The most amazing thing happened – I actually had a conversation with my 12 year old son! For those parents with a child on the spectrum, you know what a BIG DEAL this is! It’s like he just opened up! Now, were there brief glances instead of full-on eye contact? Yes. Did he repeat himself a few times to get his point across? Yes. But, did we actually have reciprocal exchange? An astounding – YES!
The topic was about Mommy giving him the parental control password on the TV – a typical 12 year old request, right? He had been asking me to remove it for quite some time. He was persistent in asking at different times and across many days and months, even. Finally, this time he asked and would not take ‘no’ for an answer. In fact for the first time, when I said, “No,” he said, “Why, because I bought a lot of movies?” I was shocked for a quick second, because I did not know that he really comprehended what happened a year ago. Now, he was bringing it up. “Yes!” I said. “It’s because you bought a lot of movies and Mommy had to call the cable company and ask them to erase the charges because my son bought movies without Mommy’s permission.” He asked, “So, I can’t buy movies without your permission?” After I confirmed that he was correct, he began to list all the movies he bought and all the season episodes of his favorite shows. He even smiled while he was rocking, twiddling his fingers, and looking at me from the side of his eyes.
After listing all the movies he bought and learning that it all cost $400, he said, “Okay. It will not happen again. Mommy, can you please remove the parental control? Give me another chance!” I asked him what would happen if he purchased movies without my consent. He said, “You will put the parental controls back on.” I asked, “Will you get another chance from Mommy?” He said, “No.” So, after at least a 20 minute dialogue, I removed the parental control. He was soooo happy and came to me with front-faced eye contact and said, “Thank you Mommy!” Then he gave me a hug and kiss without me asking. I immediately went to my husband, who was videotaping the whole thing, and we collapsed in a hug.
What I described was the very FIRST time that I had a full on reciprocal conversation with my 12 year old son with Autism! This was huge and worthy of videotaping. It was almost as if we had reached the top of a long climb up a mountainside in a blizzard. We were both exhausted and elated all at the same time. It was confirmation that we had worked hard in order to achieve such a monumental milestone. Don’t get me wrong, there is still much work to do. But still, seeing progress is huge. It is affirming and encouraging to continue down the path.
For those of you who are having a hard time seeing any light at the end of the tunnel, know that the light is there – you just have to look for it. No matter whether your child is nonverbal, experiencing mobility or sensory issues, or having a hard time learning a new skill, know that with time, there will be progress. It takes time, patience, and a lot of work and opportunities to practice. Baby steps is the best mode of operation. A little at a time. You and your child will get there!