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A Terrific Kid Named Grant

March 10, 2014
Terrific Kid Award

Terrific Kid Award

by Sarena James

As with any given journey, forward movement places some scenes in the rear view mirror. It is impossible to move ahead without the scene in the background changing, reminding us of what we’ve passed by or been through.  At times the glimpse of beauty we see in front of us, is what drives us, and motivates us, and fuels us to keep going.  For four years now, we’ve been travelling with Grant holding a map with destinations marked by hope and hard work.

Along the way there have been unexpected detours and roads with seemingly more potholes than smoothed-out pavement, but roads nonetheless that led to better strategies and techniques and the absolute revelation that time itself knows and understands much more than we do.  Grant is no longer a spectator in his own life merely watching the swirl of activity around him. Instead, he is a full and vibrant and willing participant, voicing his own ideas and colorful personality. He is a researcher, and stylist, and an architect. He’s inquisitive and equally receptive to hearing answers. He initiates verbal and social interactions and is more aware of his own emotions. He’s more accepting of the inevitable thing called change, realizing that there are some things that cannot stay the same.  Grant shows up, everyday. He is multi-faceted with potential, and the depth of what he really knows is steadily being revealed.  He’s hilarious and honest. He’s fast on his feet, jumping hurdles literally and figuratively.  More importantly though, he’s trying.  His efforts are intentional. He self-corrects and self-coaches more as he has become his own critic and supporter all in one; “Don’t do that Grant. Good job Grant.”  Miles later, silence is now in our rear view mirror, and before us is an unmistakable ray of son-shine…

The Computer.  I remember standing in the doorway, staring in awe.  I didn’t want to interrupt his rhythm.  His little index finger eagerly searching over the twenty-six letters of the alphabet that strangely, were not in the same order of the song. When he found the appropriate letters and typed them  in the search engine box, it was complete magic, an open door to endless information. Successfully, he’s searched for his favorite cars, and familiar haircuts and famous bridges. He found songs and people and created a list of places to visit.  He found tutorials on building with Lego’s and soon his collection of over six hundred plastic pieces came together in ways he’d never seen before.  To see his ability and intellect working together was phenomenal to me, and rewarding for him. It was a new-found independence and that freedom birthed an even bigger thirst for knowledge.  Most every day he ends his computer time with a few songs of his choice. One of his favorites is India Arie’s, There’s Hope; certainly, there is…

Hard to imagine there was a time Grant was averaging nearly thirty outbursts a day.

Awareness of Emotions.  Hard to imagine there was a time Grant was averaging nearly thirty outbursts a day. For us they were unsettling, nerve-racking and irritating, at times even mind-boggling.  As strong and sound as he was physically, emotionally, there was a certain cry of helplessness and confusion as his language was trapped in a continuous maze with no clear exit. That was then. Now finds him in a much better place, with countless words in his vocabulary toolbox. He appropriately uses those words to build sentences and it results in amazing conversation.  He’s better able to handle his frustration when he can’t find his toys, or when he accidentally drops his juice box on the floor, or when he’s told no, “you can’t go to the park today.”

From within he can feel when he needs a break from talking or from a certain atmosphere. He’ll ask for the sensory satisfaction of bouncing on an exercise ball, or running in the backyard barefoot, or just being alone…Grant time.  In those few  moments when frustrations mount and manifest in a scream, he is much quicker to cope and calm down, directing his emotional traffic much like an aircraft marshal waving the plane into the gate. When the feeling passes he announces, “I’m cool now.”  Exhale…

His Style.  Before he could talk, he could dress. For him, there have always been vests, and printed ties, and crisp button-downs, and loafers, and belts, and socks, and even a pocket square or two.  Appearance and presentation is quite fascinating to him, inasmuch as his interpretation thereof leads to an uninhibited world of personal expression and creativity.  From time to time I’ll cook his favorite meal of baked salmon and rice pilaf. More often than not, he will run upstairs and return in a sports coat and tie. Certainly not the response I get from hot dogs and chips! He’s his own stylist and absolutely enjoys dressing up for any occasion, and if there is none, he becomes his own occasion, special enough to dress up for. He loves the waves that a fresh haircut creates and the clean scent of his father’s cologne. There’s a certain approval the mirror gives him when he sees himself in it, a certain image of sophistication and self-attentiveness. He’s aware of himself and his efforts when he sees his reflection, and that recognition is a strong and beautiful thing.

 Goodbye.  There’s a reflective song that came out of the sixties by the Byrds:

“To everything, turn, turn, turn,

there is a season, turn, turn, turn,

a time to every purpose under Heaven.”

 March brought the expected end to a three-year ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) program that Grant was enrolled in. I cry when I think of the success and the huge strides he’s made and the tremendous effort he put forth to do it. I came across one of the initial forms I had to fill out then that asked the number of words my son spoke, my response, ten or less. Wow… I remember the basic flash cards, and the visual schedules, and the social stories, just a few instruments used to help him grow in a soil that we weren’t familiar with. We had so many questions.

What should we expect? Will he become robotic in speech and mannerisms? How do we let strangers in our home? Will they know how to teach/reach him? Will he ever look at us again? The relay-race of questions was completely tiring, but the only way to really know, was to try. Just try. Looking in the rear view mirror I see how far we’ve traveled. No more diapers. No more silence. No more obsessive behaviors like running back-and-forth into corner walls or  insatiably tearing papers into tiny pieces. No more wondering if he can learn. No more fearing the end of a season.

His speech and actions are more purposed now, more intentional,  meaningful and productive.  In the beginning, we were the ones with questions, now he is. What is your name?  What’s for dinner tonight? Where are we going on Saturday? When are we going to the beach? Why is she coughing? Where are my black shoes? How do you spell giraffe?  Is it warm today?  Last week at the “Good Job Grant” end-of-the-program party, he asked, “Mommy, why are you crying?”  I hugged him, and he let me. “Because you’re going to be, you already are, amazing…”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Laura Charin permalink
    March 11, 2014 1:30 pm

    Making me cry again, Sarena! What a wonderful article and video. I cannot say enough how proud I am of Grant and all that he has learned and accomplished. I am a better therapist from working with you! We miss you guys already but I know Grant has the tools he needs to succeed in whatever he wants to do (barber, police officer, personal stylist, the possibilities are endless!!!).

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