With autism, the term “developmental delay” is used often. I used to think of it as all doom and gloom. Lately, I’ve been feeling like we are coming out of a very long tunnel getting some light. Guess what? Delay means later – not necessarily never. It seems as though the age of 5 has come with the blooming of many new aspects to this little person that is my growing boy.
My son seems to be expressing more opinions, reaching goals and gaining ground since right around his 5th birthday. The old obstacles have become acquired skills. Even though they are things that – according to the books – he should have reached a couple years ago, he is catching up. It is fascinating to watch him do things that I had so many serious doubts that he would master.
When you are so close to something, sometimes you don’t see the changes that are happening in the same way that an outsider perceives them. From the time my son was three, I was watching for those goals to be reached. From inside that time bubble, consciously waiting, that time can seem endless. Inside it, I often had momentary doubts that my son would ever aquire the particular skill with which I witnessed daily struggles. Sometimes, I would try to think about accepting it if a goal was never reached at all. And yet? My little boy would reach the goal and beyond.
Have I quit talking about the potty training part yet? No. Why? Because it’s been an amazing month, not to have to clean poop out of dirty undies before washing them or to clean poop off my son in all the wrong spots! He now tells me he has to use the toilet and then he does it! Never did I think poop in a toilet would excite me so…
Truthfully, I had wondered if his autism was more severe than I’d thought or whether he might be potty-trained by the time he went to kindergarten. Then, with some major positive and negative reinforcement around his 5th birthday, just a little over a month ago, he just started going on his own.
So, the major goal did not happen when he was 3 when (supposedly) the NT kids are potty trained. That’s okay. I’m just grateful it happened.
Ever since he was a baby, he was more interested in breaking crayons than coloring with them. He has always despised all writing implements for their intended purpose. Now, he is not only working on writing – he is actively requesting to draw letters. We bought index cards and he’s been using them with felt markers to draw letters and write words. He loves them. He was supposed to start scribbling and writing at 2 or 3. He skipped all that and chose to start writing all his upper and lower case letters at age 5.
He has had much difficulty with days of the week. Every morning I used to ask him what day it was. It was always Wednesday. Every day. I went so far as to get him a day of the week visual aide where we would insert the name of the day every day: “Today is …” “Tomorrow will be…”
Finally, he is beginning to grasp the concept of changing days and when they happen. Now, he has been loudly announcing that it is TWO-THOUSAND-AND-ELEVEN! He follows this by asking what month it is. Since we recently had the change to July, I wondered how he would answer. First, he said June. I corrected him once. Since that time, he has said July. Oddly, of course, this was our exchange:
Son: What month is it?
Me: It is July now. Can you say July? (I always end up feeling like Mr. Rogers when I do this…)
Me: Very nice!
Son: Where is it July?
Me: (Puzzled) Well, it is July everywhere!
Son: No! It’s July at [preschool]!
Me: Oh it’s July at [preschool]?
So currently, it’s July at his preschool. I’m sure as we get used to July at preschool, it can become July elsewhere.
I just wanted to share this, just in case you might be feeling discouraged.
Progress happens. Just wait and see.