Although I’ve written about my son Matt and his autism in the past, it’s a connection I try not to dwell upon. After all it’s Matt himself, through his own his actions and words, that defines who he is. Yes, he may be autistic, but he’s so much more.
Still, there’s no denying his struggles: specifically in communication (speaking) and socialization. Yet as I mentioned back in April when I wrote Sometimes miracles happen slowly, he’s constantly improving. Sometimes those improvements are tough to see on a daily basis, but over the course of a year, or a summer, or even just a couple of weeks – the changes are noticeable.
One area of improvement is in talking and vocabulary. On most weekends, I try to document all the words and phrases he says over the course of each day. Many are just common words he uses all the time: “Thomas” or “Mommy” or “Daddy”. There are also a lot of examples of him repeating what I ask: “Matthew. Say ‘thank you'” or “Matt, you must say ‘juice please’?”
Yet there are many times he’ll spit out words and phrases that my wife and I have never heard him say before; words that have been literally trapped inside his brain for who knows how long. Just the other day he chugged some juice, wiped off his mouth, looked at us and said “Ahhh…. delicious!”. We were stunned. And then to hear him spout off the occasional 5-word sentence is incredible.
In preparation for an upcoming parent-teacher conference on his progress, Matt’s teacher sat him down to go over his letters and numbers. Although not surprising at all to us, the teacher was thrilled as he patiently went through all 26 letters and his numbers up to 20. An accomplishment that wasn’t such as easy process for his classmates.
Those who know him know his mind is as sharp as any four year old (if not more so). The key continues to be to find ways to get it out of him. And trust me, he’s got a lot going on upstairs.
There have also been some big strides in his interactions with others: with us, his teachers, his brother and friends. It’s not uncommon for Matt to chase, wrestle, and of course fight with his twin. He approaches my wife and I to talk. At school, almost daily, he requests to go into the blended preschool class (meaning away from his special education class with four students to a mainstream prekindergarten class with around 18 kids).
This may not seem like that big of a deal for most kids but for Matt, or others with autism, these are big steps and not always easy ones.
I’ve seen, talked to (and on WordPress and elsewhere read about) other parents who labor with raising an autistic child. Some of them certainly have tougher situations to deal with than my wife and I. Yet I think we’re doing a pretty good job of focusing on the positive potential with Matt. We honestly don’t see any sort of “ceiling” with him; no real limitations.
As Matt continues to come out of his shell, I couldn’t be more proud of the intelligent, rambunctious, and most of all happy little boy emerging. If I were to put together a list of words to describe my son, “autistic” wouldn’t make the Top 10. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe it would make Matt’s Top 10 either.