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Boy self-portraitThis week, following considerable prayer, I began to notice where my son is making progress.  Here’s the list of his accomplishments this week.

  • made it all the way through an hour and a half church meeting with little or no trouble.
  • made it all the way through primary opening exercises (45 minutes) without getting up and wandering around the room.
  • listened and followed directions on at least four separate occasions.
  • sat in the back seat of the car with his sister without hitting her.
  • accepted “no” for an answer when he learned I wouldn’t be taking him to eat at a restaurant.
  • agreed to leave an activity he was engrossed in when I said it was time to go.
  • walked around a grocery store with me and stayed well in sight.
  • talked politely with various shoppers and their babies without intruding on their personal space.
  • used his words to express his anger and frustration when things became irritating to him.
  • spoke to a caller on the phone and then passed the phone off to an adult.

Now, I know that none of these things seem like a big deal, but to a little boy with autism who, until this week, couldn’t accomplish even one of these things, they are major milestones.  Here are things I’ve noticed about changes to his environment that I think may have something to do with the changes in his behavior.

  • I spoke politely to him as if he could understand everything I say.
  • I listened actively when he spoke to me.
  • I made space for him on my lap if he needed to cuddle (got to store those up while he’s still too young to care about being too cool to cuddle with mom.)
  • I got down on his level and spoke to his face rather than standing over him.
  • When it seemed that he was unlikely to follow an instruction or behaved poorly, I assumed he didn’t understand and took time to explain more simply.
  • I didn’t play the radio while he was in the car with me.
  • He often had a favorite stuffed toy with him when he was away from home and I occasionally asked him to remind his “baby” to be well behaved and that bad consequences would happen if the toy didn’t behave.
  • I let him know when he had done something right by giving him praise, high-fives and hugs.
  • I gave him his desires in fantasy.

Some examples of this happened both yesterday and today.  Yesterday, jak and I discovered the package of toothpicks spilled out in the doorway of the master bedroom.  When I learned of the situation, I took Boy by the hand and led him to the scene of the crime.  Then I asked him if he had been playing with the toothpicks.  He said “no.”  Rather than scold him for lying, I turned him around and showed him the spilled toothpicks.  Then I asked again if he had been playing with them.  This time he answered “yes” and added, “they have pokes.”  As we bent down together to pick them up, I replied that, “yes, they do have pokes.  People could hurt their feet.  They have pokes so you can use them to pick your teeth.  That’s why they’re called toothpicks.”  After that, all the while gathering up the spilled toothpicks, we talked about various subjects, some of which had to do with toothpicks, but most of which were purely random talk.  It was the first time in a while that I felt I’d been able to connect with my son, something I’ve longed for since he was born.

Today, we were coming home from Pasco and discussing our plans for tonight’s dinner.  Boy was insistent that he wanted to go to “our store” and get pizza and “mashed topatoes.”  Since we’d agreed to have mashed potatoes anyway, and we were out of potatoes, rather than try to wrestle Boy from the car, I told jak I was heading to the store for dinner supplies and we pulled back out.  Boy and I discussed the situation all the way to the grocery store and as I listened to what he was trying to tell me, I came to realize that “our store” meant Granny’s Buffet, which is a restaurant.  I explained, again, that we couldn’t afford to go to a restaurant.  He started showing signs of getting upset and I knew I had to head that off at the pass double quick.  So I said, “Gee, I really wish I could give you what you want.  If I had lots of money, I would take us all the Granny’s Buffet to eat every night.  Wouldn’t that be great?”  Then, calming down, he began to tell me which things he liked best at the buffet, that is until we pulled up at the grocery store and he realized where we were.  He got out of the car and held my hand while we crossed the parking lot.  He got a shopping cart for me and, because he had his stuffed rabbit with him, I said, “We’d better put bunny in the cart.” Boy put the bunny into the kid seat and, because bunny is quite small, we tied the seatbelt around his waist and Boy buckled it firmly.  Then he said, “Now bunny, you better behave or you’ll get a spank.”  At the grocery store we were visiting, they have carts with two seats instead of just the one, so I put my purse in the other seat and we pushed the cart together.  When we got to the produce section and I selected a nice large bag of potatoes, Boy wanted a bag of mixed fruit (apples and oranges).  He grabbed a plastic bag and said, “Mommy, can we get this?”  What could I say other than “yes” to such a nicely wrapped request.  On the whole, the trip was much less stressful than it usually was.  He even helped me unload the cart when we reached the checkout stand.  Because he was so well behaved, I bought him a granola bar as a treat.  When we got home, I bragged on him to his father for about twenty minutes in his hearing, so he’d know how well I thought he’d done.

Anyway, I’m so pleased by Boy’s progress, I wanted to tell the world, or at least the portion of the world that regularly reads this blog.  For my sake and the sake of my son, please include your congratulations to him in the comments section below.  I’ll make sure he sees them.  Thank you in advance.