The Short Bus Diaries » Confessions About Life With an Autistic Son

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Good Things: A List

Just a list. In case a random earthquake causes a mountain to pop up and stand in my path, I want to document a few nice things for the record. All of these things parallel my son’s transition into his new school (we’re still paying for it out of pocket, and driving up there four times a day, because DCPS is refusing to follow a legal order, but that’s a separate problem). This list is about “yay” things.

  1. My son is potty trained again. Two weeks after we placed him at his new [private] school [specializing in working with autistic kids], my son no longer needs a set of eyes on him every single minute of the day, in case he decides to leave me a gift on the floor of his room. No more throwing out underwear, or hosing it down in the front yard while cursing life. No more praying that I could just get the french fries out of the oven and the chicken nuggets on his plate in time to run upstairs and prevent a huge mess. We even took him to a friend’s pool this weekend without worrying about any embarrassing exits and explanations. This is equivalent to a rope being thrown down to us after being stuck in a well of self-exile for four-five months.
  2. My son is trying to speak again. He looks at us so earnestly, begging us to understand him and respond to his still very limited vocabulary. Sometimes it’s so hard to say no to him, when he wants to go “ow”, but it’s 105 degrees out or 8pm at night. I want to encourage all of his efforts and reward his requests, but can’t, for obvious parenting reasons. But the sounds and eye contact fill me with hope.
    • Two days ago, as I was dragging my sleepy son up to bed, I asked him to say “Goodnight Daddy”. And ya know what? This boy, who has muttered nothing but single syllables since I don’t know….February of this year…casually said “guh nuh da”. Obviously, this is miles from where he needs to be in order to get around independently in this world. But it almost made me cry. It’s a sign of things to come.
    • He experimented with using the word “no” earlier this week. He used it tentatively, but appropriately. Perhaps this is a sign that he will one day be able to answer a question and also advocate for himself.
  3. My son wants to cuddle more these days. He has always been a kid who likes affection (and I still remember when he would scream from his room “I wanna cuddle with Mommy!”). But this past year has been such a roller coaster ride of behaviors and exhaustion for everyone in the house. It feels like the cuddliness was reserved mostly for when he was really tired, had just woken up, or was sick. But lately, he hugs me from behind while I’m getting dinner ready, he readily comes up to me for kisses, he runs into my room every morning to wriggle closer to me and have me tickle his back and arms, and sometimes he even runs up behind me in the kitchen and tickles my back (hey — that’s reciprocal behavior!). I’m not gonna lie and say that on some days I don’t lock my bedroom door in the morning so that I can try and sleep a little later without being interrupted by the cuddle squad…but I usually feel guilty and let him in. Seeing him smile and relax while I sleepily wake up in the morning is a good reminder about the parts of parenthood that aren’t so hard.
  4. We are beginning to let go a little and relax. We’re far from being able to go out and eat together as a family in a restaurant, but we can at least sit down for five-plus minutes and not panic about what our son might be up to in another room. Out of habit, I still find myself dropping my fork and running around to investigate what potential mess he may have gotten into, but I often find discover that he is simply sitting on the floor, holding a toy. He’s still not playing with most toys appropriately (with the exception of cause and effect marble run -type toys). But the fact that he picks up objects and holds them again feels a little more…familiar, as a parent. He’s also not so fast to climb up on a chair and grab food that he will then immediately pulverize in an attempt to get it into his mouth before we can stop him. He seems to respect the rules now and is just plain…patient. My little boy is no angel, nor should he be at this age. But he’s no longer out of control. I really hope this peace lasts.

This is not the end. It’s just the beginning!


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