April 27, 2011

What’s in a Name

Posted in Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 9:14 am by autismmommytherapist

Please God, forgive me for the forest of trees I just destroyed is the silent plea I’ve sent to the heavens, as I attempt to remove what must be the entire contents of a ketchup bottle from Justin’s face, hands and torso. He’s quick this one, and although we don’t even have our food yet, he’s managed to squeeze the upside-down receptacle into a huge puddle on his formerly pristine place mat while I wasn’t looking. I sigh, declare to my aunt that I really do feed him, whisk the offending disintegrating square to the other end of the diner’s table, then attempt triage. We’re only an hour away from another night at Someone Special Needs You, and although a tux is not required, I’d prefer it if my son didn’t look like he’d just stepped out of a scene from Grey’s Anatomy.

Nothing fazes my aunt as she pitches in with the wipes I couldn’t find, the ones I was searching for with the free hand keeping my son from plunging his fingers into that gelatinous red liquid fruit. Short of hosing him down there won’t be any miracles here, but we do a passable job as we three await our breakfast for dinner. After Justin rejects his DVD player and the accompanying flicks I was certain would engage him throughout the meal (so much for knowing my son), my aunt pushes her clean place mat towards his soon to be agitated hands. I quickly locate and serve up the crayons the lovely hostess provided to us when we entered.

Justin hasn’t enjoyed coloring, well, EVER, but perhaps tonight will be a first, and I won’t have to break out the super secret/nails-on-chalkboard/irritating toys I also have sequestered into our goody bag. Just for fun I say “write your name, Justin”, because both his school and his mommy have been practicing his letters with him frequently, an activity my son enjoys about as much as he adores waiting. I sit back in my seat to see what happens, one hand remaining on the zipper of toy mecca in case my suggestion is met with more than mere disdain. He looks at me quizzically, and I place a blue crayon (my personal favorite) into his hand and repeat, “write your name, hon.”

And, to the joy of the two women witnessing it, he does.

It’s not that he hasn’t written his name before, or printed the symbols of the alphabet once or twice without the guidance of the hand-over-hand method. I know that he’s done it independently a few times at school, and he’s come close at home as well. This, however, is the very first attempt that’s been solely of his own maneuvering with me present, one not requiring my hand’s gentle sway to perform the loops and swirls that signify who he is. He completes the “n”, immediately drops the crayon and smiles at me, then gestures toward the white bag with what I call the “give me juice or else” look. The moment itself, is over.

My little boy wrote his own name, and it’s even legible. I think his handwriting is better than mine, which isn’t doing him justice.

I look over at my aunt who’s as excited as I am, and we both exclaim “Justin, good job!” as I make an attempt to rescue his place mat for posterity before more ketchup can claim the proof. Our life with autism is comprised of these little moments, some good, some depressing as hell, many more simply profoundly irritating. Lately, however, we seem to be dwelling more frequently in the land of the former. There have been numerous instances of connection with his brother, offers of toys from big to little, my eldest permitting and even seeming to enjoy his sibling’s hugs. Word approximations are flowing more easily in private speech therapy, attempts that even his skeptical mother can decipher. Last night, for the first time in ages, he returned the squeeze of my fingers nestled with his as I sang his baby song to him. And tonight, my boy etched his own name into a Perkins place mat that I will subsequently laminate for all eternity. Admittedly, these are small triumphs.

But they are uniquely his. And believe me, I’ll be celebrating them too.