Maybe Brooks is just going through a particularly promising phase, or maybe I’m seeing him through my Mom’s rose-colored glasses, or maybe, just maybe, my little boy with autism is no longer so definitively a little boy with autism. Hmm.
When my Mom, who’s visiting from Canada, wakes up in the morning, Brooks’s face lights up: “Look, Mommy — Baba’s up! Hi, Baba!” (Baba: Grandma.) No longer any need to prompt him for social greetings, at least not when my Mom’s around. He doesn’t whisper his good morning shyly, or spit it out robotically; his cadences are natural and sound like music to me.
Even though Baba has a ton of stamina, Brooks is able to exhaust her with the kind of play that was out of his reach during her previous visit, last March. Directing her to read aloud to his stuffed animal friends and then subjecting her to their questions: “What was your favorite part, Bear?” and then following up with “Bear, you need to talk louder — we couldn’t hear you.” Inviting her to take a pretend bus ride with him to the North Pole. Getting her to help him feed the pretend baby sweet potatoes. All spontaneous. All appropriate. All ratcheted up a notch or two higher than what we’re used to.
At Brooks’s most recent parent-teacher conference, my husband and I learn that Brooks is on track to achieve the goals his Intensive K team defined back in September. We also learn that his cognitive skills are at or above age level. Really? We are unprepared for this. We know how to discuss why he is scoring below his age level; we know how to talk about how the strategies in place are not getting the job done so we need to come up with new ones, but frankly, we’re a little lost in this meeting. There’s no “bad” part at the end. We’ve clenched our stomach muscles to absorb the blow, but there is no blow. Do we exhale now?
Yes, for the moment, we exhale. Without forgetting that Brooks still has a long way to go. Without forgetting that he is still very awkward when it comes to greetings that involve hugs and kisses, or that he has never once favored playing with a child when an adult is available. Without forgetting that bathroom independence is tough because buttons and zippers are hard and he often gets distracted by the running water, and he still doesn’t get the social part of why he has to pull up his pants before he leaves the bathroom. Without forgetting for a heartbeat that his imaginative play we celebrate would look awfully juvenile for a typically developing 6-year-old.
Without forgetting all those things (because we don’t have that luxury, because we have to stay on-task), we can also take a moment to celebrate how far Brooks has come, and how hard he’s worked, and how lucky we are.
Things are looking up — the glass is three-quarters full. Cheers!