I've been waiting for some kind of inspiration to get me going here. ... I thought maybe I just needed time to let everything sort of 'gel', and voila! the perfect post would pour forth. But December is quickly waning and I don't see that happening. SO, testing, testing. .. Brain to Blog. .... This post is going to be just my attempt to get some words out into the atmosphere.
First, thanks so everyone for your suggestions about our winter coat dilemma. A lot of people recommended a button-up coat and that would have been the perfect solution if only buttons would be tolerated. Trial and error has proven that only an over-the-head remedy has a snowball's chance. ... We found a ridiculously expensive fleece jacket from Patagonia and, although it wasn't as heavy as I had hoped given the price, we've have had some luck with layering. Thankfully, here in Virginia, it has been on the warm side this winter.
Second, thanks to everyone who left comments or sent e-mails wishing me luck in Houston. I have so much to say about that experience that I hardly know where to start. BUT, since I've been back in my somewhat normal life these past ten days, one or two things have kind of stood out for me so I'll start with that. I'm sure more will filter in over time.
1) During my training I was surrounded by an incredibly wonderful group of professionals who just "get" it. I can't begin to tell you how validating this was for me. I didn't have to convince or educate. I had long, wonderful conversations about how a program can simultaneously be incredibly simple and astoundingly complex, about watching kids make truly meaningful progress, and about the importance of strengthening family systems.
Since Oliver was diagnosed we have been surrounded by many caring professionals. But caring about, and understanding autism, are two different things. How many times have I questioned a strategy or a statement about Oliver/autism only to be looked at as though I had just stepped off of the moon? How arrogant I have felt when concluding that so many professionals don't really know what they were doing. Just the other day I had a hurried conversation with the SLP where she again told me that kids with autism just don't have the motivation to speak. No, I told her. I KNOW he is motivated. He just doesn't fully understand the nature of communication. THAT is what I need help with. But of course that is so elementary that it is beyond comprehension for many. . ... (note: I'm sure there ARE professionals who DO understand autism, but we live in a pretty small city and I haven't yet found any here who have a clue.)
2) This thing about "doing" RDI with your child? It is very hard sometimes. I came back thinking that at the very least I would now feel more confident of my own ability to help Oliver. Well, my knowledge, my understanding, of what to do has increased about a hundred times over. But I STILL find it very hard. Being Oliver's mother challenges me in ways directly proportionate to my greatest weaknesses. I struggle greatly with patience and control. I want to be in charge. I want to DO it; remediate the autism. But that isn't the way it works. Oh sure, there is a lot that I am "doing." I am thinking constantly about my language, the way I set things up, my goals and objectives, how to guide without needing to "get". But the moment I start to focus too much on the activity or the skill then I have lost because the ability to be in the moment with Oliver and to truly participate in a dynamic interaction is ultimately what it is all about. It is the process of participating in dynamic interactions, engineered to allow the child to discover and learn along the way, that is at the heart of RDI. It is breathtakingly simple and yet oh so complex. It is one part science, one part art, a part zen and a bunch of parts magic when you get the first three parts right.
3) The other great, important, wonderful thing that came out of this whole experience is that even apart we are all OK. The kids managed beautifully. Nik is a pro at keeping it all going. And, I'm not too ashamed to admit this: I hardly missed them. I was so, completely, engaged that the time just flew by. I chatted late into the evenings with my colleagues and I was happy to begin again just where we left off at breakfast the next morning. I laughed longer, louder and more frequently than I have in years. And I had a Margarita -- on the rocks with salt -- every night, just because I could.
Happy New Year everyone! May we all find our share of magic in 2008!