I’m seeing some amazing things happening with my son. It’s a little oddly consistent with last year’s birthday. I remember feeling like some major progress was happening then as well. It’s almost as if he recognizes the milestone of a birthday and steps up to the plate to make it clear to me that he is progressing.
Last year, when my son turned four, we were about one month into his official diagnosis of autism. Our nanny was on the cusp of flaking on her job for the last time and leaving for good. Meltdowns, were a regular feature of our day – some of a colossal nature.
Despite these things and before any ABA or speech or occupational therapy began, I could already see, with his exposure to other children in preschool, a boy who was learning to sing, laugh and play with other children, do tons of art projects, and read beyond the age of any neurotypical kid two years older.
We took a trip out of town back then and had some meltdowns with the elevators and escalators at the hotel. Overall, though, the trip was a success. He enjoyed it. We were making progress from when he was 2.5 and we took him and he would not leave the hotel room, screaming every time we set foot outside the room’s door.
Of course, there were many aspects of my son that were far behind the other children. Last year he could not write at all. He would grab a crayon, scribble two lines and quit. He did not talk much except for a lot of echolalia. He was not potty trained at all. And he was still melting down on a regular basis, probably a few times per week.
I often felt like the potty training would not happen. I have washed many a pair of little tiny undies that should have required a hazmat team and burial 20 feet underground.
I thought that my son might have to learn to type in place of writing.
In a way, despite the terror and shock I felt with the diagnosis, I was vaguely aware that if I peered over the edge of the cliff, I could see a small village in the distance filled with people who would give my son some help if I could just find my way to get there.
Once we found our way, everything started changing. And this will sound strange but it felt painfully slow and then all of a sudden, he changed overnight. ABA, speech, social skills and occupational therapy helped.
His meltdowns have slowed to every month or so. Usually, I can now see what it is that is starting one in motion and try redirecting him.
He’s communicating. Still the majority of his talk is echolalia but it’s now mixed, more and more with actual communication. He’s talking to me in sentences that make sense. He’s looking at me. He says (or yells) “Mom!” waits for me to say, “Yes?” and asks questions or tells me something. He has been calling for his dad for a few months but not me. Finally, he has started. And no matter what he wants, it always makes me smile.
Let me stop there. This seems like such a little thing but to me, this seemingly small step is part of my dream of being a mom. Even before I got pregnant, I dreamed of the day I would hear a little voice calling for me as “mom”. This did not happen until just within this month. Yes, occasionally he would use the word mom in response to a question but there was no self-initiation and a lot less eye contact in getting my attention.
He is unlocking doors and stepping outside of himself, a place that he has stayed for a very long time. Each day, he steps outside of his own world for longer and longer each time he engages in communication with others. This is a major deal. And he is asking others to play with him. It’s beautiful.
He’s fully potty trained! Hooray!! We had a lot of talks on the way to his birthday that big boys use the toilet. I guess he decided that he’s a big boy now that he’s five and he’s complying. It really just started happening overnight. One day, he started shouting out “Toilet!” and heading there whenever he needed to go. He’s even made it overnight without his pull-ups! Need I say more?
Writing for him has been very difficult. He refused to put any writing implement in his hand. Recently, with a little help from OT, and a lot of help from ABA, he is writing his letters. Just as I was writing this post, he ran in here, said, “Mommy?” “Could mommy come in here?” I went to see what was up. He wrote the letter “B”. He said it was “like on Sesame Street”. (There’s an episode where the Dixie Chicks sing about the letter “B”). I asked him if he wanted to spell Batman. He did! (A couple months ago he would either have walked away or told me to do it). This is what it looked like:
Finally, we really have difficulty with restaurants. He cannot sit anywhere for any length of time without absolutely demanding to leave. There is an open air type of restaurant in the mall, that recently opened. Armed with his ABA tutor, guess what?! He sat through an entire meal with us with very little fusing. He actually ate some french fries and sat in his seat the entire time!! I was so proud of him. I think a big part of it was that he did not feel closed in like he does when we are in a booth with nothing to look at.
All in all, I’m happy that he is on his way to catching up. I’m proud of my son. Sure, he’s different from other kids his age. But he’s moving forward.
I’m finally taking in the worlds “developmental delay”. They don’t mean “development stopped” or “development stunted”, it’s just a delay. For us, the gap is less wide now. He will get there in his own time and I will be cheering him on all the way.