Monday, November 12, 2007

Birthday Boy

At the beach, Waveland, Mississippi.

A had a fabulous ninth birthday weekend. He even blew out the candle on his cake for the very first time, after DW pulled out a bubble wand to suggest how hard he needed to blow. I decided to let A walk into WalMart on his own, instead of placing him in a cart as soon as I park the car. He took the opportunity to explore his fascination with the cart "garage" in the foyer. He enjoyed the long strips of clear plastic at the end of that area, and he took me there repeatedly. Once he got inside and ran into the store that way, the interior part of the cart garage had no appeal. Inside the store, he still likes riding in the cart.

DW and I are seeing a huge overall improvement in A's development recently. He is much more aware of his environment than he used to be. He chooses videos to watch, and kinda, sorta knows how to work the VCR. He increasingly is taking the initiative to do things for himself instead of having other people do them for him--though he actually started doing that a few years ago when he started teaching himself to swim. Most important, he is communicating his needs and wants much better than before, sometimes in creative ways. When he wants the driver to turn right or left, for instance, he reaches up and pulls on the front seat passenger seat belt if nobody is in that seat. When I took him to the mall the other day, I wasn't sure whether he wanted to be there. I extended my arm into the back seat. He slapped the palm of my hand, which sometimes can mean "I want" (which he has been taught to indicate by clapping with his arms in front of his chest), then pushed my hand towards the steering wheel. Off to WalMart we went.

We tried a new thing with T yesterday when we dropped off A. It's very difficult to take T around town without us having free access to a swimming pool or an elevator. The boys' new living accommodations make it possible for us to visit them on-campus, something we've never tried before. We arranged with the autism center to have a play-date with T, knowing he would not be happy when he didn't ride away in the car. We got him a big kids' meal from Burger King and brought in some notebooks and pencils. We spent about 20 minutes there, and he didn't get upset until we said "bye-bye." The autism center's residential director was in the room to help him work through things. I felt like crap about disappointing T's expectations--it was like a razor blade cutting into my soul--but this is the only way I can see visiting him on the occasions when we take A back from a home visit. Moreover, we want to be able to attend some of the family functions on-campus, something we have been unable to do. We did an after-action review in the car on the drive home, so we know how we will tweak our next on-campus visit. We'll have T home for a few days early next week, so I'm getting ready for some elevator riding.

I am very proud of my boys, and I can't find the words to describe how much I love and cherish them. They are far more courageous than I ever had to be as a child. They also have come quite a ways in their development, and they love to learn. Absent a cure, they will always be severely developmentally disabled, and will require 24/7 supervision. However, that doesn't mean that they can't learn, grow, and have experiences that will help them be happy and achieve their full potential. As I've said before, all parents want the same basic things for their children--happiness, safety, long-term security, education, self-esteem, self-confidence, feeling loved, etc.; parents like us just have to redefine how those are measured and achieved with our childrens' limitations in mind.


Casdok said...

Happy birthday!
9 Wow!!!

Anonymous said...

I sometimes think that it's my own limitations rather than theirs. Love the cake - we had a similar one a couple of years back AND we have those same shorts!

Ann said...

Wonderful post, Randy. I love seeing your boys through your eyes.