Catch Me If You Can

Another year has ticked over for my boy. This week he had his 7th birthday.

birthday candles

Yes, he’s still irresistibly drawn to heat & fire.

It’s been a big, big year and he’s come a long, long way. Today (after a bit of coaching) he was able to answer the question – whose birthday is it today? with ‘It’s MY birthday!’ Now to most people, this is not that amazing, but for my little darling…well, let’s break it down a little.

  • He was able to remember and respond consistently with an appropriate answer to the question
  • He is using pronouns – he can talk about himself from his own perspective, not it the third person (this is very new for him)
  • He was able to share his birthday with others (cup cakes at vacation care and later on at home with the grandparents)

In the last year his language & communication has taken a quantum leap. So much so that he took out the literacy & communication prize at his end of year school celebrations for the junior school. It doesn’t seem so long ago when I was not sure if he would ever become verbal. I don’t really care that he won a prize but the acknowledgement of the enormous effort he has put in is incredibly heartwarming. Mind you, he is still doing a LOT of screaming/noisemaking, but at least now, I can ask him to use words or tell him to go outside & annoy the neighbours and he may (or may not!) chose to follow my directions!

This year he has grown like a weed, eaten like a horse, stayed skinny as a rake. He’s lost teeth and made & friends. He’s had lots of fun and has also faced lots of challenges. He started reading phone books (I may be wrong, but he can’t read yet, he just really seems to like the look of tiny little print/text). We’ve also tried some medications but not found anything that actually helps him. He now has a total of four diagnoses (not that I’m counting!).

He has continued to explore and develop a love for music (this makes me so happy!) – yesterday he dragged the old house guitar around with him everywhere. When I played some chords for him – HE wanted to do the strumming and HE chose the song, by singing the words. I had never really heard him sing before, so this was a complete revelation for me. He’s definitely not one of those kids who has an extraordinary talent, but he has a real & genuine interest and that is a beautiful thing.

He’s picky about the music he listens to and he has an evolving preferred style – lyrical & emotive. He likes a variety of styles including early Elvis, Portuguese fado, romantic classical and believe it or not, kd lang. If I put some music on, he takes over and changes it to something HE likes. He knows the albums he likes and goes straight to the tracks he likes, then we listen to them on repeat, repeat, repeat…. He didn’t like the change to the new IOS because he wasn’t able to find his songs in the same way that he had been doing previously. Now, just to put that in perspective, this time last year he didn’t even want to touch the ipad.

He also has a developing interest in logos. His favourite is Target. He checks all his clothing labels and is very pleased indeed if they are from Target.

So my boy, happy birthday to you. This year we are learning about backyard basketball!

I love you.

Here’s your 20 questions and a photo that sums up that last seven years.

On Your 7th Birthday 2014

1. What is your favorite toy? Ball
2. Who is your favorite character? Peppa Pig
3. What is your favorite TV show? Waybaloo
4. What is your favorite fruit? Banana
5. What is your favorite lunch? Baked Beans
6. What makes you laugh? Tickles, being naughty
7. What is your favorite game? Chasey/running
8. What is your favorite snack? yoghurt
9. What is your favorite animal? Dogs
10. What is your favorite song?  Jericho (kd Lang)
11. What is your favorite book? DOGS (birthday pressie)
12. Who is your best friend? Madison & Ahmed
13. What is your favorite treat? milkshake
14. What is your favorite outside activity? Chasing waves at the beach
15. Where do you like to go for a holiday? Beach
16. What is your favorite drink? Ginger Beer or Cup of Tea
17. What is your favorite take away food? Don’t care
18. What do you like to have in bed with you at night? ribbon
19. What is your favorite breakfast? Pancakes/French toast with maple syrup, a mashed banana & a cup of tea
20. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? lemonade (sad but true)
photo by Carly Cain

photo by Carly Cain

For Your Listening Pleasure

A photo a day in April for autism acceptance:

It’s easy enough to read about some of what happens in our day to day lives. I’ve been telling you about the noisemaking my little guy likes to engage in, but it’s not the same as experiencing it. So here…for your listening pleasure, is what I listen to day in, day out. At the  moment.

I say at the moment, because I am hoping that this is a ‘phase’. I know he gets a lot of sensory input from making all this noise (me too!!), but it does sound like he’s being hung, drawn & quartered when really, he’s just sitting there enjoying himself.

I have also been telling you that along with the screaming, he has been doing some great talking. During the last few months he has clicked over from being essentially non-verbal, to being verbal. Which is like, you know…a miracle!! So here he is, just a few minutes later.

Now before you start telling me how cruel I am, in this instance I’ve used his ribbon to encourage him in his talking. There are very few things that really motivate my little boy, but his ribbon most definitely does. So I’ve extended the situation to give him more opportunity to use all this beautiful language he is developing. Why the screaming and talking are going hand in hand? I wish I knew. (any suggestions gratefully received).

And last of all, here is our photo for the day. It’s something he did at school. I like it! It’s up on his wall in his bedroom gallery – laminated!

20130418-215922.jpg

I Love You

Day 10: Autism Awareness Blogathon

A few years ago I realised that unless I taught my boy to say ‘I love you’, that he may never say it spontaneously. Of course I told him that I loved HIM many times, every day. But words don’t come easy to my little boy, so there was never a response to those three special words.

image credit: ilovedoodle.com

Rather than insist that he respond in kind every time I said it, I made it a part of our goodnight ritual. So after cuddles and kisses and settling into bed I would say ‘night night darling’ and ask him to say ‘night night mummy’ back to me. Then I would say ‘I love you’ and ask him to say ‘I love you’ in response.

It’s a done deal these days, I don’t have to ask any more.  He knows how the script goes. He knows that those sounds and words are what we say every night. It’s the last thing we say to each other.

And isn’t that autism in a nutshell? It’s an important social and emotional exchange. One we all need and deserve to participate in. The feelings are there, no question, but for a child with autism, it needs to be unravelled to its core components and taught step by step. They get there eventually, but it doesn’t come naturally.

Would it kill me to never hear those words? No, because I know he loves me and he knows I love him. Will it help him to be able to say those words and express those feelings? Yes. Will it help me and the other people he loves to hear them? Yes with cherries on top.

image credit: the twineryblog.com

Darling Mummy

backyard fun in summer

Our friend O

We had a great day today. This morning L just couldn’t stop talking. He was copying nearly everything I said to him – words he’s never said before. I was baking banana bread and got him to help me with mashing the bananas.

Me: ‘We’re squishing the bananas, squish, squish, SQUISH!’

Him: ‘Squishing bananas!’

OK, this is good! Maybe we are going to have a good day today. He kept up with all the talking as we went over to visit with our friends and their (non-spectrum) kids. Lots to say, a bit pinchy and pushy, but had a lot of fun and managed himself pretty well all things considered. Ate his lunch. Oh yeah, we are definitely having a good day. Water play – the kids love it cos it’s fun and I love it cos it totally wears them out. An hour or so of running around naked in the dappled sunlight on a warm summer afternoon – happy boy.

Got home after picking up a bargain tray of organic mangoes (L’s favourite new food). Some quiet play, ate some dinner, bath, cleaned teeth and off to bed, all relatively painless. As we are lying on the bed and I’m doing my best NOT to fall asleep, L starts to talk to me.

Him: ‘L a good boy’

Me: ‘Yes darling, you were a very good boy today’

Him: ‘Not naughty’

Me: ‘No, you were good! You had fun with your friends didn’t you’

Him: ‘Darling mummy’

Me: ‘Darling L’

Him: asleep

Me: deep breath – we just had our first real conversation