Comparing the Past to the Present
When I look back two or three years, I almost cannot believe that the child Cameron is today is the same child from back then. The differences are amazing.
It was difficult to reach him back then. He was in his own little world. He didn’t seem to take much notice of us, unless we were right beside him or touching his toys.
Back then, he didn’t notice little details about other people. You would almost have to be wearing a clown mask to get a reaction out of him.
This is no longer entirely true. I recently had surgery on one of my hands. I had a big bandage on that hand for the first week. He took the time to ask me if it hurt. He even asked to look at it once the bandage came off. He declared that he wasn’t “completely grossed out by my stitches.”
When the stitches were at the stage where they were covered by a band aid, he noticed. One night, I had a bit of gauze and some tape over the incision site. He went running past me, as he usually does, absorbed in whatever activity he was looking forward to. All of a sudden, he came to an abrupt stop, backed up, and said, “Hey, do you have a bandage on your hand?”
This may not sound like something remarkable, but it meant the world to us. He would not have noticed something like that a couple of years ago.
I am now frequently able to see how our hard work with him has payed off. Even after he had developed little bits of “reality conversation,” he used to reply to conversations about his day with one or two word answers. I never accepted that. I would ask him detailed questions about his day. It frustrated him to no end, but I was trying to help him learn how to communicate.
Now, at the age of eight, his answers are much different. I say, “How was your day?” Instead of saying, “Okay,” he says something like, “It was good. I played with Damian on the playground. We went sledding. I was good all day and got a prize from the prize box.”
In my heart, I am jumping for joy! But I dare not display as much enthusiasm as I am feeling. In my experience, if you show too much enthusiasm to an Aspie, they get uncomfortable and edgy. Instead, I say (in a loving and impressed tone), “That’s pretty great. I’m glad you had a good day.”
Sometimes he just says, “Yeah….” and walks away. But when he remembers, he says, “Thank you,” waits for the reply, and then walks away. Those are some of my best moments.
Cameron and I always had a bit of unspoken language, even when he was deep inside of himself. If he was acting out, I would look at him and shake my head a bit. If he was feeling particularly playful, he might nod in reply. If he was acting out as a result of something he had no control over (before his diagnosis), he showed no reaction to me at all. He was too deeply into his reaction to the unexpected stimuli.
He now has more control over his reactions. He has learned to process much of the sensory input in his regular life.
His behaviors are still sometimes over the top. Sometimes they are reactions and unintended outbursts; sometimes they are just plain bad behavior. The trick is knowing and sensing the difference.
If he is being particularly difficult, and I know it’s just plain bad behavior, I can usually curb it fairly quickly. I clear my throat or give him a certain look. Sometimes I say, “Um…..” in a very significant way, accompanied by “the look.” That usually does the trick, unless he has gone past the point of aggravation and straight into a sort of panic attack. At that time, I have to change my tactics.
As parents, most of us know that our role is quite important to the success of our children. With Cameron, my natural instincts seem to make me a key part in making it all work out.
I don’t know what God saw in me that made Him think that I was the sort of person who could handle an Autistic child. I certainly never saw those traits in myself. But as usual, God knew what He was doing. He taught me a lot when He gave me Cameron. I am still learning and growing. My heart holds more love than I ever thought it could hold. Kids do that to you. Autistic children do it on a much deeper level.