the longest conversation I've ever heard. Part of it was the autistic idiosyncrasies that were in there and were, in my opinion, adorable.

All parents "really" don't know if their child will grow up to get married, be able to hold down a job and live independently. Let's face it there are a lot of deadbeat 40 year olds out there letting mom still cook and clean for them. No one thinks that will happen to their child. But parents who's children are not special needs, do know that they can converse with their child. They know that their child will be able to appropriately express their needs. Those parents know that they will be able to talk to them about their hopes and dreams, and often take it for granted. We don't all get to do that. And when your child is particularly challenged in these areas, it's almost as you don't DARE to hope for it. You work at it, you try, you encourage. But if you hope too much, will it be more difficult if it doesn't happen? I suppose I try not to think about it. I am a "put one foot in front of the other" sort of girl. But in that dark, dank, depressing waiting room that evening, I was laughing and crying by myself. Then the therapist walked out at the end of the session to talk to me and her jaw was LITERALLY hanging open. She was shocked. And thrilled. And amazed. That is the really amazing thing about raising all kids. You never know. You really never do.


Liz said...

What a great story! And as a year-round Mackinac Islander, I'm thrilled that Mackinac helped bring it out! Good luck.

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

Daniel did so well there! I definitely understand how hard-won the conversation ability can be. It took Nigel many years of therapy and work to get to where he is, and I'm sure it has been that way for Daniel too. I do the laugh-cry thing all the time!

Amy said...

I love this. I loved it when you told me and I loved reading it (and hearing it again).

JoyMama said...

What a glorious conversation! Wow.

Michelle S. said...

Thanks everyone. I am so proud of him he is doing amazingly well! Thanks for the encouraging words.