Catching Up…

“The dream was always running ahead of me.  To catch up, to live in a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle.”   -Anais Nin

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.

Having french fries at a open-air "restaurant"!

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.


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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13 Responses to Catching Up…

  1. Jessica says:

    Exciting stuff! Always nice to hear about progress.

    We’ve done surprisingly well with meals out lately. One trick I have is to go to IHOP where no one cares if a kid is loud and there are always people to watch. The other is to find a place with a water-view right on the harbor. This has worked really well so far, got the Bug to behave during two meals at nice restaurants. Shocking!

  2. C... says:

    Very awesome news! My son has and still continues to hate to write with pen or pencil but he does it and his handwriting is much improved. One device that has assisted in many was was the alphasmart typing word processing thing they let him use to write his assignments out. He hates how long it takes to write in pencil and the typing device just smooths things out a bit more. I think I can credit his ability to use Google search and YouTube video search for helping him with a lot of his spelling milestones.

    My son had the same problem with toilet training. When he would mess up his tighty whities I would fuss at him and he did not like for me to fuss over it so it has much improved and he’s not soiled underpants in a very long time. Often times he just did not want to stop what he was doing to go so it would become an issue so to speak. Kids.

  3. Teresa says:

    One of the best things about early intervention is that the gap to catch up is not as large. It’s also very helpful to write down milestones regularly (our mind tends to forget dates) and then look back as your post today shows. Progress sometimes seems so slow and yet, there it is visible upon reflection.

    Congratulations on your son’s continued growth!

  4. Those are some HUGE steps for T! Way to go, young man!

    Little Miss sympathizes COMPLETELY with the writing thing. Even her teachers tell me that she HATES coloring. She uses some of her finest avoidance techniques as soon as you put a crayon in her hand – hiding the sucker, “accidentally” dropping it, and flat out throwing it. Seeing T’s progress gives me hope!

  5. Wow, that’s a ton of progress in a year. You have every right to be proud of that little guy! It makes me hopeful that the 4-5 yo year will be a big one for our son too.

  6. Lizbeth says:

    It’s nice to stand back and take a look at how far he’s come. A long way! The handwriting is so hard to do. A. can’t stand it. We had to do a lot of fine motor skills to get his little fingers strong enough to write and even how he tries to scape out of it.

    PS–I’m playing catch-up, I hope your knee feels better soon!

  7. Flannery says:

    Awww, sweet little man. I’ve been doing similar reflecting lately, it must have to do with birthdays. They do get there…in their own time, not ours. I’m so glad there is forward movement, and that things are getting easier for you, little by little.

    Sometimes, in just these short years, I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime. Do you feel like that sometimes? We cram so much in, don’t we?

  8. Heather says:

    Yay! I love happy posts like these 🙂 He should be so proud of himself, as well as should you for all of your hard work is paying off!

  9. Brian says:

    Wow, that’s a ton of progress in a year. You have every right to be proud of that little guy! It makes me hopeful that the 4-5 yo year will be a big one for our son too. Oh, wait, is that what Christy wrote?

  10. eof737 says:

    Aww, he’s making progress and I’m glad you are paying attention to every detail… Hurray for Tootles! 🙂

  11. Trish says:

    I often find myself noticing lots of things around my son’s birthday. I have wondered as well if it is just from my focusing on him at that time. It’s so great to have the opportunity to look back and see how far they’ve come!

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