Friday, May 31, 2013

Linear Thinking at its Best

Speech is a thing that is almost universally hard for those on the autism spectrum.  Some of those with autism  never speak, some speak in ways we would not expect, some start speaking in the expected time frame as children, only to find as they grow that speech is not the same as communication.  

Others, like little C, need to learn to speak--need to pick their way deliberately through the maze of communication skills that most children master at an early age, and with ease.

He's come a long way, this kid.  I sometimes forget just how far, and how much of an effort communication still is for him, in some ways.  It amazes me, really, when I get small glimpses into what his process is for communication.  It humbles me, too.  He's fought so hard to get where he is, and although he has every right to be grumpy and frustrated and angry sometimes, he almost never is.

Seriously, some days I'm in a bad mood and even I couldn't tell you why.

I got one of those glimpses into little C's head tonight.  When I came in the front door from a run, he was crying--brokenhearted--in the middle of the kitchen.

When I asked him what was wrong, he slowly, haltingly sputtered out, "I want them inside."

"Who do you want inside, baby?"

"They're outside."

"What's outside, baby?  What do you want?"

"They're outside and I want them inside," he wailed.

At this point, he was spun up.  It's heartbreaking, when he struggles like that.  Generally, we've learned to get past this point and help him articulate what he needs, but he still stalls when he's particularly upset.

Tonight, he was particularly upset, but I knew we had to hang in.  We didn't get this far by letting him skate.  So I tried again.

"[Little C].  Tell me what you need, baby."

Tears streaming down his face, he took a deep breath and hiccuped the words, building them painstakingly in his head as he went.

"Lightning McQueen...and Mater...are outside, and I want them inside."

After congratulating him for doing such a great job in letting me know what he needed, we walked through putting on his shoes and socks, I took his hand, and we went outside to retrieve his friends.  Sure enough, they rested peacefully underneath our slide in the back yard, waiting for him.

It turns out that at some point while I was out, he realized he wanted his toys, and remembered where he had left them.  In order to get them, he needed to go outside.  In order to go outside, he needed to put on his shoes and socks.

Shoes and socks are our latest battle here lately.  Motor skills have been lagging for a little while, but so often it is easier--and quicker--just to dress him than to work with him in dressing himself.

So, he's been a little spoiled, this kid.  This has resulted in a rather traumatic transition to having him dress himself every morning.  Shoes and socks have become sort of a mascot for this daily frustration he feels.

Once he realized he would need to put on his shoes and socks to retrieve his toys (and knew his daddy wasn't going to do it for him), he started melting down.

He pulled it out, though.  Although it's hard for me to realize how much of an effort this type of thing still is for him at times, I was so, so proud to watch him realize what the problem was, and then take the steps needed to get through it. 

Moments like this are the ones that get taken for granted by typical parents every day.  As hard as the hard times can be, I don't know that I would have known the depths of pride and gratitude that this kid has introduced me to, were it not for autism.

He's climbing mountains - slowly, methodically, but one damned mound of dirt and rock at a time.

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