Five Minutes.

I think I’ve mentioned this before.  I have very little experience with other children.  This rare interaction with others leaves me insulated, without a comparison meter for my own son.  I’m okay with that.  I can live a fairly happy life without the inevitable comparisons that would occur were I to see neurotypical (NT) kids his age day in and day out.  I’m pretty sure now, that I would be extremely depressed if I was regularly exposed to these little NT kids on any type of regular basis.

My group of friends with kids is rather limited.  Truthfully, I only see two other mothers regularly, one of which is the mother of another child on the spectrum.  She has given me immeasurable guidance from the time we first received the diagnosis and is one of the smartest and nicest people I know.

The other is my son’s friend “B”’s mom.  B is a quiet boy and, like my son, pretty happy whenever I see him.  He is also exceedingly patient with my little boy whenever they are together.  B’s mom is equally kind and thoughtful.

I do have other friends most either have no children or their own children are grown and gone.  One of those friends, Lisa, has a two year old grandchild.  She helped me tremendously when my mother was ill.  Lisa has known my son all his life and accepted his diagnosis of autism without so much as the blink of the eye.  She’s actually watched the little guy at his preschool before ABA started and after the bad nanny left.

Lisa has a grandson.  A little boy she adores.  We’ll call him Sammy.  Sammy lives very far away.  She speaks often about how she gets to Skype with Sammy and how much she loves and dotes on him.  I’ve seen the pictures and, in real life, truly, the boy is adorable.

Well, Sammy came to visit Lisa.  He is just two years old and tiny by comparison with my son.  She promised to bring Sammy by so I could meet him.  True to her word, on Friday afternoon, she dropped by with her husband (equally as sweet) and Sammy.

I had been feeling pretty good about my son’s progress.  He is about to start play dates in preparation for kindergarten.  He’s been working on play skills.  He’s talking more in social skills class and speech and at preschool.

So.  In walks Sammy.  All less than 3 feet and maybe 25 pounds of him.  He’s carrying a blue balloon.  Without hesitation, he walks directly up to me and hands me his balloon, trying to give it to me.  Precious.

Okay – I think a lot of you know where I’m going with this one.  Sammy makes eye contact with me.  This freaks me out a little.  I mean, come on!   He’s barely two.  I think my own kid was Sammy’s size straight out of the womb.  I felt almost like I was in one of those Look Who’s Talking movies.

Next, Sammy says hi to my son.  Really?  What the hell?  Uh, Tootles, say hi to Sammy.  “Hi Tootles,” my son says.  No, no.  Say hi to Sammy.  “Hi Tootles!” he says again.  Sammy heads straight for the toys that were out.  Tootles was in his ABA session and the tutor simply turned the session into a little mini playdate.  She was prompting language.  Not between both of them – for my son…

Garbage Truck to Plastic Raceway...

Sammy started playing with a battery-operated garbage truck called Stinky.  My son played too.  They seemed quite happy together for about 10 seconds.  Then, my son backed off.  Sammy expressed an interest in a plastic raceway set on the floor in a plastic container.  Sammy opened it.  My son took out a section.  Sammy asked the therapist to build it.  Lisa encouraged him to ask properly so he added the “please”.

One tuned out. The other tuned in.

Sammy eagerly watched the therapist attempt to build it.  My son held his piece of the track and looked at it.  My son did not make eye contact with anyone.  He did not really speak.

Totally tuned out...

While they “played”, Lisa attempted to talk to me about Sammy’s itinerary.  He is such a sweet boy and so articulate that I thought it would be nice if the boys could play again (i.e. if my son could learn from this kid half his age).  It looks as though they might be able to return.

Lisa was in a hurry because they were meeting someone for lunch.  They left.  My son had to be prompted repeatedly to say goodbye.  A  few times he said goodbye to himself, much the same way he’d said hello.

This was a hard blow to me.  It kills me to see a child half my son’s size, weight and age, with constant eye contact, communication, articulation and relevance.  It hurt.  Bad.

It was five minutes or less.  It showed me too much.  Too many differences.  It was like a strong light shined on something I did not want to see.

Yes, that’s the real world.  A world that passes my son by at a lightening rate of speed.  One in which he tunes out to observer in place of participant.  A world where he goes quiet.  A world that I had successfully avoided for the most part, until yesterday.

My tutor understood.  She encouraged me that my son will get there and that we are well on our way.  I wished I could muster up that kind of positive spin on it.  We’re on our way to social skills of a two year old.  Instead, I feel helpless to help my son play like others, to speak up at appropriate times, to express his feelings.  I can only watch him retreat and cry inside as his mama.

Please Lord, let him master this skill.  He needs this.  He needs to catch up.  Even if it is not time now for the answer to this prayer, please give me the strength to support and nurture him as I should to help him through the days that will come.

Amen.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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17 Responses to Five Minutes.

  1. Teresa says:

    Sending big hugs your way. Unfortunately, there will be days like this when you feel like your child is pretty far in left field. But fortunately, you’ll have better days.

    Over the years I have been around a lot of children. Nieces, nephews, friends, and school mates. One thing I know for sure. Each one is different. We can put kids side by side and even when they physically match up they will be at different levels of maturity and will act accordingly. Some of them catch up, some not quite so much.

    Some examples: When my daughter was 5 we watched my nephews for the summer. Daughter loved school work, would work with the program for brother, and was one of those who always wanted to please. Nephew, same exact age-born one month apart, could not write his name, had a much shorter attention span and generally tore through the house like a bull in a china shop leaving a path of destruction. Both normal children but both very far apart in maturity.

