Every Tuesday you have therapy with Ms. Kelley. The first time you met her you didn’t want to have anything to do with her. You didn’t want to play her games and you screamed the entire time. This past Tuesday started out with Ms. Kelley sitting with me on the couch observing you, letting you get used to her presence. She asked me questions and gave me advice while you played independently going from one thing to another, but always ending up on the recliner to rock or, as we call it in the autism world, stim. Ms. Kelley eventually got onto the floor and looked around at your environment trying to decide on what toy to start with. She grabbed your toy truck and began putting balls from your ball pit into the back of it. I had you in my lap, and again you screamed. In my head I was thinking that this was never going to work out for you even though we were only on Day 1 of real therapy. Ms. Kelley told me to remember that moment because one day I will watch you play willingly and look back thinking how hard it was at first.
You eventually got out of my arms and went into the kitchen to spin whatever was on the floor. You were still crying and I asked Ms. Kelley if I should just let you be. She told me that if I were to let you stay in the kitchen I would be giving into your crying and letting you have your way. So I took a breath and grabbed you screaming and kicking into the living room where we gave you some grapes off of your lunch plate. You love grapes and anytime you are upset all I have to do is give you three grapes, handing them to you one at a time as I count one, twoooo, three! Then I say see ya! Off you go happy as a clam.
You stayed with us as you ate your grapes and Ms. Kelley asked if I had a container with a lid that you couldn’t open. I went to the kitchen to grab a small bowl with a screw on lid. Ms. Kelley put a handful of grapes into the container and closed the lid. She then asked me to put the rest of the grapes away to where you couldn’t see them. From the moment she screwed on the lid, I thought to myself, “He is going to be irritated. He will not like this game”, but to my surprise, you sat down with the container and examined it thoroughly from every angle, trying to figure out how to get the grapes out. Ms. Kelley’s goal here was for you to actually bring me the container to open. That would be a sign of communication and that would mean progress. She showed me the sign for open and had me sign it to you over and over as your tiny brain ticked away trying to figure out what was going on. You looked at me in the eye and started to fuss. Ms. Kelley said to then quickly take your hands, make you sign open, say open YAY with excitement, as I opened the lid and handed you a grape. She told me that I had to catch you before you got too frustrated because when you are upset and crying you won’t catch on because you won’t pay attention until I give you what you want. You liked this game! You sat for us and actually played with us! Eventually you signed open with one hand while the container was in the other and Ms. Kelley and I were completely amazed because usually it takes weeks or even months for a child with autism to actually catch on and do what is trying to be taught.
This time when we opened the container you grabbed all of the grapes out and Ms. Kelley said, “Ah, we have a very smart young man here! He grabbed all of the grapes out so that he doesn’t have to wait for them or play the game.” Then when she asked you to put the grapes back in while grabbing your hand to show you what she wanted you to do, you SHOOK YOUR HEAD NO!!!! This was true communication! You continued to shake your head no and Ms. Kelley conveyed that she understood by asking, “You don’t want to put the grapes back?” This was huge and I began to cry which made Ms. Kelley cry and so here we are, two grown women crying while you are shaking your head no. Oliver this gave me hope. Hope that you will be okay. It brought me peace knowing that you were understanding and learning, my peanut!
We stopped that game, dried our eyes, and Ms. Kelley grabbed a toy that had stackable letters and she began to put one on top of the other while saying up, up, up!!! You watched her with your curious eyes and she gave you a letter to stack showing you where she wanted you to put it and YOU TRIED TO STACK IT!!!! Ms. Kelley said that this was incredibly good because you were showing social skills which most autistic kids tend to struggle very hard with. She was impressed that you responded to someone just saying, “Great job!” and praising you without touching you or hugging you. Just our voices were enough to get you excited and interested which is another sign of good social interaction.
After you were finished with that I brought out your wooden pounding bench. Ms. Kelley would hit one of the pegs while saying tap, tap, tap! Soon you let her guide you by holding your hand and helping you tap the pegs which was great because this showed that you were beginning to enjoy Ms. Kelley’s company. Eventually, you tried to tap the pegs yourself and as you were doing so you did something that I wouldn’t have given a second thought. Ms. Kelley noticed that you were making a noise as you tapped. You were making a uh, uh, uh noise and she said that you were trying to say tap, tap, tap! Incredible! My brilliant little peanut!
Soon it was almost time for Ms. Kelley to leave and so we let you go off on your own and you went straight for the recliner. We talked a bit about the session and Ms. Kelley said she was impressed with the speed that you are learning things. Picking up on the sign more in just minutes, signing open with one hand, shaking your head no in response to someone asking you to do something you didn’t want to do, trying to repeat tap tap tap, and showing social skills already showed us that therapy was really going to help you. You are so smart and all I had to do was teach you, but I didn’t know how until now. I asked Ms. Kelley to move in! She is the light at the end of the tunnel! I can’t wait until your next session. I cannot wait to see what you learn next!
Yesterday we worked quite a bit on some of the skills Ms. Kelley asked us to work on and later on that day I put on a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode called Daisy’s grasshopper. In this episode it’s grasshopper day and so everyone had to hop. They sang a song that went, “Do the grasshopper hop, hop, hop…and they repeated hop hop hop after every line in the song. I was loading the dishwasher when I hear you in your room saying ha, ha, ha right on beat. Every time they sang hop hop hop you would sing ha ha ha. I was frozen not wanting to move or do anything to interrupt you. I wanted to be sure that what I was hearing wasn’t coincidental. When I was sure that you actually meant to sing along I got excited and told you how proud I was of you. You continued to sing and I continued to clap for you cheering you on.
Oliver, I underestimated you my peanut! You are so smart and I love when I can actual see your mind ticking. When you study things it is such an intense concentration that I have never seen before. You have shown me that you have no limits. You are going to be just fine and I am so relieved. One day at a time my love.