Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Backward Glimpse

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I've put aside my mountains of autism books for the rest of 2010 and declared war on my cluttered home.  I'm so frustrated in my search for answers for/about G that I'm using that raw energy to put order on things that I DO have control over: my body and my home.  I've been working out, cleaning closets, emptying drawers, moving furniture.  Sorting, organizing, pitching, donating.  Joy - it feels incredibly liberating!  I'm finding some surprising treasures in the process.

I found a few "dash and stash" boxes that got lost under the radar during previous organizing stints.  D & S boxes so named by a friend who once described the frantic moments when a friend or family member calls to say they're dropping by in 5 minutes, so you dash and stash the mountain of clutter.  I unearthed a box of D & S paperwork from January, 2008.  The Wonder Years.  Family times filled with wonder, excitement and magic of my 3 delightful children.  Yet - wonder, nagging fears about G.  A word list instantly took me back...

With each of my children, I checked in periodically with the recommended milestones in "What to Expect When You're Expecting", "What to Expect The First Year", and "What to Expect The Toddler Years".  Usually I'd peek at them before a pediatrician visit to see what to expect at the visit, note their progress and ask any questions about upcoming challenges with teething, etc.  Though I took those milestones and well visits very seriously, compared to my worries and prep for doctor visits for G, they were a piece of cake.  For this visit, I'd spent 2 weeks badgering my husband and kids nonstop for words that G could say, carrying my scrawled list everywhere in case of a Brand New Word.  I'd read that at his age children should have 100 words.  I took it literally and devotedly.  I knew, as mothers do, that something was amiss with my miracle boy.  My older 2 children hit milestones waaaaay ahead of the book's chart.  The milestones are written to the low end of accomplishment.  I knew that.  Isn't it funny how we try to convince, even fool ourselves?  I was determined to get to 100 words.  I assembled the list and typed it up to take to the pediatrician. I only got to 96, so I left the remaining 4 blank, bent on filling them.  Then I noticed that I had 2 duplicates, so I was down to 94.  Those 6 blank spaces haunted me, I had to fill them in, had to get G to 100 so that he would hit the mark.  I force fed him words, "Say watch, G.  Watch."  I recall the warm feeling of accomplishment as I wrote in the remaining 4 and added 2 extras.  102!  I was feeling bold, so I wrote in numbers up to 110.  We stayed parked at 102. 

The pediatrician simply swept it away with a glance, another in a long line of brush offs for my concerns.  They'd see this boy with the bright eyes, curiousity and smiles and deem him just fine, a bit slow to speak.  I heard the Einstein didn't speak until he was 4 story time after time.  He's an active boy.  He's just being 1. 2. 3. 4.  He's just clumsy.  His judgement will improve.  He has his older siblings to do things for him, say things for him, it's the "baby of the family" syndrome.  I'd repeat these explanations (excuses) over and over to myself.  But...I'm never able to fool my mind late at night.  I'd stay awake to look up his behaviors online.  Symptoms.  Milestones.  Compare.  Contrast.  Wonder.

All of this came flooding back as I looked at the list, the extra 10 numbers hopefully etched in red. What I didn't learn until months later was that much of his speech was echolalia (repeating our words).  Not necessarily understanding or unsolicited speech.  Expressive speech delay.  Another huge red flag was his lack of word combinations.  He put only 2 words together, rarely 3, but mostly spoke in one word commands or labels.  Still later that year he regressed  to grunts, screeches and pointing.  That pitiful list brought me to tears, then sobs.  Here was a black and white (and red) record of my naive, dogged efforts to make my G right, to fit him into the "normal" box. 

As I sobbed, I hurried into the kitchen to check on dinner, busy myself to work out my woes.  Sigh, blow my runny nose.  Collect my thoughts, clean my tearstained blotchy face - so that I wouldn't upset the kids. 

Just then in the next room I heard M say in a groaning tone,
"G, stop licking the couch!" 
2.5 years later at 5 years old, there's no doubts for me about fitting G into the normal box.  That single directive - like countless others in the course of our daily adventures with G - brought it all home.  I laughed loudly and deeply.  This ride is a wild, manic trip bursting with tears and giggles.  I may not have a distinct label encompassing G's complex personality, but normal is one I can rule out.  lol

In truth, I'm still in the Wonder Years.  I'm pretty sure I'll wonder at G's wonders always.