    Another one that I always think of. When I was in college there was one girl who just always acted goofy. She was a year behind me and I spent some time as her mentor when we were at the hospital. She did crazy things and managed to irritate the doctors to no end. Finally, she was made to drop out for a year. The next time I ran into her she had not only managed to graduate but was on her way to becoming supervisor. She told me she just wasn’t mature enough those first few years. Another perfectly normal person who just was slower to develop.

    We moms all want the best for our children. One thing I know for sure my son has taught me is how unique we all are.

    Patience. Your son will grow up to do great things.

    • solodialogue says:

      Thanks for your support, Teresa. I needed your perspective today. I think Sammy may be a little more advanced that kids his age but it was a hard blow. Patience has never been one of my strong points. I guess I’ll have to try harder!

  2. Grace says:

    I have been in your shoes, and I completely understand what you are saying. When my sister brought my nieces to visit last fall (one of whom is 3 months older than my son, the other almost exactly 2 years younger) I watched this kind of thing for two weeks. I love those girls TO THE GROUND, but they are both light years ahead of my son. It’s very difficult not to get discouraged when reality smacks you upside the head like that.

  3. Brian says:

    Guess what? Our church had 3 other boys born within 4 months of AJ. I feel your pain.

  4. Awww Karen, those days really, really suck. I’m so sorry. I don’t have any wise words about how to deal with it- I honestly avoid other kids like the plague by dropping A. off at the door of his preschool room when possible and making Brian take my turns in the church nursery.

    The “look who’s talking” reference cracked me up. It’s true, they’re like little aliens.

  5. C... says:

    Great prayer. When he starts school it may seem harder at times but once he makes more friends I think he will become a lot more social and make more eye contact. My son is 10 and he still sometimes withdraws, mostly other adults, but he’s come leaps and bounds since he was put in the self-contained Aspergers classroom. He does more than I ever expected, there is hope. Don’t despair.

  6. Amanda says:

    I had been feeling pretty good about my son’s progress.
    (…)
    So. In walks Sammy.

    *sigh*
    I know just what you mean. Things got a lot easier after I spent about 6 months as my son’s aide in a regular class. (That was back at the beginning when services were dragging their feet about the financing. Long story.)

    Anyway, that gave me plenty of time to observe “normal” children and it helped me realize that social intelligence doesn’t necessarily translate into success, academic or otherwise.

    So those comparisons don’t happen as often now but it still hurts when they do. They still make me feel like I was cheated out of the Hallmark child raising experience that everyone loves to gush about. But only for a short while.

    Then the lessons I learned in his classroom come back to me.

  7. Brian says:

    Oh, me again, what we have learned and are struggling to apply is to still feel good about what he does, regardless if it’s way late or an atypical thing. Okay, I’m going to stop cyberstalking these comments.

  8. eof737 says:

    “Please Lord, let him master this skill. He needs this. He needs to catch up.” I feel for you and understand the pain of comparisons. I pray that your longing is heard and met. Everything in it’s on time. Don’t despair. 😉
    Eliz

  9. I can also sympathize with you, Karen… but you’re giving T so much and you and “his people” are working hard to get him where he needs to be. I have no doubt that it will happen. It’s just going to take time.

    I know how the patience thing rolls too — you want it all and you want it now. I want so much for Little Miss to play pretend with me with that gosh darn farm set… but **that’s** going to take time. So darn frustrating!!

  10. Melissa says:

    Definitely been there. Still.

    To be honest, from the time my daughter was born there has been an honest comparison between she and her cousin, who is 18 months her senior. They’re both girls, and both big for their age and only children. So it was a sort of natural “go-to” for keeping up … And then not so much.

    Then it was other kids in music class or kids gym…. One could walk circles around her… another comparison… she eventually got to her feet. And started running. Then they all started talking… She – not so much.

    Now it’s more at the park than anyplace else – well and gym class, but there’s not much time to notice too much there, too busy running. Her peers’ play is becoming much more language based…. and she can’t keep up. Occasionally she’s good for a game of chase, but for them it becomes a game of pretend… for her… she doesn’t have the language mastered yet to play on that level. Not yet. So we try to give her the language she needs. That works with kids she knows. In smaller situations.

    The truth of the matter is, comparisons are always made. There are those at her school, in her class… who compare their kids to HER.

    T’s progress is still his progress. And you appreciate it more because of how hard you/he strive to get even the (seemingly) little things.

    • solodialogue says:

      Oh Melissa. Comparison is so hard when you are not prepared for reality. I think now that I’ve experienced it hard, I may be more prepared for the next time. Maybe it will hurt slightly less. I do hear you though with all the places the comparisons will happen. And as long as we keep focusing on the positives of our own children, the better I think we’ll be able to deal. 🙂

  11. Deanne says:

    Oh I know how you feel!!!! The boys have a cousin, Julia, who’s a year younger than they are and she’s physically larger than them as well as lightyears ahead of them in terms of social skills and language. It blindsides me completely when I see them together. *Hugs* – I know it’s tough! One thing I did have that you don’t however, is that my guys are twins. So right from the word go I’ve told myself over and over – no comparisons, no comparisons, no comparisons… (ad nauseum). Not comparing is the only things that’s kept me sane. This week has been the first week that Owen has reliably waved goodbye. He’s 5. And it’s not really a wave, it’s more like ‘jazz hands’, lol. But he does it everytime we say goodbye now and it makes me cry with happiness everytime I see it. Focus on your little man’s achievements, enjoy them, celebrate them. They’re your successes too.

  12. Jen says:

    Aww…don’t feel depressed. Tootles will get there, too. He’s just working at his own pace. I have two little boys. Although they are 41/2 and just 3, the little guy is WAY better in social situations. He amazes me everyday. My oldest boy has sensory and speech disorders. He also amazes me everyday…because he’s making SO much progress from where he was. Having the little guy showed me what to expect from a “normal” child. So I do see the differences everyday. But I love them just the same.

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