Listening As Time Talks
“When you decide to tell your story, tell it in truth. Tell about the hurt, tell about the pain, tell about the times when hope was missing. Be real, be transparent, be the one willing to help someone else, out. No, not every story will have a microphone or an applauding audience seated to capacity. Rather some stories are told to the listening ears of one. But if you can help even one, your struggle is not in vain.” Sarena James, October 17, 2011
I remember when silence was the loudest noise I heard from him; the painful sound of wordlessness was much louder than his cries. I remember looking directly into his eyes, and he looking any and everywhere else but at me. I remember watching him disassemble anything as long as it was put together. I remember his robotic-like way of shredding paper into tiny pieces with his small hands. I remember the insatiable routines of running back and forth, flickering lights ON and OFF, pushing doors open and closed, this behavior from sun-up to sun-down. I remember the weighted vest he wore to help him feel more balanced, and the Rifton chair in his classroom he was belted in, to keep him focused. I remember the meltdowns in public places and the judgment that followed. And I remember the psychologist’s diagnosis of Autism that literally turned our world upside down, creating fears of the unknown we’d never imagined.
Can he learn? That was our heart’s question, and with every beat there was no certain answer. How could a clear-cut diagnosis in black and white reveal so many gray areas? Only time would give us our answer. That was nearly three years ago… and yesterday he looked at me and said, “Tie my shoes, please.”
The journey from the vacant stares, the repetitive abnormal behavior, and the alarming silence to the appropriate request to tie his shoes, has been AWE-MAZING! The first time he spelled his name using magnetic letters, Raphael and I knew that Grant indeed held an internal road map to learning and discovery; it might be different, but it was not wrong. We let go of the comparisons to other children and with hope, began traveling one inch at a time. Inches later, Grant has reached milestone after milestone, far exceeding his initial goals.
Grant loves to write, it is his strong-point. The nine-foot chalkboard wall is his favorite indoor playground. There he writes his name, the name of his family members, his colors, his numbers, draws his shapes and favorite characters, and excitedly spells the names of more than 20 cars. When the colored-dust settles, the evidence of his learning is a beautiful masterpiece. He picks out his clothes, and dresses himself. Through social camps and hours of Speech and ABA therapies, he is learning how to interact in daily life. He is finding the route to more language, and even if he has to cry, eventually he finds the words.
We were once told to treat the autism diagnosis as a death, and told to go through the grief process by burying certain hopes and dreams for our son. We cried. We questioned. We were angry. We were hurt. But the burial never took place. Instead, Hope, Faith, and A Lot of Hard Work are finally agreeing on our son’s progress report. We’ve had to learn something we already inherently knew…EVERY child is different and should be judged on his or her merits. We have freed Grant up from the unfair requirement of living up to OUR dreams and expectations. Instead, we have agreed to allow his own strengths, talents and passions to guide us while we help maximize his innate potential.