"Look At Me"

"Look At Me"
monotype and screenprint

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Memories, Miracles, and a Little Bit of Magic

Derek at age 2

Derek's MDT is on Tuesday.  What does that mean?  It means that his Multi-Disciplinary Team reevaluates him for autism.  No. Big. Deal.  Except it is.  It means everything in terms of the services he receives in school.  I'm not worried, because I know Derek will still qualify.  But it's hard to hear that your child is behind his peers--even when you know it's coming. 

It has been 3 years since Derek was officially diagnosed.  1095 days.  It feels like a lifetime.

I cleaned out Derek's therapy room today.  All I really wanted to do was vacuum and straighten the room up.  90 minutes and a trip down memory lane later, the room is definitely clean...

When I went into the room, I was in a rotten mood.  I wanted to take a nap, but that was out of the question.  So I dumped an entire toy box on the floor and started shuffling through it.  The first thing I found was a plastic blue circle.  It stopped me in my tracks.  I was instantly reminded of a day 3 years ago when I was trying to help my son fit different shapes into a shape sorter.  A purple cross.  An orange square.  A red triangle.  The circle was the only shape he could get to fit through the hole.  Suddenly, I couldn't breathe.  A lump formed in my throat.

I looked around at some of the other things in the room.

There were wooden puzzles on a shelf.  You know, the kind made for toddlers.  My son struggled through them all--especially the alphabet ones.

PECS (Picture Exchange Communication) boards were propped against a wall.  there was a picture of Cheetos and a picture of his favorite fire truck...we'd used those for rewards...I remembered screams and smiles once Derek finally figured out what we wanted from him.

By now tears were coursing down my cheeks.

If you are wondering why I cried, it's because my son has come SO FAR.  Unlike most children, learning didn't come naturally to Derek.  He didn't pick up on language naturally.  We had to teach him language with flashcards.  We had to teach him how to PLAY.  We had to teach him how to turn on a LIGHT SWITCH.  We had to teach him everything. 

In three years, Derek has somehow figured out a way to not only survive, but to THRIVE in a world that he is not comfortable in.  I never expected him to be talking at all, but he is.  I consider him my miracle.  He's even starting to put sentences together.  He's not writing yet, but I have high hopes.  He's interacting with his brother.  His eye contact is amazing.  And best of all?  He's got a SENSE OF HUMOR!!!!  He smiles and laughs and tries to get others to laugh.  I am absolutely head-over-heels in love with this child of mine, and I could not possibly be more proud of him.  His spirit is magical, and I wouldn't change a thing...

Derek now.


Monday, October 1, 2012

My Son the Superhero

I have mixed feelings about October.

On one hand, I love it.  I love fall and everything that comes with it.  The leaves turning brilliant shades of red, orange, gold and brown.  The cool, crisp air.  Pumpkins.  Crunchy apples.  And best of all?  My son's birthday. 

Derek was my Halloween baby.  When he was born, I was thrilled.  I thought that as he grew up, he'd LOVE having a Halloween birthday because he'd get to dress up at school and have parties on his special day. 

Halloween 2010--Derek refusing to wear the hat.  This was the last time I got him to wear a costume.

But I never expected Derek to be autistic. 

I see people post pictures of their children in adorable costumes and I can't help but be jealous. 

Derek hates costumes.  He can't stand wearing them.  Make-up or a mask on his face is out of the question.  So is a hat.  Each year has gotten progressively worse.  Last year, he refused to wear even a fireman's jacket made of fleece.  So my son went trick-or-treating as...you guessed it...Derek.

Derek doesn't understand the concept of trick-or-treating either.  He tries to go into people's houses.  And he doesn't like the candy.  He usually lasts about for about 10 minutes, much to the dismay of my other son--who LOVES Halloween. 

As a parent of a child who has a hard time with Halloween, here is a little advice for all of you who DON'T have children on the spectrum:

If a child doesn't say trick-or-treat or thank you when you give them candy, cut them some slack.  Maybe the child is nonverbal. (Derek never said a word last year.  I spoke for him.)
If a child searches through the bowl of candy, don't automatically assume he/she is being rude.  My son can't tolerate certain textures and will only eat smarties and suckers.  He doesn't know that it's rude to search through a bowl.

If a child tries to enter your house, don't freak out.  Especially if the parent is doing everything they can to control their child and is apologizing profusely. 

I know many of you are probably asking yourselves why I bother taking my son trick-or-treating at all.  Honestly?  I don't know.  Because it's his BIRTHDAY and I don't want to deprive him of thngs other kids get to do.  I also do it for his brother.  Tyler shouldn't miss out on things just because he has an autistic brother.  I also have hope that one day Derek will WANT to dress up. 

But this year?  I'm letting go of all expectations.  If Derek doesn't want to wear a costume, I won't make him.  He can go as himself. 

Because let's face it-- Derek is pretty awesome.  MUCH cooler than Batman or Spiderman or Luke Skywalker or any other person he could dress up as.  My son IS a superhero...