We have had a stellar week! Alex (my son who has Autism) was able to, for the first time in his life, have dental x-rays taken! This was a huge step for him! He has been going to the dentist since he was a year old. Sure, he didn’t have all his teeth but I wanted to get him comfortable with going to the dentist regularly. When he was diagnosed at 2 and a half years old, things got tough. He’d cry and scream when the dentist tried to look at his teeth. He’d kick and hit me. I would have to hold him down. He’d cry so much he would throw up. But last week, we got to the dentist and he just hopped on the dentist table/chair. He let the dental hygienist clean his teeth. The dentist came in and he let her do her examination. He had no complaints. He did just as his twin brother, Will, was doing right next to him. And I just sat there watching them, thinking , wow, this is what it’s like for a normal parent! And Alex was on a roll so his dentist and I decided to see if he could do x-rays. And he did! No complaints! No tears! It was awesome!
At the end of last week, Alex had a field trip with his class, along with the other second graders in his school. They went to The Feast. Every year, the second graders go to Roberts Park (surrounded by redwood trees) and sort of re-enact Thanksgiving. Kids dress up as Pilgrims or Wampanoags. (Alex wanted us to dress up at Wampanoags.) They go to different stations to help prepare the feast consisting of venison stew, rabbit stew, vegetable soup, clam chowder, duck, and other foods I can’t remember. There were also stations for crafts and candle-making. Every 30 minutes, they would rotate. He followed along with his classmates as he was supposed to. I barely had to shadow him. Even his Intervention Specialist didn’t have to work with him much.
But the highlight of the day was the program. Each kid (about 72) had to memorize several sentences and recite them with a microphone in front of dozens of parents and teachers. Alex does not like attention on himself. At all. (A few weeks ago, his name was drawn for a prize and his name was announced over a school loud speaker and he freaked out. It took his I.S. 20 minutes to calm him down.) No, he does not like all eyes on him. So, of course, I’m a tad worried. He’s practiced with me and with his class. But it isn’t the same as actually doing this in front of so many people. When it was his turn to speak, I held my breath and watch him walk to the front and speak his lines. Perfectly. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I cried. I’m crying as I type this. I was so proud! All of our hard work has really paid off! All the hours of therapy, doing research, trying to find out what was best for him, giving him our best…. it all showed at that moment. I’ll never forget it! It was the perfect ending to a stellar week!
Yesterday, I had an unintentional reminder of what is normal. Since today is Veteran’s Day and the schools are closed, a friend invited us to watch a movie in a movie theater. At first, I jumped at the idea! Heck, Alex is on a roll! He’s doing so great! We could go to the movies just like other normal families do! Then it hit me. Wait, we aren’t that kind of normal. Alex isn’t ready for that yet. He needs to be prepped. (We tried to take him to a theater a few years ago and it was awful. It was sensory overload for him.) I need to come back to reality and realize that we can’t jump into things like that. I need to make a game plan, just like I did with his dentist. He needs to practice, just as he did for his speech. We need to do things little by little. Maybe I can take him to the theater on a less crowded day. Maybe I can schedule it when his Behavioral Interventionist is with us. Maybe we can do it with a movie he has already seen before. I need to plan this out in order to set him up for success.
So now that I have come down from Cloud 9 and I’m back on Earth, I realize that our normal is different from others. Having 4 weekly ABA therapy appointments is normal for us. Having my 3 boys in 2 different schools is normal for us. Going only to drive-ins instead of an indoor movie theaters is normal for us. Attending yearly IEP meetings is normal for us. Attending quarterly meetings with his intervention team is normal for us. Yeah, our normal is different. But all the accomplishments our family has…..those accomplishments may be normal for others…..but that normal is stellar to us!!!