Monday, May 18, 2009

Miracle at the library

I took T to the library Friday afternoon. He enjoys going because he can sit at one of several children's computer stations and watch the screen do cool things. Several times I have attempted to show T how the game works (if I can figure it out myself!), but he has taken to gently pushing me away and saying "I'll be right back", which in T translates as "Go away." J (He wants me to say "I'll be right back" and then leave, so he prompts me by saying it to me first. Brilliant reasoning, I must admit.)

Note: he has not ever played any computer games other than cause-and-effect games – press a key and something happens – and he hasn't shown interest in those in about a year. We've tried to show him how to point & click with a mouse and move it around, but until Friday, he never indicated that he caught on or showed any interest. Just sitting and watching.

There was a new game on his favorite computer, which looked pretty cool. It was a shape-matching game, and required no clicking of the mouse at all. You just swiped the curser over the shape at the bottom of the screen – which "picked up" the shape – and then you slid it over the matching shape at the top of the screen. I showed T how do to this; he replied by saying "I'll be right back", and I obliged. I came back after a few minutes AND HE WAS PLAYING THE GAME BY HIMSELF.

I didn't know whether to jump for joy or cry or play cool or what. So I stood there in disbelief, jaw dropped, hand to my mouth, in sheer and utter amazement. I then went over to the resource librarian's desk and asked what software was on the children's computers. At first, she seemed a little defensive or annoyed, but I explained that I was witnessing a minor miracle from my autistic son – that he was playing a computer game for the first time all by himself. Well, she was pretty excited about that and was calling everywhere to find out what the program was. She first asked if I could close out the game so we could find out what it was, and I said "Um, I'm not really wanting to interrupt this!" and then she realized how silly that was. After a few phone calls, she had gathered every possible bit of identifying information she could (such a good librarian!) so that I could order it for him. Then she said that this was worthy of notation in their log, and happily went on her way to document the miracle.

Then I stood there in awe. I called Rob to share the moment. He was stunned too. Not that we didn't think that he couldn't do it someday – we knew he could – but playing computer games was yet another way that we got to see just how different typically developing children are from him. Kids his age are computer whizzes. I watch his cousins maneuver the Webkins website and am completely amazed (brilliance in all its different forms runs in the family). But Friday, getting to watch him play this game was like witnessing a miracle. Once again we have proof that he is capable of learning challenging tasks. Every skill he gains is another step toward an independent life. I saw into the future and he was at a desk doing computer work. I've dreamt it, but the dream became more of a vision of possible reality today.

It was a magnificent day. You go, T.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

“Does he have issues? Cool.”

Children have provided us with some of the best questions about T, and today was no exception. We took him to the playground at his elementary school this afternoon because the city park where we usually go was packed with other families celebrating Mother's Day. There were some other children playing there, who greeted us upon our arrival. One of T's favorite things to do at a playground is climb the stairs all the way up to the tip-top of the curvy slide, sit at the top, and enjoy the view. Only occasionally will he slide down, but today was not one of the days he was feeling it. Thankfully, the other children were very busy with other parts of the jungle gym and it really didn't matter how long T sat up there. After a while, one of the girls came over our way and went up to the top of the same slide, a basketball in hand. She put it down, and T efficiently pushed it down the slide. We weren't sure if that was what she intended – probably not – but we retrieved it for her and she slid down after T made room for her. She chatted with us in that curious way a child on a playground will, asking when his birthday was. It turned out that she and T have the same birth month, which she thought was cool. Turns out she is just a few weeks older than T & goes to this same school. I told her that he comes here also on Friday afternoons. She was quiet for a moment, and then asked quite simply: "Does he have issues?" Rob & I grinned, and said that yes, he does have issues. I told her that he is in Mrs. E's class (the self-contained special education classroom), and her honest & straightforward reply was "Cool. Her class comes to our class sometimes and hangs out with us."

"Cool." It is just fine with her that he is different. I have to say that kids impress the hell out of me sometimes. It really shouldn't surprise me – I mean, the kids in this school grow up with the most impacted special education students in their own school, coming to their classrooms as they are able, and it is NORMAL for them. This question from this young girl follows the great question I got from another little boy at this school: "Is he artistic?" And again, when I said yes (with a grin), his response was "Cool. I have a friend who is artistic."

Moments like this make me want him at this school more frequently than one half day a week. I'm SO thankful that this school will be ready for him when he is ready for it, and I can't wait.

I honestly can't remember any interactions I had with any special education students in my public school career. Where were they? It certainly was a different time.