Saturday, January 19, 2013


I was in Wally World the other day (I swear I only shop there because I literally cannot get any father to get anything. Either it's a case of no money, or a case of no energy...Walmart is a block away from my house), and I saw Steven's second preschool teacher (between moving and re-zoning of school districts, he's had four). We didn't recognize each other at first, but when we did, lots of hugs and exclamations went round. I showed her a picture of him, and we marveled at how much he's grown. I still shake my head when I see pictures of him from even a year ago. The baby cheeks are gone, even though the cherubic face remains. A head full of wild russet curls replaces the semi-baldness. His chinquapin eyes twinkle with expressiveness, and he's as sarcastic as his mama. How he manages to do that without speaking, I do not know...but he does it.

This teacher is the reason why my son is so sociable now. She's the reason why he will reach out and shake hands with people; Steven was very afraid of interaction with others prior to entering preschool. Now he has friends, both at school and in our neighborhood. He plays with kids on the spectrum as well as neurotypical kids. Other children just love him, and I hope and pray that his gregariousness carries him all the way through school. I have told people many times that I do not treat Steven like he is disabled, because that is not the mindset that I want him to have. There have been (and will be) many times when I have stepped back and let him fall, not because I am cruel, but because I want Steven to understand that he has it within him to get up on his own. When my son steps in front of me to do something for himself, I feel so happy. One day I will not be here, and due to the fact that few people around us truly understand him, who will care for him when I'm gone?

He will, that's who. And even at the age of 4, still half-potty trained and non-verbal, he knows it.

I am so grateful for Steven's teachers. All of them. From the first one who came to me to suggest that he enter the Preschool Autism Class, to every teacher he has had since then. Why don't we pay our teachers the same as doctors? Teachers create doctors; the learning has to begin somewhere. What I see in my son I could not possibly have achieved on my own. And with each step taken, I rejoice.

The other morning, as we began our ritual of kisses and cuddles, I bid him good morning. I got a tiny "good morning" in reply. He gives smart-aleck answers at times to my mother's questions (which fills me with glee). He feeds himself with a spoon, can dress himself with minimal assistance (though he can be lazy about it), and pretty much has the potty ritual down. I think one day I'm just going to buy him regular underwear...and buy myself a mop and some Lysol for that weekend. I think he's ready.

When the doctor first said "autism", I had no idea what to expect. I surely didn't expect what I see in him today, not after going home and finding out that my little one exhibited all of the behaviors associated with autism, with the exception of two (which he ended up adopting later). Sure life can be difficult at times, but I truly and honestly believe I have a little prodigy on my hands. I'm not saying that because I'm his mother, I'm saying that because this kid is smarter than me. He just shows it in a different way.

You go, little guy. Mama loves you to distraction.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New School Year

So Steven is in his second year of preschool. When I went to his IEP meeting at the end of last year, I was a bit disappointed in the goals that his teacher had set out for him, but this is just a lesson in acknowleding the fact that I still have a lot to learn. While special ed teachers do not always know what it is like to be the parent of a special needs child, at the same time, most of us parents do not have the technical skills needed to teach these children in the way that they require. Yes, there are things that they can only learn at home, but there are also many things that they can only learn in the social environment that is school, and there is always going to be a give and take.

To me the goals were pretty simplistic, given what I had seen Steven do. Steven does not talk much, but he can. He's a smart aleck. He will schock you; I tell people, if you find yourself doing a double-take and asking yourself if he said something, nine times out of ten he did. Steven's vocabulary is probably much larger than I can imagine, because the receptive vocabulary is there. Steven understands everything that you say to him. Not to mention, I do not mince words as his Mother. I have never spoken baby talk to my son, and I never will. I use big words with him, and I tell him what I expect of him. I honestly do believe that this has borne fruit. As of today, my son knows how to imitate, match two like items, and identify things based upon description. Add to that progress in potty training, random words and LOTS of affection, and I am heartily pleased with the progress I am seeing.

I am grateful to Steven's teachers.

I saw his very first preschool teacher the other day in the store; we talked and reminisced a bit. Later that evening I sent her some pictures of Steven so that she could see how much he had grown. She said to me that it was so nice to see what she called a "success story" (you can only imagine how awesome that made me feel) for once, instead of parents wide-eyed with shock. I have to say that that was never me. My only concern with regards to Steven's autism has been how he would be treated by his peers. I was not, and never intend to be the parent who plans out my child's life for them. And that is where I think that perhaps some parents do themselves injury. Yes, we plan, we hope and we anticipate when little one is on the way. But that child should be allowed to determine their own destiny. The canvas of their life is blank for a reason, and that is not for us parents to write on it. I am determined not to leave many marks on my son's life past the few influences I leave as a mother. I want him to decide what and who he is to be...and I don't feel that autism is any deterrent at all. Just look at Carly Fleischman.

Last year I did a fundraiser to purchase Steven an iPad. I had seen on the news how much special needs children, especially autistic children, could benefit from the use of an iPad. I wasn't able to raise the amount needed for a new one, but I was able to get a sturdy 1st generation used one, and it works fine. Steven loves it. I hope to turn it into an AAC device for him, in case he still doesn't wish to do much talking for a while. It would be wonderful to know what's going on inside his head. But for now, seeing him do things like this is enough: