I've been hearing from Marty's teachers and therapists that he's been doing an amazing job lately--showing a lot of amazing progress.
So why is it so hard for me to see that progress? Probably because I'm with him day after day and get to experience all the autism-related setbacks he faces along with the successes.
This past week, I decided to look for a little bit of progress each day. Instead of choosing something to work on every day, I chose to find one new accomplishment and just spend the day celebrating it.
Of course, I began to worry about whole days possibly going by without seeing any improvement--what would I celebrate? God has called me to dream bigger for Marty, and so I did last week. Each morning, I prayed for at least one clear success for Marty, and those prayers were answered abundantly. Read on:
Monday, February 28th--One thing Marty has a hard time with is answering questions. I'll ask him how school was and he'll say, "How was school. Fun." Always fun. Even on days I KNOW it wasn't fun. But I've been continuing to ask in the hopes of him one day actually answering a question correctly and unprompted. Today was that day, and YES, I cried like a ban-shee. I don't even know what a ban-shee is, but I cried like one. I had a doctor's appointment today, so my mother-in-law was home during Marty's developmental therapy. After his therapist left, I asked Marty what he and Colleen did during his session with her. And he told me that they played with play-doh. I think his exact words were, "I-a play-a play-doh." I'll take it. The next day I confirmed with Colleen that yes, they did bust out the play-doh. This type of processing for Marty is a HUGE step in a GREAT direction, in that he's learning how to process a question and come up with an appropriate and accurate response. All the while thinking in terms of past activities, which is difficult for a concrete thinker like Marty. Today is a day I'll remember forever. Ban-shee tears and all.
Tuesday, March 1st--Anyone who knows Marty knows he's pretty obsessed with Thomas the train and his little train pals. And I've mentioned before that part of that obsession is due to Marty's tendency to stim on the trains--to roll them back and forth along a track and watch their wheels move for hours at a time in order to stimulate his senses and bring calm. Anyway, lately he's been asking every day where Edward is. Edward is a blue train, and Marty has more blue trains than I can count. I figured he was just overlooking Edward when he dug through his bucket of train-y goodness. I kept just telling him that Edward was probably there--that he had to keep looking for Edward and he'd find him. But I was cleaning out the car today and what/who did I find? Edward! I felt bad that he'd been missing for so long, but loved knowing that Marty was able to recognize that Edward was gone. Again, a pretty cool feat for a kid who's typically of the "out of sight, out of mind" thought process. Of course he was elated when I put Edward in his tiny little hands. Marty gasped and said, "Mama! You found Edward!" Yes, honey, I did. And found another little piece of YOU along the way.
Wednesday, March 2nd--It can be hard for Marty to be really in-tune with his environment. Yeah, he can recognize certain places that we visit often. As we drive up to his preschool he'll usually talk about seeing Teacher Becky (yes, his preschool teacher and I share the same name--it gets confusing). As we drive up to our friend Georgia's house, he'll excitedly exclaim that we're going to "Auntie Orange's" house. It's stinkin' cutie. But places that we don't see regularly, especially those that he doesn't enjoy visiting, are typically not acknowledged until we're right there in the thick of it. Not true today! I had to stop by Marty's pediatrician's office to pick up a prescription and without prompting of any kind, Marty said, "Mama? Are we-a go to the doctor?" All smiles. From all of us.
Thursday, March 3rd--As is true for most kids, it takes a while to recognize the whole cause and effect concept. For Marty, it's taken even longer, and we've been anxious to see breakthrough in that. And while we weren't there to actually witness that breakthrough, we heard all about it from the babysitter. Which is (almost) just as good. Marty and I (husband Marty, that is) go to a life group every Thursday night, so the kids get to stay home with a sitter. Usually it's Miss Shannon, but Miss Shannon was sick this week so we had someone different watch the boys. I didn't think it would be an issue for Marty, but he threw a huge tantrum when it came time to get his jammies on before bed. The sitter just let him scream and ignored his antics (which was PERFECT), and was slowly trying to get him dressed in the moments Marty would calm down for a couple seconds. At one point, Marty was screaming bloody murder with his pajama top around his neck because he refused to put his arms in the sleeves. Well after freaking out for a while, Marty started shivering, so the babysitter asked if he was cold. He said he was. And promptly put his arms in the sleeves, knowing it would help warm him up. Amazing. It warmed my heart.
Friday, March 4th--I've talked a lot about how Marty is a concrete thinker. Which comes into play in a lot of different ways--one being that he's very literal when it comes to names. Nicknames are a hard concept for Marty, and he'll often correct people if they get a name "wrong". Like people calling Lucas "Buddy"--he'll quickly say, "His name is LUCAS." Well today, our little concrete thinker called his brother Squishy all day. Yes, I know I know, it's from Finding Nemo. But I was thrilled that he assigned a name other than Lucas to his brother. So instead of finding Nemo, we found a Squishy, and by golly, I'm running with it.
Saturday, March 5th--I usually let Marty (and myself) have the weekends off, since all this mommy therapy is exhausting for both of us. But this week, with the focus being on the progress Marty's been making, I didn't want to stop looking for little breakthroughs. And he didn't let me down. Today I was studying some medical terminology for my new part-time job doing medical billing, and was sitting at the dining room table reading while the kids played in the living room. At one point the sun faded for a couple minutes and I found myself squinting, needing some extra light. Marty was over by the lightswitch, so I thought I'd see if he could figure out which switch needed to be turned on in order to light up just the area I was working in. I pointed to the light fixture above my head and said, "Marty, can you turn this light on for Mommy?" And just like that, he flipped the right switch and illuminated the table. First try. My kid is smarter than I give him credit for, and I love the moments that that shines through. Pun intended.
Sunday, March 6th--Marty survived a trip to Costco with ZERO meltdowns or whining. Can't that be progress in itself? He's beginning to realize that his behavior is a choice, and that we're ALL a lot happier when he chooses the right thing. On our way to a birthday party last weekend, Marty declared from the backseat, "I-a be a good boy to Malea's birthday." And you know what? HE WAS. I'm slowly crossing things off my list of "places I'm terrified to take my kid". Birthday party with ten or so other screaming kids? Done. Costco? Big fat check. Bring it on, world. My baby boy has GOT this.
How will YOU challenge your kids today? What accomplishments will you choose to celebrate?