Going back to the start

Bryanage14 I love that Coldplay song The Scientist, it really touches me. Music always forces reflection for me. Driving to work today, Siri, accessing my playlist on my phone, played My Wish by Rascal Flatts. We used that song in Bryan’s video montage at his Bar Mitzvah. Tears filled my eyes. Today is my sweet boy’s 14th birthday. I keep thinking about how far he has come. He was such a yummy little baby, so well-behaved and so compliant. In a lot of ways he has not changed much. He is still sweet, gives kisses and hugs all of the time, and says I love you all day long. He is ready to go for any activity within minutes and follows a great morning routine. But what is ironic about this age, and his ability to communicate now, is that all of the tools and methods we used to get him to this point now get undone. For Bryan, and many kids with autism, it’s the language deficit that can be the most challenging for family members, friends, and teachers. In the early years of speech and language therapy he had a visual schedule (pictures only in the very early days), he was prompted to do every task, read every line, answer a question with looking in my eyes. Now he has plenty of language and we are working on not prompting, no visual schedule, just conversation. So how do our kids figure out what is expected of them now when for many years you prompted them and now you don’t? How do they know what is next in their schedule when you take away the visual? You see as a parent you are told, and of course unless you are some sort of parent/autism expert, which of course no one is until they have the kid, you listen to what everyone tells you because you don’t know how to make your kid succeed and these are the experts. It’s a tough situation. I am not trying to be critical; just acknowledging the irony and asking, how will new generations do this better? They will do it better because there will be so many adults with autism who will be able to teach kids how to learn in a way that makes sense to them. It’s an extremely exciting thought!
Reading comprehension is always a challenge. So for years Bryan was taught to literally go back to the story and find the answer. Sounds good, right? But since he is so visually focused, he can find the sentence or two to answer the question, but he still does not really know what the story is about. So instead of using the visual, it’s time for him to read a story and then think about it and answer the questions. He has to tell the story from memory or at least the gist of it. So now, my boy who always worked so well with his visual skills, must now use his auditory skills. This is the thing…So he learned for all of these years one way and now he has to move on to learn another way. At first I found this so frustrating on his behalf. But as time goes on I realize, duh, this is just the process. You cannot run before you walk. I am good with this from a clinical perspective, but from a mommy perspective it is both good and bad. It’s good that he is learning and is growing and adapting, but bad because he must be very confused. I wonder what he really thinks about things. I do know that Bryan is a tremendous people person. He responds very well to people he knows have genuine love and affection for him. You can’t fake it with Bryan. You can’t pretend to love or like him; he will know. I see it on his face and can tell when he is not trusting. If you get a lukewarm response from him or a blow off it’s because he either doesn’t know if you are trustworthy or he doesn’t know where he stands with you. It’s so interesting that some of his best skills are intuitive and social on a spectrum where socialization is considered almost non existent. Now that he is a big boy of 14, looks, smells and speaks with a man’s voice, life is scarier than ever. The questions that seemed so far off, will he drive a car, will he go to college, will he have a job, they are not so slowly creeping up. I can no longer say, “oh he’s so young, we’ll see”. We are at a time now where we must empower him and ourselves for the impending adulthood. We did still get him a cookie cake for his birthday, so we are not quite there yet, thankfully!

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