Today, as I watched T scale an enormous indoor cantilevered climbing structure, I slowly came to the realization that I am not the most capable person to be planning his future. Okay, I may be the second, or third, but I watched him climb and climb in amazement and realized that he just did something that I really thought he didn’t want to do. I thought he wouldn’t do it. I didn’t think he couldn’t do it – I just thought he wouldn’t. This was based on observations I’ve made about his willingness to try other similar adventures. Even with several other children climbing around him, he waited his turn, got out of the way when appropriate, didn’t push any other kids…just climbed and smiled and climbed and smiled, all the way to the very tip top.
He started at the bottom, sat on the first curved plank, then moved toward the second only to back away when another kid came near. This went on for a good 10 minutes, and is not unusual behavior. Rob & I gave him the “5 more minutes” heads-up, and to our surprise within a minute he was on his way up. We watched, wide-eyed, then stepped back and observed how he would do. Would he eventually freeze when he realized that the web of rope was all that would keep him from falling 10, 20, 30 feet, then more? Would he push another kid? How long would it take me to get to him?
I set the fears aside the best I could, and then said quietly, “Fly baby, fly.” As I watched him figure out a tight spot, maneuvering around obstacles and outwardly smiling and enjoying himself, it dawned on me that he was proving my protective assumptions wrong. He was doing it, and confidently, too. I’d like to say again that I didn’t think he couldn’t do it – I really thought he would refuse to, or it would just be too overwhelming with the other kids or too scary when it got really high. And yet, all those things did not get in the way today. He wanted to climb, so he watched other kids and HE DID IT.
So we’re down on ground level, watching in reverent awe of our kid, and the thought came to me that I really, truly can’t make any firm plans for this kid. He surprises me nearly every day. Is he autistic? Absolutely yes. But in the last year he has learned to read words, write them, transcribe them, type on the computer, do simple math worksheets…he is blowing me away. So I can’t make any assumptions about what his capabilities will be, or what limitations he will have. I will have to take it week by week, month by month, and let his abilities guide me. I can’t assume that he will never live independently, nor can I assume he will. This is tough for a planner! But honestly, we’ve already been in what feels like unchartered territory with him for years, so this really is not much different. Dr. S says that he’s not on the high end of functioning, nor on the low end – he doesn’t fit either place. “He’s just…Thomas,” Dr. S. said.
Isn’t that the truth?