This morning we had Dude at his specialist's for his quarterly check-up. Every three months Dude goes to see his Pediatrician, one who specializes in working with kids on The Spectrum, and she tracks his growth, blood pressure and general development. For the past year she has been concerned that Dude hasn't put on any weight and hasn't grow a centimeter ... today that changed. For the first time since Spring of 2010 Dude's growth arc took an upturn. He grew!
To most moms this wouldn't be a big deal but for us it is. We have spent a year trying special diets, altering his meds and worrying about his development but today we celebrated this small victory. We try to celebrate every small victory because we've learned that a small victory is often the first step toward a great big triumph, to a new level of success.
For instance, most people who meet Dude think he's funny and interesting and can't really 'see' the Autism in him but that hasn't always been the case. I remember one small victory, a Christmas miracle of sorts, that set him on the path to the witty kid he is now.
He was eight years old and we had been muddling through Asperger's for a little more than a year. Our life was vastly better than it had been a year previously, Dude was more calm and easier to talk to and he was beginning to take an interest in the people around him and how to relate to them. We had spent much of the Fall talking about conversation, anecdotes and humor in an effort to help him understand all the pieces that make up the social puzzle called friendship but we weren't sure if Dude was really getting it.
The night of his school's winter concert we saw another small victory, our Christmas miracle that year. A year earlier our time at the concert had ended abruptly with Dude losing it on stage and threatening to kill us before he bolted from the school, into the winter night. This year, he stood on stage with his class, sang and did the actions to every song, made conversation with his teachers afterwards and walked home with the family to have cookies and hot chocolate.
I was basking in the glow of our successful evening as we sat in our living room, chatting and laughing, with my parents, aunt and sister. About half an hour into the conversation Dude came to sit on my lap and whispered in my ear, "They are telling funny stories, right?"
"Yep, they're talking about when Gran and Auntie were little, about funny things that happened with their brothers and sisters," I said.
"If I want to talk I should think of something funny to share, right?" he asked.
"Can you think of something that would fit the conversation?" I asked.
"Give me a minute to think," he replied.
A few minutes of conversation passed, everyone still laughing and sharing funny family anecdotes when Dude tapped my shoulder and winked. He was ready. After my sister finished her story there was a lull in the conversation so I nudged Dude and he began to tell his story. His anecdote perfectly into the conversation and what's more, it as really funny.
As everyone chuckled and congratulated Dude on telling such a great story I fought the tears that were welling up inside me. This was a small thing, something that millions of other kids do all the time but this was a first for Dude. It was the first time he told a funny story that was in sync with the conversation. Although there's no line in the baby book for this sort of thing, its these moments that are written on the hearts of every parent of a kid on The Spectrum. These glimpses of 'normal' give us hope that our quirky kids will grow up and find their place in this world, after all.
Although our victory today was just an inch and pound it gives us hope, hope that maybe his anxiety is decreasing, that he is feeling more secure and more confident. It gives us a glimpse of a future for him where he embraces his differences and celebrates his unique perspective on life without worry of being bullied or isolated. We see the emerging shape of a strong, self assured guy who is relaxed and comfortable in his own skin and feels in control of himself.
Its only a pound and an inch but still, its a pound and an inch!
Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.