Progress happens

C with one of his teachers post-concert

C shares a post-performance moment of glee with one of his amazing teachers

Two years ago, my son’s previous school held a holiday concert. C had to be supported on stage by a teacher’s assistant because he was so overwhelmed. The concert was loud and chaotic, all the more surprising since his school served children who often have major sensory issues. But his reticence to be part of the event went deeper than that: he was struggling.

Fast forward: C’s current school had a holiday concert this week, and he was beaming with pride and joy, so confident and happy to be part of the show. In fact, when it was his turn to sing, he put on this deep voice and belted out his lyrics, silly as he was earnest. He even had to be pulled away from the mic, he was so excited. He danced and sang with glee.

So what happened in the intervening two years?

The concert was better planned than the one at the old school, it’s true—not so overwhelming from a sensory perspective. But his ability to participate was due to much more than that. For one thing, the staff and teachers at his new school deserve a ton of credit for helping him to become so confident.

But on top of that is this: progress happens. Naturally, of its own accord, with support and love.

It’s easy to forget that our kids, just like all kids, make progress. Sure, regression happens, but progress happens, too. It might look different for autistic kids vs. their non-autistic peers, but it’s still progress.

Progress happens.

Thanksgiving?

If you’ve read this blog at all, you know I generally try to keep things positive. The reasons for this are many, but for one thing I have no interest in complaining about my son in particular, or autism in general.

But there are tough times, and in the interest of keeping it real, I wanted to discuss this last holiday break for Thanksgiving. There were some wonderful moments and memories, to be sure, but it would be disingenuous to say it was all puppy dogs and lollipops.

This break in schedule — any break in schedule — really messes C up. Routine is his friend, and even a short break really drives him bonkers. This resulted in five days of complete hyperactivity. He was up early — 4 am or thereabouts — and going going going. This means no rest for us. At all. He has to be watched every moment.

Why? These five days were filled with jumping on furniture; writing on furniture; chewing furniture. Putting things in the oven — including an iPod. Flushing foreign objects down the toilet (plumber’s on his way today). Stomping on the floor (thankfully our neighbors are very tolerant. Or hearing impaired). Hooting and yodeling at the top of his lungs. Putting gooey things found on the sidewalk in his mouth. Unable to sit and focus for almost any quiet activity. Perseverating on times and dates to the exclusion of nearly anything else. Running into the middle of a busy street for the fun of it. Just going going going. Continue Reading →

A chat with geese

C with the geese

“Let’s see the ducks,” C says. It’s actually more of a demand, and it’s the same each time we’re at this particular playground, usually after he’s had his fill of the cacophony and chaos of other children.

We walk a couple hundred yards down a gentle hill to the pond where the “ducks” are. Actually, they’re mostly geese with a few ducks and an occasional swan thrown in for good measure, but “ducks” is C’s shorthand.

The waterfowl congregate in the water before C, hoping he’ll throw some bread in the water as most other people do. Instead, C orates.

C orating before geese

Unable or unwilling to talk with the other children in the playground, he has no problem speaking to the birds floating before him. “Hello, ducks!” he says brightly.

He’ll pick one out and ask, “What days do you want to be line leader?” (He’s obsessed with being line leader at school, so naturally he assumes everyone else — including the “ducks” — must be as well.)

Sometimes he’ll give one of them a name. On this particular day he christened one, “Duck Bird Fundun.” Although the goose doesn’t know it, this is quite an honor: “Fundun” is C’s pretend surname, so that makes the bird a member of his family.

C with geese

When no breadcrumbs are offered, the geese eventually grow impatient and start to drift away. Concerned he’s losing his audience, C picks up some bits of rock and bark and throws them in the water. He’s pleased with his strategy as the geese swim back eagerly. He’s not teasing them; he just assumes their joyful paddling and honking mean this is what they want. Upon realizing the ruse, the geese swim away for good, C staring at them slightly confused.

C in a playground with other children

Last night I pondered C’s affection for the geese. He’s not that fond of other animals; in fact, he wouldn’t even go near a friendly, trained aid dog at a recent autism event. I think he likes the geese because they gather around him, but never get too close. They won’t leave the bounds of the pond, and yet they swim just close enough to give him the sense of connection he desires. Push-pull. Engaged but at a distance.

Maybe if the children in the playground were a little more like the geese — willing to get close without intruding — they’d have better luck with C, too.