Wednesday, January 25, 2017
The other day I opened my Facebook app and was greeted with a memory from January of 2012. It was a blog post I wrote called, "JD's Top 10 Accomplishments in 2011." Reading it brought back so many memories, good and bad. But what it really did was remind me just how thankful I am that I started this blog so long ago. It's given me the chance to document his autism journey and allows me to look back and see just how far we've come. I'm not nearly as good about blogging regularly as I was when this just started, but I actually see that as a good thing. When it began in 2010 I used writing to deal with so many issues we were dealing with and now things are easier and that need just isn't that intense. But I still think it's important to do it because I know that in years to come I will look back on this day and be amazed by his progress! And since it's January, 5 years later, I thought it would be the perfect time to list JD's Top 5 Accomplishments for 2016!
Friends and Someone Special
The first few years after JD's diagnosis was filled with therapy to learn motor skills, speech and sensory regulation. We started with Playtime and worked our way through OT, Speech, ABA and more. He still gets weekly therapy for OT and Speech but something I've learned about autism is that at some point the focus changes. Now it's more of a social skills problem. We are so fortunate in that JD caught up on almost all of his developmental milestones through therapy, but sometimes I think the social and emotional difficulties are even harder to deal with. One thing that JD has made huge strides in is friendship. For parents of neurotypical kids this is usually a no-brainer, it's just a skill they are born with. But when your child has autism it's a whole new world. JD's obsessive interests (can anyone say Legos, Mario or Minecraft?!) that can make him stand out in a crowd of fellow 3rd graders. He's blunt, or honest if you'd like to use the PC term. I can't tell you how many times a day he tells me he loves me because I'm "squishy" lol. I never know what's going to come out of his mouth when he talks to someone. It can be really great, or really horrible. But we've learned to laugh most of the time because sometimes we all wish we could be so honest! But JD has made some really good friends in the past two years and he's very attached to them. Some of them are friends from our time in Sarasota, and some are from Orlando. They understand JD and accept him for who he is, challenges and all. Some of his friends are also on the autism spectrum and others are not. Just a few weeks ago he was invited to his friend Asher's birthday! It really makes me happy when I see him texting his friends or talking to them on FaceTime. Thank goodness for technology! But one person is special, his very best friend. Her name is Adeline and her and JD have a connection like no other. She lives back in Sarasota and it's been hard for him to be away from her, but we try to see her every single month. He talks about her almost daily. He tells me he loves her because she "treats him like a normal person." Addie also has some developmental delays, but when they are together they are a perfect pair. She laughs at his jokes and he holds her hand. He talks about how one day they will get married at Legoland and they will live with us forever. I tell him nothing on earth would make me happier. Seeing him connect with Addie, and his friends, is the best gift I could ever ask for!
It's hard to believe that JD's in 3rd grade now. Three days a week he's in a special-needs classroom and two days a week he's in a typical classroom with an aide. He makes amazing grades, never anything less than a B on his report card and loves to come home to quiz me on math facts, grammar and science. He wants to be a scientist when he grows up, or a video game designer.... he hasn't narrowed it down yet but I'm sure he'll accomplish whatever he sets his mind on. He wants to work at GameStop when he goes to high school and most of the time is pretty responsible. He's an amazing speller, which is funny because I'm horrible at spelling. I'm proud of him because he keeps pushing onward. School is getting harder and he's dog tired at the end of the day but he keeps on keeping on!
Shoes, Buttons, Self Care
Another area that JD has made progress in is self-care and independence. He just learned how to tie his shoes! That was a BIG deal for us and I'm thankful for his OT at school who taught him! He can get himself dressed, button shirts and zip up jackets, brush his teeth (although not well enough because he's had 10 cavities) and wash his own hair. He's starting to do chores around the house like folding laundry, and I say folding in a very loose term! He unloads the dishwasher for me and has even learned how to make himself some foods. Again, that's probably something most parents don't think about but it's a big deal to us. Our entire goal as his parents is to make him as independent as possible.
I can't believe I almost forgot this one! Last year JD played on his first sports team - soccer, and he participated and dominated in Special Olympics swimming! This was another dream to see come true. We learned that he's an amazing swimmer and we'll start up again in May. He won two first place ribbons in the Central Florida games and we're hoping this summer he'll make it to the State games. He has such drive and passion for swimming and when he's in the water it's like he's in his element. I love watching him swim and I hope he keeps it up for years to come!
Earlier I mentioned one of JD's obsessions - Legos. Our house is covered in Legos and I have a love/hate relationship with them. I currently have probably 8-10 Lego sets sitting on my kitchen counter and kitchen table. JD builds them and plays with them every day. I love them because of a few reasons: 1. because he can build the sets by himself now, which is pretty difficult, and 2. when he plays with them his imagination is in full-force. He has all sorts of battles with his Lego figurines and normally takes at a rubbermaid container of at least 10 of them everywhere we go. The hate part is picking them up on a daily basis. You think I'd give us by now and just leave them all over the table and floor, but I can't. My OCD kicks in and I have to put them away. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again knowing the result will always be the same. That's me with Legos!
There's a quick recap of just a few of the things JD's accomplished in the last year! I love him so much I could burst even when there are times where I think I can't take another second of listening him talk about whatever topic he's into that week. He makes me so proud in so many ways. These accomplishments didn't happen overnight, more like over years. That's why I liked the quote in the photo above so much - "little by little, one travels far." Keep traveling JD!