May 12, 2014

Thirty-One Seconds

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , at 10:36 am by autismmommytherapist

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It was thirty-one seconds.  Just the blink of an eye.

 

The video sent to me by his teacher seemed ordinary enough.  A tween inching precariously to the edge of a mat, then taking the plunge and jumping.

 

It seemed like an ordinary few seconds of film.

 

Except it wasn’t.  It was sheer determination.  It was accomplishment.

 

It was progress.

 

Today, after ten years of myself, his teachers, and a bevy of physical therapists working with him, my severely autistic son jumped off a mat independently and nailed his landing.  I held my breath as I watched him gain confidence with each attempt, saw his pure focus, his desire to try again without needing a prompt.  I admit my eyes welled as I saw him land his jump independently for the first time, the hint of a satisfied smile flickering across his face.

 

I think of my friends’ eleven-year-olds, some in soccer, some landing the lead in their school plays, some taking on leadership roles.  My son’s accomplishment is no lesser, nor greater, than these.  I think for the thousandth time how grateful I am that I once taught, that I learned early on the joy of taking a child from where they were to where their potential permitted them to be, the value in making progress on one’s own terms and no one else’s.

 

I admit, I watch the video again.

 

I long to hug him and whisper praise in his ear, and know I will show him the video when he gets home so I can do this in context.  He cannot share his pride in words, but I know it exists simply from that brief smile that crossed his handsome countenance.  I am so proud of his courage, his burgeoning independence, his tenacity of spirit.

 

I am just so proud period.

 

And for the thousandth time, once again I reflect on how lucky I am to be his mom.

 

 

July 2, 2011

Field of Dreams

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , at 6:48 pm by autismmommytherapist

“Mom, Mom, over HERE!” my youngest shouts while waving wildly in my direction, as if I could miss him. He’s coming around the bend with his class, his little fist firmly entrenched in the hand of one of his aides as he approaches me, overjoyed that I’m here to witness Field Day. I’m already pleased, because last year he was one of the kids wheeled out in the wagon, which I know from my former teaching days means at that point he was a flight risk. This year he’s able to walk with his class, and even though his paraprofessional has a death grip on him, it’s clear he’s made some progress.

I’ll take what I can get.

I’m also happy to see that he remains with the class instead of barreling into my arms for a hug, because we’ve talked about this at home, and I know he’s aware of what he’s supposed to do. We’ve discussed that it’s okay to proudly announce to dozens of people at the book fair that “This is my MOM!”, then embrace me, but on Field Day, he needs to stay with his teacher. Hell, if we can get him to pull the rope in the right direction in the tug-of-war, the entire event will be a victory.

I take the rare opportunity of not having a child wrapped around me to chat with the other parents, an event that could only have been made more perfect had I been sipping a frappacino. Two of the moms regale me with their recent trips to Disney, an adventure to date I have been too chicken to try because of Justin.  Honestly, my reluctance is due more to a fear of what Justin would think about security check-points, not using electronic devices on runways, or prolonged periods of waiting in general. They are encouraging to me as they always are, and I share that we’re considering trying the trip next fall. Both boys will be old enough to remember it, and the wait will give me another year to think of creative ways to engage my oldest so we won’t be kicked off the plane.

I interrupt our conversation just in time to see my son tapped for the bucket races, a task requiring the contestants to run a loaded sponge from one water-filled container to another, dispense of its contents, and return to the other side as quickly as humanly possible. In his excitement Zach forgets the sponge part, makes it halfway down the field, then almost collapses in laughter when he realizes what he’s done. He retraces his steps and accomplishes his goal amidst a great deal of cheering from staff, students, and parents alike. At the end he turns and looks at me, waiting for the approval he knows he’ll receive.

Two years ago, he wouldn’t have even cared that I was there.

He then moves onto the “egg drop”, the rules of which mandate he carry a faux egg on a large wooden spoon from point A to point B while utilizing only one hand, which he does for about five feet, then eventually cheats like all the other children. There is a tense moment in which we all fear a head-on collision between two contestants concentrating a bit too seriously, but the kids avoid disaster, and eventually the whistle blows, signifying their impending move to the next station.

Even a year ago, this event would have frustrated him to tears.

There’s an obstacle course he moves through with utter grace, and sack races he completes mostly independently. Zach does indeed figure out which way to pull the tug-of-war rope this year, and revels in the experience, ignoring the feel of fraying thread on his palms, not the slightest bit annoyed by his classmates plastered up against him.

Instead, he loves every minute of it.

None of these little nuances are obvious miracles. If I blinked, or didn’t know how to search for them, they’d be simple to miss. But it’s absolutely undeniable how much progress my boy has made in just in one year, progress not simply measured in gross and small motor tasks accomplished, but in his obvious joy in participation. This year, I had the absolute privilege to see both of my boys rock their respective Field Days.

And their mom loved every minute of it too.