I've been on a bit of a hiatus over the past couple of weeks, dealing with all the fun stuff that comes with the season. It was by turns busy, relaxing, trying and rewarding.
With no school for Oliver and no work for me, Team Oliver switched into high gear and we began implementing phase III of PECs. This phase requires Oliver to discriminate between pictures of items in order to make a request. Previously he had one picture available and that was for the desired object. Now he must choose between multiple pictures and only gets the object if he uses the correct image. Much to the surprise of our lead therapist, who had warned me that Oliver might have a hard time with the change, he picked it up almost immediately. Watching him figure it out -- and figure it out quickly -- was such a boost. I had braced myself for lots of crying and tantrums but his complaints were relatively mild and I think mostly to let us know that, boo-hoo, we were intruding on his neatly organized life.
In addition to Phase III, we spent a great deal of time on potty-training which has been met with mostly success, we completed the Assessment ofBasic Language and Learning Skills that will help us develop priorties for the ABA portion of his therapy, and in general spent a lot of time reinforceing the things that Oliver does well. I saw a boost in his use of language -- much of it echolalic or scripted but speech nonetheless -- and he seemed generally well-focused and happy. One of the biggest changes that I've noted over the last month is that he has become very, very affectionate, demanding hugs, kisses and cuddles from everyone -- even people he doesn't know all that well. He has always been a cuddly guy but even his therapists agree that it has stepped up a notch.
On New Year's Eve we spent a few hours at the home of a neighbor where some families from our street had gathered for a meal. I had been apprehensive about it because Oliver typically doesn't do very well when there is a lot of commotion but there were no tantrums and he only started trying to escape to remote areas of the house after about 90 minutes, which was then our cue to head home. I couldn't believe how well he managed despite all the noise and commotion.
Present at the gathering was another child who is only two weeks older than Oliver. The differences between them are dramatic and I tried hard not to compare. When I allow myself to make comparisons, even for a minute, I still feel the tide of grief lapping at my ankles. There are days when I can quite clearly see where the road ahead of me becomes paved with acceptance. There are fewer and fewer days when I feel overwhelmed by the all-encompassing "autism". It is simply our new normal.
I have such great expectations for 2006. It will be a year full of new challenges and I feel ready to embrace them. I still have the feeling of being slightly adrift, without roadmap or chart, but I have also learned that I must take Oliver's hand and let him be the guide.
To those of you who have come along for the ride, who have given me support, advice, wisdom and hope over the past few months: thank you. And may the winds of 2006 show you favor.