Tag Archives: social communication in child with autism

The Beauty Of Autism

31 May

"Peep And The Big Wide World" by George

It was a beautiful moment. One of those moments that autism parents celebrate, that parents of neurotypical children completely fail to notice.

I got home after a long, hard day at work, feeling tired and cranky. As I trudged my way up the driveway, all I wanted to do was grab a glass of wine, collapse into a chair, and never get up again. I didn’t just feel lethargy. At that moment, I was lethargy.

I opened the front door and stepped into the house. Moments later, I heard a pair of feet thundering up the stairs from the basement, and a seven-year-old whirlwind launched itself at me, almost knocking me to my feet. After giving me a ferocious hug, George said, in his sweet sing-song voice, “Hi, Mommy!”

Without me saying hi to him first.

Without me or anyone else prompting him.

This was a social exchange that was initiated completely, 100%, by my child with autism – my child who has, as one of his biggest challenges, social communication difficulties.

Instantly, my energy was back and I was ready to laugh and play with my family, with this amazing child who always seems to give me surprises of wonder.

As a special needs mom, I find that my life is punctuated with moments like this. I remember firsts that I probably wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t have a child with autism.

Like the first time he pointed. What a joyous occasion that was, coming as it did after almost a full year of me teaching him how to point. I blubbed my eyes out that night, all over the Bob the Builder book that had been the vehicle for this accomplishment.

Then there was the first time he made a request using a full sentence. It didn’t matter to me that the sentence was only three words long. This child who said, “I want juice” was streets ahead of the child who, just a few months before, had indicated his need by grabbing my hand and thrusting it in the general direction of the juice boxes.

And what about the first time he pretend-played? It was a simple game that consisted of George crouching down on the ground, and crawling around with his back arched skyward while repeatedly saying, “Turtle.” So what if it was unsophisticated play that included only himself? He was pretending – something he had never done before.

More recently, we celebrated him drawing his first picture. He’d made lots of scribbly-type drawings in the past, of course (and I have kept every single one of them), but this was his first picture depicting an actual scene. That it was an instantly recognizable scene from his favourite kids’ show, Peep And The Big Wide World, makes it even more special.

We have seen the advent of humour, and this is all kinds of significant. Humour is a complicated intellectual process, and George gets it. And let me tell you, he is funny.

All of these moments, when strung together, tell a story of a very special little boy who is making a journey through life that is somewhat different to the way other kids do it. But the point is that he is making the journey and having all kinds of adventures. He may be taking the scenic route, but ultimately, he does pass through the same places that other kids do. He achieves many of the same things, but it takes a little longer and is accomplished in unconventional ways.

I believe that having a child with autism makes me a better parent than I would be otherwise.

It has given me the ability to spot a single flower in a sea of long grass, and more importantly, the power to stop and smell every single flower that I pass on this journey through my kids’ childhoods.

Look At The Bridge!

27 Mar

We had a nice George-vs-Autism moment this afternoon while we were driving down the highway. The four of us were on our way to the tuxedo place to get Gerard’s measurements taken.

George was unusually calm: usually when we are out in the car, he insists on McDonalds, Tim Hortons, Wendy’s, or whatever fast food place happens to be closest to where we are. One thing that he definitely has no issues with is his memory – he only has to pass through a neighbourhood once for the locations of stores and restaurants to be indelibly stamped in his mind. As a result, our drives are accompanied by a running commentary. “I want McDonalds chicken burger, please, yes. I want Tim Hortons cheese bagel, please, yes. I want Baby Burger, please yes.” As we drive past a place, taking it out of the running, he starts targeting whatever place will come next.

Today, though, he was silent but alert. He was quietly observing the world as we whizzed by it, and as we approached a bridge going over the highway, he suddenly and animatedly said, “Look at the bridge! Look at the bridge!”

Parents of neurotypicals who have never been exposed to autism are probably reading this and saying, “Yeah? And?”

This is a big huge holy-crap-that’s-phenomenal deal. A completely spontaneous utterance, appropriate to the situation, made for the purposes of social communication.

It was a beautiful moment indeed.

Funny, the things that have power to bring tears to my eyes.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/3815822976)

Mommy Is A Boy

18 Mar

George - laughing boy!

This week, I had to share March break parenting duties with Gerard. It did not mean much to us where James is concerned, because James still got taken to the daycare and picked up again at the usual times each day. George, who usually gets bussed to school from the therapy centre each lunchtime, had to be picked up and brought home instead, and one of us had to be around for him.

And that is how, on Tuesday and Wednesday, I found myself working from home.

It was a treat. As soon as I had dropped James off, I got to start my work early instead of sitting in public transit for over an hour. I got to spend two entire mornings at home by myself, with no distractions. I got to complete tasks that tend to get pushed to the bottom of the pile when I’m in the office, because I have to keep running to meetings. I got to go running. In SUNLIGHT!

And by the time George’s grandmother had kindly picked him up, provided him with lunch, and delivered him to me, most of my work for the day was done, and I got to spend the better part of the afternoon alone with my firstborn.

As I always tell my kids, I love them “bigger than everything”. I love it when they collaborate with each other to wrestle me to the ground and play with me. Reading bedtime stories with them at night, with one child on either side of me, brings me great joy. When I wake up in the early hours of the morning to find myself sandwiched between my sleeping boys, I think of how lucky I am to have these kids. When I am together with both of my boys, I am happy.

But you know, getting to spend one-on-one time with either of them is a treasure as well. And so I savoured those two afternoons with George, when it was just him and me. Even when I was finishing up my work for the day, he was at his computer and we were each doing our thing, in companionable silence.

On Wednesday afternoon, right after I had finished my work and packed up my work laptop, George clambered into my lap – no mean feat for a long, lanky seven-year-old – and cheerfully said, “Mommy is a boy.”

I gasped in mock horror, “Noooooooo,” I said. “Mommy is a girl!”

George let loose with his giggles.

It is worth mentioning at this point that George has the most infectious laugh I have ever heard. It is impossible to hear this kid giggle and not giggle right along with him. He is the living epitome of the phrase, “Laugh and the world laughs with you.”

So there were the two of us, giggling as if there was no tomorrow because my son had called me a boy.

When the laughing subsided, I said to George, “Mommy is a…”

“BOY!” he shouted, collapsing once more into helpless giggles.

At that, I started bouncing him up and down on my lap as I chanted, “Mommy is a girl! Mommy is a girl! Mommy is a girl!”

Very quickly, George caught on to the chanting idea, and in unison with me, he was chanting, “Mommy is a boy! Mommy is a boy! Mommy is a boy!”

This continued until George became so overcome with mirth that he slithered off my lap and actually rolled on the floor laughing.

It was a truly phenomenal moment of connection, significant in many, many ways.

George had initiated the contact.

George had demonstrated his quirky sense of humour.

George had engaged in extended communication with me for the express purpose of making a joke and having fun – in other words, for social purposes.

George had continued the interaction, and determined its direction and outcome.

And George – my beautiful, bright, FUNNY child – had made laugh so much that my face hurt.