Monday, September 23, 2013

Like Everyone Else

"Did you cry?"

That was question Nik asked when I described today's appointment with the speech therapist.

The answer was "Yes!" but let me back up a little bit before I tell you what all the tears were about.

Oliver is setting some goals for himself. Two months ago when we got back from Syracuse he began to tell me daily that he wanted to go to school. Not only did he tell me that he wanted to go to school in every which way he could, but he let it be known that he wanted to go to school "when I can type on my own."

Sure, I thought with a rising sense of panic, middle school is great time to begin your public school journey! But also, I consoled myself in the beginning, it might take a long time until he could type on his own. Naturally I want to support Oliver in whatever he sets out to do, but geez, talk about the most anxiety producing prospect ever: 6th grade! It wasn't even on my radar.

And then? He did it.

With a great deal of concentration and effort, Oliver moved from needing my support at the elbow, then shoulder, then a light touch on his back to no physical touch at all. And My God, the pride on his face as he laboriously types out a sentence, slowly, carefully, one letter at a time!

I have never witnessed anything quite so magical as this boy, who at the tender age of 11, has grabbed a hold of the reins with such giddiness and determination. He knows what he wants and he is making it happen one letter, one word at a time.

I realized back in August that Oliver would likely be typing on his own much faster than anyone might have predicted and began conversations with our local school district about the enrollment process. It will take a while to sort everything out, which is good, because this Mama isn't maybe as quick to embrace change as is the Boy. But hold onto your hats, folks: this kid is full steam ahead!

In the meantime, we carry on with homeschooling and have started again with speech therapy. Longtime readers of this blog know that Oliver and I have suffered through our fair share of terrible, terrible encounters with speech therapists. There was a time when we abandoned speech therapy altogether because I just wasn't willing to subject Oliver to another therapist who probably knew a LOT about autism and who spoke TOO LOUDLY and who complimented him with the phrase: "Good sitting!"

But at the beginning of August when I asked Oliver if he wanted to continue with speech given how well he is doing with his typing, he replied: "I want to talk".

And when we met with the speech therapist last week and she noted that new goals need to be written in light of Oliver's incredible progress with his typing. We talked about goals involving typed communication. Then I asked Oliver what he wanted to work on and he said: " I want to talk."

So today, the speech  therapist asked Oliver directly: "Why is talking so important to you?"

And he replied: "Because then people will see that I am just like everyone else."

And yes, I cried.

Because who among us wants to be thought of as so very different from everyone else?

And who doesn't remember 6th grade when something as benign as the color of one's shirt can make one feel SO out of place?

And who wouldn't agree when I say that this remarkable boy is unlike any other person that I've ever met in my entire life and utterly perfect just the way he is?

Who wouldn't admit that this brave, incredible kid is "More like you than not?"

Oliver is an autistic 11 year old, non-speaking, boy. He is not some theory of mind, mind-blind or a set of deficits and behaviors described in a manual. Your 12 credit Autism Certificate that tells you all about what makes him so different won't help you understand this kid unless you get one thing perfectly straight:

He understands the assumptions you are making about him. He sees through your behavior towards him even if you can't see past the way his body works and doesn't work. And he wants what everyone wants: To fit in. To be accepted. To be Equal.

Like everyone else.


  1. I feel so lucky to have been following this blog for years, and to "know" you and your boy. I cheer for him all the way from the other coast and hope you can hear it.

  2. This boy is going to do incredible things — he's already done so much. So excited to see and hear what he has to say. Go Oliver!

  3. BAWLING.MY.EYES.OUT! Go, Oliver! I have no doubt that you can do it!

  4. cannot see to type through my tears. Wow. Wow. I look forward to reading more of your and his journey.