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Celebrating “Inch”-stones

September 15, 2010
A tape measure.

Image via Wikipedia


by Sarena James

 My son now says, “Bye-Bye,” and I am as happy as any mother of a one-year-old child could be, even though my son is four.          

Children with Autism often have language delays, and experience other verbal communication barriers. For us, it’s the absence of most of the consonant sounds. Imagine 21 letters playing an unbalanced game of hide-n-seek, and we’re constantly on the seeking side, searching for those silent sounds. On those beautifully rare occasions that we hear them, it’s music to our ears… enough to make us dance! That’s why the day the letter ‘B’ arrived, we threw a barbeque party with balloons and big slices of cake! YEAH!         

 Initially, I measured my sons’ progress against the stories of his typically developing peers. If someone in his age group performed at a certain level, then it was failure if he didn’t do the same.  It was failure if it wasn’t the same statistical success that most two and three-year olds had.  Honestly, I couldn’t see a ruler, yard stick or tape measure without thinking that somehow we were coming up short.           

Then came the day Raphael and I were upstairs and all grew suddenly quiet downstairs; too quiet, even for a child with very little language.  Our view from the landing was awe-mazing, and ironically, we were speechless. “Champ” had taken the magnetic Leap Frog letters and spelled G-R-A-N-T.  In the silence he stood smiling and proud, as he should.  Through a flood of tears, and one of the most freeing moments of my life, I thought, how do you measure this one? How do you measure the self-determination of a child willing to keep going and doing and striding against the odds?           

 A few weeks ago, I spoke to a group about the unpredictable journey of a family with a special needs child.  At the end, I took a few questions, but there was one that made me pause in sincere appreciation. “What is the greatest lesson you have learned this far?” My hesitation wasn’t because I didn’t know the answer; it was because without a doubt, I did.         

In the eye-opening moment that I saw the magnetic letters on the door, which Grant correctly placed in order spelling out his name, I realized that every milestone is first measured by the inch. Grant is in his own lane, in a race with only one competitor, himself. His progress is solely based on what he has done in times past, and what we and his network believe he’s capable of.  We live much freer lives this way and every bit of progress made measures up just fine.         

I would love to celebrate with you and your family too. Feel free to share your stories. There are plenty of big bright balloons to go around!         

2 Comments leave one →
  1. LaDonna permalink
    September 15, 2010 9:47 pm

    Beautiful stories. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ihsaan Ali permalink
    September 15, 2010 8:24 am


    The first time I felt this way with Isma’il was one day I took him to the park. At the time he may have been 2 1/2 yrs old. In this park was an open soccer field, a basketball court, and a playground. All of these areas were connected by a small forest, a group of gnarly trees(spruce similar to a pine). There were no low hanging limbs, the ground was hilly with no visible vegetation. It was a new park for us but we’d visited it enough times that he was familiar with the playground.

    For some reason, he wanted to explore the small forest… As we walked closer to the trees, the sun was blocked out and all you can do is notice the enormous tree trunks. In my mind I’m thinking this is totally a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie or something. Isma’il bravely gazed into the dark green heavens, wide-eyed and curious, with a deep breath said, “SPOOKY”!!! I was floored, just amazed at how he was able to use the word in its proper context. I said to him, how do you know what spooky is? He looked back at me as if to assure me that he knew much more than he was able to verbally communicate. When we got home, I carried Isma’il like he had won the Stanley Cup! There were no crowds, no cheering audience, there only stood two extremely proud parents grinning from ear to ear! That day was the first of many treks through the spooky forest…

    One year later, we still have these exhilarating moments when he blurts out these words correctly in a moment of expression. I love every minute of discovery, because you never really know exactly what these tikes are storing in their beautiful minds.

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