Autism changes the way you measure progress. It’s near impossible to compare your child with a “neurotypical” kid. If you try, you’re just going to see the ways in which your child falls short and that’s a disservice to you as a parent and your child as a person. So, normal progress charts are thrown out. Your victories are small and hard fought and usually short-lived, but when it happens, when that one thing you’ve been working on finally clicks, goodness does it feel amazing.
We’ve lived together as a family for almost a year and it feels like no time at all until I think about the boys last summer and the tiny changes we’ve made. Things that may not seem like much on the big scale, but in our house they were monuments. Little things that make me feel like a good parent, even when my throat is about hoarse from screaming and I’m looking at the dog’s crate as a reasonable timeout zone.
Charlie eats vegetables now. Before, if it was green, it wasn’t eaten. Now I can make him a salad and he’s happy. Right now he’s tearing up some baby carrots. 10 months ago, those would sit on the plate all night. But I’ve seen him finish carrots before his chips. It warms my tiny, food group loving heart.
Cal asks questions! Without running away! Most of the time! He used to never ask for something directly – he’d come in to the living room and the conversation would go basically like this:
Cal: Was I being good today?
Cal: Well, I was being good…
Me: Yes, you’ve been good Cal
Cal: Ummmm, does Charlie want something?
Me: I don’t think so. Do you want something Cal?
Cal: Oh, no, no, I’m fine, don’t worry about me
Me: Cal, what do you want?
Cal: mumblemumblemumble::run away
Me: Get back here! Cal! Tell me what you want, use your words!
Cal: Maybe, maybe I might like a mumblemumble
Me: Caaaalllll, what. do. you. want.
Cal: Maybe a sandwich? ::run away::
It was so frustrating. One, because I’m not a mind reader, so I didn’t know what he wanted and if I suggested the wrong thing he’d look crushed and go hide. Second, because I worried that if he couldn’t ask for things in his home with his family, I know he isn’t asking for things he needs at school. That’s unacceptable to me. So, I would make him ask me for what he wanted, clearly, without running away. He came up to me earlier this evening and said “Are you going to be making me dinner now? I’m starving!” So, while we’re still refining how to ask for things nicely and using our manners, I don’t worry that he’s not going to be able to get what he needs for fear of asking.
So, little things — eating veggies, asking questions — things I never had an issue doing. I think of how it was last summer and I can see we’re getting somewhere. It gives me fuel to get through the day and the strength to start in on improving a new behavior. I’ve got big plans for these boys, plans that involve them having happy, full lives and sometimes I think I might just get them there.