As you watch your child grow and develop, what things most make you smile?
My attitude toward Jack's progress has been, from the beginning, a joyous celebration of what progress we see. I don't compare Jack to other kids; I compare where he was and where he is now. Consequently, I see progress all the time. Sure, he's not reading or writing or telling stories like the "normal" kids, but he's making progress. In just the last week, he told a story (beginning, middle, and end) at the dinner table for the first time. It was rough, and he was recounting a scene from a movie, but he used spontaneous speech (interspersed with dialogue from the movie, of course). WOOHOO! He is also using longer sentences of spontaneous speech in general and is answering questions more often and with longer sentences as well. At the preschool end-of-year carnival, he managed to play for two hours before asking to go home. I was practically dancing as we left! At last year's carnival, he only made it twenty minutes before sensory overload hit.
I recently had a weird experience with a special education teacher. His special education teacher seemed really disappointed in Jack at the IEP meeting a month ago. Jack may not have met her expectations of progress, but he met mine. I sent her an email afterwards explaining how three years ago, Jack completely shut down at school, had no friends, wouldn't even touch a pair of scissors much less cut a straight line, wouldn't sit in circle time or at a table with other children, wouldn't talk at all, etc. He now has friends and interacts with all his peers (mostly appropriately), follows the class routine with minimal redirection, cuts shapes reasonably well, and talks to everyone (asking questions, answering them, etc.). So what if he has difficulty paying attention to undesirable tasks and won't take tests well? These are just the next things to work on.
The teacher appreciated my email and has seemed more upbeat since, but I really do feel that unrealistic expectations can crush any child--autistic or not. It's important to push and challenge all kids, but by paying attention to how the child is progressing--rather than standardized scores or curriculum guidelines--it's easier to find the positive in a child's development.
Besides, Jack is just funny. The other day, while talking to my mom on the phone, he dropped the phone into his lap. He picked up the phone and asked my mother, "Did I hurt you?" Bwaahhaaahaaa!
So what makes you smile?