Last weekend, the wife and I spent a few days in Arizona. It was the first time, ever, leaving the now 5-year old twins and fortunately my sister, my nephew, Mr. Dave, and the grandparents all stepped up to watch them over the course of three days.
And yes. It really does take five people to babysit the Terror Twins.
Yet the biggest question we had surrounded our autistic son, Matt, and how he was going to handle the change in his routine. Those with autism rely heavily on consistency. Sometimes even the littlest break in the pattern can cause a large amount of anxiety. I recall one time Matt had a very difficult day that all started when he realized that there was a substitute bus driver taking him to school. So for the wife and I leave for a few days AND to have relatives he doesn’t see very often come in from out of town to watch over him – well, he was certainly yanked out of his comfort zone.
There would be a different wake-up routine; someone different to put him on, and take him off, the bus; a different night-time routine that, for over five years, always included mommy and daddy. He would be forced to ask others for help (if he needed it) or work on his homework in a new way. All things that potentially could upset him in ways that the rest of us truly can’t understand.
Yet over the course of three full days, he did fine. Maybe even too good. I mean, I have to admit my ego was a bit crushed knowing that we left for a few days and the kid barely batted an eye. In some ways, though, it was a great testament to how far he’s come in battling and dealing with one of the key symptoms of autism; to handle a break in his daily and weekly routine that easily could have sent him into full-on tantrum mode.
The Real Test
What I was truly curious about, though, were the overall impressions of Aunt Kimmie, Cousin Jeremy and Mr. Dave. Each of whom only see Matt once, perhaps twice a year. For Mr. Dave, he might’ve seen Matt a total of four times ever. So what I wanted to do was gauge their thoughts on how far Matt’s come in his development: mostly with his talking and socializing. Monica and I see him every day, the grandparents see him five-to-six days a week, his teachers seem him daily during school. Thus, we’re often so close to the situation that we might not see (or appreciate) just how far he’s come.
All of them report just what we thought, and hoped, they would: that Matt is doing great!
My sister was quizzing him on his sight-words, all of which he said immediately and with perfect clarity. She thinks he’s a genius and is probably smarter than all of us. She also commented on how well he’s listening, following instructions, requesting items, etc. These types of things were unheard of two years ago. Yet during those two years – hell in just the past six-months – there’s been such a huge spike in his development.
Mr. Dave said that “Matt called me by name when we said our goodbyes”. Perhaps not a big deal to most people, but a big step socially for Matt and something that’s never happened before.
They were also surprised how well he handled the big crowd at the Halloween costume judging and how he had no problem going up on stage with his brother and about 15 other kids all in front of hundreds of spectators. Crowds, loud noises, and somewhat enclosed spaces have been triggers for Matt in the past, but not that day.
He just continues to roll with the punches and face whatever life throws at him. In the past I’d say that some days were better than others. Now, I think it’s safe to say that most days are better.
Kindergarten UpdateA month or so ago, I blogged about how Matt was adjusting to mainstream kindergarten (as opposed to his special needs pre-kindergarten class where he had spent the last two years). At the time, I said the results were “luke warm at best.”
Turns out, I was wrong.
Yes, he struggles a bit with the more rigid routine of kindergarten and I think at times the large class size of 27 kids can be overwhelming, but in a meeting with the school’s special education coordinator, my wife was told that Matt could go to first grade right now. He’s that smart and is grasping the educational part of kindergarten with no problem. What he needs to practice on, though, is the social-side of school, the interaction with classmates and the teacher, and knowing when to sit still and when it’s ok to move around.
The wife and I work with the twins every school night on writing their letters and learning their sight-words. Sometimes he’s got the patience to work, other nights not so much. It’s as though Matt needs to work three times as hard as his twin brother Martin to learn something. But make no mistake about it: he can, and most often time does, learn it.
Getting up, however, walking to the door, sticking his tongue out at his class and leaving during his math activity – that’s something that is apparently frowned upon.
Yeah. We need to work on that.