Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anniversary From Services

We've had a fairly uneventful end of the school year - Leo was sad but not upset like he was last year. His teacher said he's ready for 3rd grade! As always, it takes me by surprise. We continue to monitor...

June 22 was the anniversary of ending therapies three years ago. Pretty incredible to me. As always, I reflect upon the last year.

I sit back in my lawn chair at the neighborhood pool watching my son jump with abandon into the deep end. He surfaces with a spongy ball and a big smile, and with determination throws it forcibly to one of three other boys that are playing catch. One is his closest friend since Kindergarten. The others are friends from his regular local elementary school. Kid sister is nearby in the shallow end playing mermaids with her friends. Dad will be joining us here after work with Mexican take-out for dinner.

I am dry, in regular clothes, by the pool, with an unread magazine in my lap. I could glance at it if I want to, my kids are strong swimmers now, but I enjoy watching. I find it peaceful to observe life as it occurs right now in this moment. I am mindful of this daily gift I have received. I am the mother of a happy child that has choices. Seven years ago my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS. And let me tell you, ‘happy’ wasn’t a word we used to describe Leo.

Earlier, Leo was picked up at nature camp by a mom whom he briefly met before we started carpooling. Leo wasn’t concerned with what exact time she’d arrive or even the kind of car she drove. He’s been to this camp before, but he attended without knowing any of the children. By the second day, he already belonged to a little group of three boys. He enthusiastically tells me about these new friends during dinner. He’s also become friendly with the carpool boy, playing basketball games, X-Box, or Webkinz almost every day after camp. I listen in to their conversation on the drive home “Hey, did you see the baby rats? Did you see those animal tracks? I saw you canoeing today.” They talk on and on about school, speculating about what teacher they’ll get in the Fall.

I think about that intense year of aquatic OT when he was little. The one hour of driving each way, the expense, all while taking care of Leo’s little sister. Our goal: The ultimate, a swim-safe child. This seemed impossible since the initial goals were to address sensory defensiveness, vestibular and proprioceptive challenges, fear of dying, hyposensitivity in legs, hypotonia in his arms and upper back. I was raised in Southern California on the beach, so I always had envisioned sharing my love of the ocean with my children. I think about Leo’s anxiety the night before each swim “lesson”, how he’d worry himself sick, rarely sleeping.

Today Leo has choices. He chooses to swim with his friends. We can go to the beach. At nature camp, he learned to wade and canoe, not concerned that he can’t see what’s under the water. Pretty surreal.

I think about how any change in routine would cause anxiety. Being 1 minute late would bring him to tears. I think about Leo’s intense separation anxiety that made it impossible to place him in the care of others. Being around other children would cause anxiety.

We went to visit my family/friends in California for 3 nice long weeks. It just gets easier and more fun as the kids get older. Traveling alone with my kids, I'm on alert per usual. I hold a common fear that many parents have, that our children will somehow get taken advantage of because of their innocence, their naivety. While waiting for a flight at the airport for that family trip, Leo’s social abilities were put to the test. A questionable character in the waiting area began talking to Leo, asking him personal questions. He protected himself. When asked what town he lived in, he said “I forgot”. He avoided eye contact with the man while boarding the plane by gazing at a nearby billboard, pretending to read about the arriving flights. He told me later that right away the guy seemed “creepy”. And he was right.

Am I an Autism parent? Yes. Has my life changed in 3 years? Yes and No. I don't have an impossibly giant schedule to manage and implement. I have similar fears and concerns, but they exist at a lower volume in my mind. I occasionally experience PTSS symptoms, such as when it’s time for a parent/teacher conference, or when we have a very ‘off” spectrumy day. We are still in debt although we are much better off financially than we once were.

Rollercoaster days are few and far between. Those ‘off’ days are hard, as I’m not used to them like I once was. I’m grateful that I’m not living in crisis mode anymore, so these days no longer do me in.

I’m still angry though. Angry that I have more company, meaning more and more people I KNOW and more people I meet have Autism. I’m angry that the issues at hand years ago are still the same today.

Autism is part of who Leo is, and I love him and accept all of him as a whole. I can't separate the autism from non-autism parts. Sometimes it’s fun to attach certain aspects of his personality to autism. But mostly, I just don’t care. I use our experience and Leo’s unique wiring as a learning tool. I regularly remind both my children about what Leo’s deficits USED to be and now LOOK. He can do anything. There are no barriers to his potential, and our reward is his success.


mcewen said...

So does this mean at end to the blogging?

Ashley loves Leo said...

ha ha. No way Jose.

Unless I wake up to find that all kids with Autism are getting everything they need, according to their parents!