Last year about this time, Oliver stopped receiving services through the school district and my sentiment was: good riddance. I remember very clearly when and where the battle lines were drawn in that particular fight and also the lesson it taught me about going with my gut. At issue was something commonly used as an aid for kids on the spectrum -- the visual schedule. Every day, a large part of the work that the in-home therapists did with Oliver revolved around getting him to use the (*%^&^!) visual schedule. Oliver, for his part, couldn't. Or wouldn't. That was the debate. Time after time I looked on as the therapists had to use full physical prompts to get Oliver to correctly use the schedule. It was awful and I regret to this day allowing it to happen in my very own home. Because, as I would say to anyone who would listen, Oliver never really had a problem with transitions so it seemed like a totally unnecessary compensation. Besides, I remember saying to our lead therapist, maybe he just doesn't WANT to do it and was simply being stubborn like any other four year old boy might if you asked them to repeatedly do something that is pretty much meaningless. That's when the therapist infamously told me: "There is nothing normal about your son. Any other four year old would have complied by now." Naturally, this is when I knew it was over between us. (It is also when I refused to allow any professional to use the word compliance in relation to my son. I don't want my kid to comply, I want him to cooperate!!) But I also remember that she went on to say that the schedule was also about sequencing and knowing what to expect. ... some people make lists, others have planners, kids with autism benefit from visual schedules, blah, blah, blah.
But, um, hey: four year olds don't make lists. Or use day planners. And my kid doesn't have a problem transitioning. I mean, yeah, he insists on putting the last piece of the puzzle in before moving on, but that's about it. Also: why can't we talk about teaching Oliver how to pick up cues from the environment so that he can figure out what is going to happen by watching what every one else is doing? Huh? Why can't we talk about that? Because that's what I'm really interested in. Let's teach him the actual skills that he needs to be successful rather than the compensations. Huh? How about that?
So, the school district sided with the therapist and I sided with Oliver and we all called it quits. I wish it had happened much sooner than it did but it took me awhile to grow a backbone.
Anyway, fast forward a year and let me tell you I never look back. Oliver takes his cues from the environment. He understands what is going on as the day unfolds. I don't prepare him more or less than I do Sami. We go on adventures -- some planned, some unplanned. Sometimes we change plans and sometimes our plans don't work out and all that is OK, too. Because that's the way life is. Oliver gets that.
Today, for example, we went to Grandma's house. There is no place and no thing on this great earth that makes Oliver more happy than to spend time at Grandma's house. Trouble was, she wasn't home. We knocked on the door. We waited a couple of minutes and I braced for some tears as I said: "Guess she isn't here. We'll have to come back."
"Come back," he replied. Then to my astonishment he turned and walked back to the car.
So, to that therapist I'd like to say: Put THAT on your schedule!
The boy has got it.