Friday, April 22, 2011

I Am Aware

I am aware, these Autism Awareness days—though they're on the wane—almost entirely of the strides and gains.

It would be hard not to be, right now. They’re earthshaking. I’m surprised seismographs across California haven’t picked up on these events, or on the pride they’ve engendered in me.

I might have said it differently. I might have said that, recently, my boy has met almost every goal we've set for him. But the thing is, almost none of what has come up recently was even on our radar as a goal, because NOBODY thought he was ready for ANYTHING like this.

Here's just a taste, my friends, of the goodness that is moving forward:

1. There was a science fair, with projects required of all fourth graders. N came home early in the process, announcing that A—a girl who has long been one of the few kids he calls "friend," though there have never been any outside-of-class social overtures on either side—and he would be partnering for the project. Who picked who? How did this come about? We didn't dare ask. We just held our breaths when, a few days later, A called N on the phone to talk about the project sheet they had to fill out…and he got on the phone with her. GOT ON THE PHONE WITH HER. AND TALKED. There may even have been some giggling.

And then. THEN. Over spring break, A came over to our house to work on the project. TWICE. They worked together, and then played together afterward, and she DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE WHEN HER MOM CAME TO PICK HER UP.

(I'm sorry about the caps. BUT DUDE. YOU HAVE NO IDEA how exciting, how…WOW.)

And then again. THEN AGAIN. At the science fair, they stood, side by side, and talked to people about their project. OK, mostly she talked. But he stayed. And he handed the kids the wave bottle they'd made together, and watched them play with it. Like that was REGULAR for him. Like it was NOTHING.


2. Then there was the annual synagogue trip to a family camp, where he hung with this counselors, and slept in his bunk, and didn't even want to spend the couple of hours on Saturday morning designated as "family time" with me; he wanted to play bball with his boys. Fine by moi. I just grinned and waved as he went off.

But that's not the boggling part of this story. Before I get to the boggling part, remember: My child's main "issue," socially, has been a form of selective mutism. He doesn't often like being looked at or noticed by large groups of people, but he can stand it. But to speak to people? Especially under pressure or duress? When called on, and not volunteering on his own? Just not something N does.

So: The tradition is that, at the end of the weekend, everyone stands in a circle and shares their feelings about the trip. It was the first time in the four years we've gone that Noah had even been willing to stand in the circle (with his counselors, not anywhere near me). When it was his turn to speak, he turned away for a second, and the rabbi started to speak on his behalf, knowing N as he does, and that trying to push him would not be useful. But then, suddenly, N was talking. In front of, oh, 40 or 50 people! Just a few words ("I just wanted to say...counselors ROCK!"), but loud and clear. I caught my breath, and heard sharp intakes all around me. And afterward, at least two other members of our congregation came up to me, tears streaming from their eyes: "Did you see him? Did you HEAR him? I can't believe it!"

3. But wait. It only gets better: To top it all off, at golf class the other day, there was one boy who was mouthing off to another boy, and it was getting ugly. And then…there was N, stepping between, telling the first boy he needed "to stop it."

Stepping between. Talking to a kid he doesn't know well. A belligerent kid. Who wasn't even picking on him. I'm…I'm…

But the best part was that, when N heard Baroy telling me the story, he grinned half-shyly, half-proud of himself and gave his shoulders a half-shrug. "I was just trying to protect my friend H," he said.

Just trying. To protect. His friend.

Not a goal. Not even a vague, half-formed hope. I wouldn't have dared.

I am aware, these Autism Awareness days, that my kid rocks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What She Said

Don't you just hate it when someone else takes the words right out of your mouth, leaving you with nothing to say?

Don't you just love it when someone else takes the words right out of your mouth, leaving you with nothing to say?

Thanks, Kristen.