Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Seven Years

Dear Benjamin,

Tomorrow, you will turn seven!  You received a big trampoline this last weekend, and we will have a small, low-key party for you this Sunday.  You have chosen a LEGO theme, and your great aunt Lenis is baking chocolate cupcakes at your request.  Time is flying faster than your mommy ever could have imagined.  This year has been huge for you!  Gigantic!  You have made so many gains and experienced so many changes.

You now have six big boy teeth!  Your face hasn't quite grown into having those big-boy front teeth yet, but you are the cutest bunny boy ever!  You actually pulled the two most recent baby teeth yourself.  We discovered they were very loose and when I offered to pull them, you told me no, not yet.  Within an hour, you walked up to me and very casually handed me one, and then the other a few minutes later.  "I pulled my tooth.  It was too loose," you said calmly and walked off, leaving your mommy speechless.

Speaking of speech, you were released from speech therapy this year!  You met ALL of your speech therapy goals and actually have an advanced vocabulary for your age.  THIS from the boy who did not talk at all until you were three and a half!  You had been in speech therapy since you were two, and I am still amazed at how quickly your speech developed once you began, but that's typical of you: you do things in your own time and once you decide to do something, you go for it.

You have had a huge year at school and are doing so many new things.  You spend part of your day in an Autism ACC class, but you attend kindergarten (with an aide) for reading circle, lunch, and recess every day, and you also attend music class and go to the library with them.  You choose books to check out and tell your class about your book after we read it at home.  You are learning to read some words, are writing better, doing math, learning math facts, and are cutting paper on your own.  You are mastering objectives and moving on to new ones regularly.  Fine motor skills are a struggle for you, but yours have gotten much better this year.

Other things have changed, too.  We have new people in our lives.  Your mommy actually went and fell in love with a wonderful man this year (and his son and family).  You love him, and he loves you back.  I was very worried about introducing another person into your life, because you are and always will be my most important person and biggest priority.  I was afraid you might be upset, that you might not accept a new person, or that he might not be the right new person for the two of us.  Fortunately, it has gone better than I ever expected and my heart melts every time I see the two of you playing together.

In many ways, though, you are still the same.  You still seem much younger than your age, which is a hallmark of the spectrum.  It's good in many ways, and difficult in many others.  For example, you are suddenly very aware there are separate public restrooms for men and women, but you are also too young to go to the restroom in public by yourself.  You still get too distracted to go through the whole routine without supervision and you are WAY too vulnerable to strangers.  You do not understand this and have started howling loudly, "Wait a minute!  I'm a BOY!  BOYS don't go to the WOMEN'S restroom!"  Did I mention you howl it loudly?  While in public?  Oh, good.

I am trying to learn how to properly negotiate this struggle of some parts of you growing up faster than other parts of you.  It's a work in progress and you and I both are going to have to have patience with each other.  We are working on getting you on track with focusing on tasks and doing things independently, and when I say we, I am talking about an impressive team.  Besides your family, you have an awesome occupational therapy assistant, wonderful teachers, and very  helpful, patient paraprofessional aides.  I know we will get there.  Most importantly, I know you can do ANYTHING.  You'll just do it all in your own time.  And that's okay.

You are still  my funny, smart, loving, sunshine of a boy who has an amazing memory, loves books, musical instruments, animals, blocks, sticks, and pretending to be a doctor-fireman-police chief who conducts an orchestra, and who never fails to make me smile.  I love you, Ben Bear, more than all the stars in the sky, more than all the water in the ocean, and more than all the wind in Texas.  The last one is your favorite, as you think it is silly.  Each new year will bring challenges and changes, but I promise I will be here to help you negotiate and face them successfully.  You will always have my love, and I will always cheer you on.  I can't wait to see what the next year brings.

Love always from your biggest fan,


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Thought for Others

Poor little neglected blog.  I know it's been a long time.   It's not that I don't have things to write about, but life has been very busy.  Mostly good busy, as we have a new amazing man in our lives, but busy nonetheless.  This evening, however, something pretty special occurred, and I just had to drop everything and tell y'all.

Ben is technically placed in an Autism ACC class, but he spends part of his day in a regular kindergarten class for inclusion this year.  He has done very well (with an aid), and he is joining the  Valentine's Day party in the regular Ed class this Thursday.  We received a list of names, and Ben and I sat down to address his Lego Valentine's cards.

He is still struggling with fine motor skills, so writing his name twenty times was laborious.  When we were through, Ben said,"Wait!  We forgot Jonathan, Lucas, and Ryan!"  I checked the list.  No Jonathan, Ryan, or Lucas.  I asked if he was sure they were in his class this year, and he insisted.  "We can't leave them out!  They will be sad!"  I assured him no one would be left out, and emailed his teacher.

It turns out that those three boys are in the ACC class but not in the kindergarten class with Ben and two other boys from ACC.  They will be having a party with another special education class.  Ben was right.

This amazes me for two reasons.  First, Ben was able to realize that we were missing three of his classmates after listening to me rattle off a list of twenty kids.  Second, Ben was concerned for other kids' feelings.  He can barely express his own feelings on most occasions, but he recognized that those classmates would not receive cards and might feel left out and sad.  Not only that, but he did not want them to feel that way.  It's amazing.

Jonathan, Lucas, and Ryan will receive cards and suckers from Ben at their party.  Ben is happy.  I am amazed, thrilled, and so happy I'm teary.  I have an awesome boy who fills my heart with hope and happiness every day.

Happy Valentine's Day to all.