July 1, 2013

Benchmarks

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , at 10:39 am by autismmommytherapist

Summer 11 057

The wind whips our faces, a gentle slap I’m more than willing to tolerate because we’re traversing the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk. I’m eternally grateful it’s still here, that there are new planks laid to bear our feet. Justin and I are alone today, his younger brother having decided that reading books with Grandma was preferable to an afternoon of sand and sea, and for once I’ve capitulate, allowing him to sacrifice fresh air for time with my mom.

Justin has followed his routine to a “t”; first one or two rides, then the acquisition of his precious pretzel. After we brave the long line to purchase his carb (Restore the Shore in all its glory here) I take a chance, and lead him past the exit to the parking lot. There is a slight skirmish as he angles his body toward our car and home, but I persist, as it’s simply too lovely out to resist an attempt at a stroll down the boardwalk. I nudge him gently back into the stream of humanity, and for once, without much protest, he concedes.

Mommy won one. It’s already a good day.

We meander past the acquarium, where Justin traditionally views the sharks, penguins, and a fish we call Nemo in ten minutes flat, then calls it quits. We pass the psychic, whose shop looks like it did not bear the brunt of the storm well (I’m tempted to ask her if she knew it was coming, but wisely refrain). Soon our path opens up and becomes more residential, allowing Justin a wide berth in his travels as he commands the planks.

All that is left to us is water and sky, and summer homes which either seem abandoned or are being raised to avoid further catastrophe. I see my son who is a few paces ahead of me narrowly avoid collision with a toddler headed his way,  watch as he almost ends up straddling one of Jenkinson’s many benches. Instinctively I move closer to him to intervene, but he manages to right himself without disaster, and avoid crashing into the errant two-year-old in the process.

I smile as I realize only a year ago he probably would have stepped on her, but not with any malicious intent; he simply would not have noticed such a small child. It is one of many signs of his burgeoning awareness of others, one of a plethora of benchmarks of undeniable progress he has made in the past year. I watch the little girl trace the outline of a heart at the base of the bench, and see a woman who is probably her mom read its inscription of “Ten Loving Hearts”, see her sweet smile as she points to show her discovery.

“Our God Blessed Parents”

Justin and I forge ahead past the next resting place, and I contemplate how much he has grown into himself this year, how he strives to communicate his needs with ever more appropriate measure, wrestling with the apraxia which inhibits his ability to evoke those coveted consonants and vowels which signal his needs. I think of the “yes and no” nods which have made all of our lives so much simpler, of the joy that lights up his face when he realizes his wants have been understood, and realized.

“Always Room 4 One More”

My son finishes his treat and unceremoniously hands the empty bag which contained it back to me, and I see his hand skim the surface of the next bench, see him snap to attention as a commercial airplane soars overhead, watch as he stands riveted. He notices everything now, a huge departure from the years we couldn’t even get him to look at animals in a zoo, much less regard a flying vehicle with fascination.

“Father, Brother, Friend”

Justin actually sits on the next empty seat, curling up like a comma and nestling into my body for a little warmth from the brisk breeze surrounding us. For  a moment I contemplate my own progress over the last year, and that of my family. A year ago this month ended a terrible return of aggression from my eldest, a regression whose ramifications impacted his school, his therapies, and his relationship with his family.

I remind myself that now we can relax again, savor these moments of closesness which herald his true nature, his kind and compassionate soul. I remember that I have managed to relinquish the fear that held us so paralyzed in its grasp, the fear that we couldn’t help him, that this was permanent, our “new normal”. I revel in the fact that we are once again a happy family, at peace with the fragile truce we’ve forged with Justin’s autism, able to truly enjoy each other once again.

For once, I just breathe.

Soon, he signals his need for departure by grabbing my hand and attempting to haul me up from my comfy seat, and the slightest glimmer of a smile warms his face as he gives me a look that says we’re done with exercise, it’s time to leave. I squeeze his hand tight and tell him how appreciative I am- that I hear how he strives to speak; that I love how he sees the world; that I am thankful he let me have this walk. He tugs on me impatiently and I follow, letting him lead as I often do, because he teaches me so much.

Before he turns completely from me I tell him I love him; that I’m proud of him; that if we purchased our own bench its inscription would read:

“We couldn’t have asked for a better son.”

He pulls again and I go with him, grateful, and renewed.

6 Comments »

  1. Cindy said,

    You made me cry ❤

  2. Mom said,

    Beautiful. Love mom

  3. allie said,

    Wow, what a lovely entry! We, too, have reached some of those benchmarks this year–Awareness in stepping over a small dog, instead on one—yes and no answers—and the newfound ability to say, I love you back. You sound like a great mom, charge on, soldier!


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