Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Toast to Seabiscut!

I really don't know anything about Seabiscuit, I just thought it was a cute title.

Just a few minutes ago Maya sat up straight in bed, from a near sleeping state (dammit!) and ran to my room to tell me that she forgot to show me something from her backpack.  I grumbled and groaned and told her to go back to bed, but off she went, treating me like the invisible mom and down the steps she went.  Too tired from my day, and knowing it is fruitless to stop her when she is on a mission, I shrugged and decided to let it happen.

And boy am I glad I did!  Maya came upstairs with her math worksheets.  Now when I say math, I really mean counting.  But she showed me 8 pages of schoolwork that she did today and she got every single one right.  The exercises were things like pictures of dice and then drawing a line to the right number, tracing different numbers to practice her writing skills and drawing shapes corresponding to the number there (a box with a 3 and a circle and Maya drew three circles).  Every single answer for 8 pages was completely right!  Her writing skills are still difficult, her numbers leave a little to be desired but when I looked back at her math book from a year ago, I can see how much better it has gotten (and hopefully her physical therapy will help).

The best part?  Maya as she watched me smiling at her work said, "mommy, I think you are happy and proud of me."  Oh honey, you have no idea!

Sometimes you get so involved in the day to day of it all, or in the not-wanting-to-fixate-on-it-all (and let's face it, it's me, I get distracted in the Facebook-of-it-all) you forget that progress is being made every day.  When I look at the math book from last year and see those shaky little lines that really look nothing at all like the numbers underneath that she was supposed to trace, I remember looking at those little scrawls and worrying those shaky little pencil strokes would never look like a number.  And now her circles look like circles, her triangles look like triangles and her bananas look like bananas (especially if you squint).  I was no less proud of her last year for getting some of her exercises right to see how much she has learned in the course of the past year and knowing how HARD learning can be for her.  But she is doing it, maybe in microscopic steps, but it is there.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were in the car and my husband was lamenting the fact that Maya doesn't seem to be making progress in a 3R's kind of way and asking if we should be doing something else, or something different.  It's a familiar dance by now, one we go through often.  Sometimes, like this time, he leads.  Sometimes I lead.  Sometimes we step on each other's feet.  And I said to him that I didn't know if we should be doing anything different but what I did know is that patience and encouragement were the keys and that autism is not something where you tick the box, and boom, problem(s) solved.  It's a long, slow, arduous process.  And I again used a now-familiar analogy that I have grown to love.  Autism is like a lock and you have a janitor's keyring of hundreds of keys, all of which represent options to help (all different types of therapy, ABA, floortime special education programs in every size, shape, color, mainstreaming, etc., etc.).  It's finding the right key that will open the lock and then what you get is another lock and you have to start all over again.  It's frustrating and if you let it, you can let it overcome you, overwhelm you, discourage you.  Or you can revel each time you manage to find a key that fits and enjoy that success before you start looking for the next key.  

Autism is not a sprint, it's a distance race.  It's so important to relish each step forward, each key that turns a lock, no matter how small.

Stop and smell the roses, I know I am!

I love my girl!

How far she has come from the time when the Piano at FAO Schwarz scared her so much she threw herself down on that piano (this photo was post-tantrum)

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