My daughter Catherine's rendition of me when I'm happy
It happened again, Gregory stopped me in my tracks. This morning as the other kids were getting ready to file out & catch their morning schoolbus, Gregory stared into his older brother Luke's face intently and said "Luke", and started saying "nose", "ears", etc while looking at Luke's face. He also looked out the door and started labeling "tree" & "snow". He was a naming machine.
This was magical when you consider a year ago, you were lucky if he looked at your eyes directly for more than 1 second. It was almost as if your eyes were bright, burning suns that he must avoid, or your face was a giant magnet of the same polarity as his so that they only repelled eachother.
It's as if his brainwaves are starting to get better organized & new synapses are joining up.
THIS IS HOW IT OUGHT TO BE -- in between those long months of wanting to tear your hair out & wondering if all the work being put into him was working, some signs of improvement descend upon us, and keep us going.
We savor each shiny glimmery jewel of improvement, and put them in our pocket along the way.
More juicy good news from the G-man front... Today I got an early Mother's Day gift -- you see, I had never heard Gregory call me Mommy before today. We were looking at a photo of me on Facebook when I asked Gregory, "Who's that?" while pointing to myself. He had never labeled me in pictures nor called me Mommy before, even though he knew who I was. I prompted him verbally with, "Mommy". After a few looks back and forth between the photo & me, Gregory begins spewing out "Mommy-Mommy-Mommy-Mommy!"
I've waited 5 years to hear those lovely words directed at me.
While still in a zone of incredulity, I got a little greedy and prompted him to say "I love you Mommy". He repeated it, laughing as if tickled by self-discovery.
Earlier in the day, he threw several more nuggets of gold my way after years of our prospecting in muddy waters:
* When I cracked open an egg & as soon as it landed in the frying pan to sizzle, Gregory goes "Wooooowww!", right on cue. Something about that observation-reaction sequence was so wonderful, so normal -- a departure from the directionless jargon, singing & chattering that you might get from him.
* When he came to me to see if we could go to the basement to retrieve some yogurt in the fridge down there, I said NO since we were out of them. ...Pause... "What about chips?", he says. Shazam - I couldn't believe it; where'd he pick up that to say??? He'd usually just echo what I last said, not formulate a whole 'nother sentence.
* He usually engages in parallel play with his brothers & sister, and only plays "with" them if they spontaneously get up to run or play tag, or some other physical game. Today he played catch with his sister, throwing the ball to and from each other. Pure simplicity. To the untrained eye it was as ordinary as air, but to me, it was significantly different -- there was literally a back-and-forth element to this type of playing. Beautiful to behold. Nevermind that the video clip I captured of him doing this shows he is completely naked after his bath. :)
Well it feels like we're starting to amass more & more of these instances, like little flecks of gold or precious metals, enough to be able to solder into a growing chain.
Gregory has stunned me recently with some long-awaited leaps -- it feels like we've come across an unexpected water fountain after 40 years in the desert.
It may not seem like much on the surface, but Gregory & I had our first conversation. Keeping in mind that he started out non-verbal, then had just a few single echolalic words, then a very long phase of saying "I want ___", and not much else, the "conversation" we had was so completely different because for the first time it was a true exchange.
* I wanted G to go upstairs for his bubble bath but he refused multiple times, saying "No." Somehow I got him to walk upstairs but he still refused to go into the bath tub. After a while, and all of a sudden, instead of repeating "No" over & over, he suddenly said, "Bubble bath, ...Lollipop?" It floored me when I realized he was saying, If I take a bath will you give me a lollipop? As soon as I said YES, he ran to the bath tub, and as soon as he was done, I immediately handed him a lollipop. Oh, happy day! (Play Etta James' "At Last" here).
* The improved communication goes on with other incidents. Even though his sentences are not complex, they show a seismic leap in the quality of his relating. Before, he was content to be "in his own little world" and speaking with just "echos" of what you said, or going to you just for help in obtaining a desired item w/o truly communicating in the full sense of backs & forths.
* Last night when seated around the dinner table, I had started doing high-fives with two of my other kids when Gregory all of a sudden lifted his hands in the air, looking at me to do high-fives with him. It was beautiful. He was a part of the group & wanting to do what we were doing. Another sign of Gregory making a leap forward.
* This morning as he got on the schoolbus, the new bus driver said "Good Morning". Gregory broke his usual tradition of being silent and shouted out, "Hellooooooooo!" & then "Hi !!!" to both ladies in the bus.
When you have a kid that's developing typically, as my other three children are, you really take for granted these little things. Gregory has been working very hard for the past 2+ years with much help & support, so it's breathtaking to witness the baby steps & leaps above, and to contemplate his full potential.
Like all kids, those on the spectrum can & will surprise you. :-)
One of my favorite shots of Gregory, a couple of years ago when we first moved into our new house. Black socks & sandals - his grandfather would be proud. :-) And he's looking right at you - for a while that was the Holy Grail.
So here he is -- not headed for the Boardwalk at Coney Island to take the plunge with the Polar Bear Club into the icy Atlantic on January 1st !
Through Gregory, who is on the autism spectrum, I've learned that while not all of us are endowed with superior talents, others are gifted more for their ability to inspire the rest of us to become better people. "Disability" is in the eye of the beholder, and kids like Gregory give us new eyes with which to see the world. He is one of my greatest teachers.