I wrote last week that I have fallow periods in my writing life. I think the same is true with my daughter Katie. Sometimes she has fallow periods where nothing seems to be happening, and then BAM, she makes a huge leap forward and achieves one or more significant milestones. This is typical for children on the autism spectrum who are often gestalt learners. In other words, they learn in chunks rather than small, incremental steps like normally developing children.
Three weeks ago, Katie asked her first question. (Questions are difficult for many on the spectrum because they lack adequate theory of mind.) She’s been answering simple questions for awhile now but had yet to ask one. On this particular day, I came home after the Tai Chi class that I take with my mom. I’d mastered a difficult move and was feeling good. Loose and energized. Katie said hi, then looked around. “Where’s Grandma?”
It took both Dad and I a minute to register what had happened. He looked at me and said, “Has she ever done that before?”
I shook my head as we congratulated Katie, slapped her five, and did a little happy dance. Then Dad said, “You better answer her, so she gets the point of asking.”
I told Katie Grandma was tired and waiting in the car and she said “Okay,” which was another milestone. We did a second round of high fives and then walked Dad to the door. I said, “It’s too bad Mom didn’t hear that.”
My dad, ever logical, said, “If she’d come in, none of us would have heard the question. I’ll tell her on the way home.”
As Dad left, Katie said, “Bye, Grandpa.” Clear as day, without a prompt, just like any other kid.
It was a very good day.
The following week Katie asked another question and began saying, “Bye, Mommy” without a prompt when I dropped her off at school. The additional speech services I fought for are clearly paying off. This gives me the strength to gear up for the IEP battle that’s rapidly approaching at the end of the month. (IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan—it’s like an annual contract with the school district for the services a special ed child needs.) Katie must move to another program, in another district, for the next school year. I fear it’s going to be a fight, a fight Katie can’t afford for me to lose.
Then again, it’s not a fight I intend to lose. It might take me the rest of the school year, but I finally know how the game is played. I know what my child needs, better than anyone else. Sarah Palin and her Mama Grizzly act have nothing on me. I am an Autism Mom. Hear me roar!
Until next time,