I wish I had a working camera because I would have loved to share what happened last night. Michael’s RDI consultant wants us to do new things with Michael where he would still have to reference us for guidance. What you’re doing is creating new neural pathways when the child experiences something new, and at the same time, he is in a situation where he is safe enough to explore but just unsure enough where he also wants to ask for guidance, something autistic kids don’t like to do. That’s why they prefer to stay in the safe and familiar.
So last night, Michael and I went to our favorite store, just the two of us. He loves going to Adams because on Wednesday nights they have free juice and balloons and Mommy’s in a good mood because she gets a discount on her groceries and she’s made friends with the ladies at the cheese counter, the guy in the butcher shop, and her favorite cashier. I asked Michael if he wanted his own shopping cart (first time we were trying that out), and he was pretty hot on the idea. He knows there are child sized ones and specifically asked for one of those. I tried to get him to follow me (like a choo-choo train!), and I got slammed into a couple of times before he got the hang of it, but he was so tickled when I loaded up his cart with groceries. He must have been very proud of himself because he said hi to EVERYBODY and made sure that they knew he had his own shopping cart. It was adorable! He got really good at following directions, and he seemed to at least start to pay attention to the traffic of the crowds as he didn’t hit anyone else. I did pull on the back of his cart for awhile for guidance but after a few minutes I think he figured it out. He did so well that he didn’t even have a meltdown when I told him no balloon tonight. He felt so grown up with his cart that he didn’t seem to mind. At least he got his glass of juice. The guy at the butcher shop was even able to teach Michael how to fist bump. He helped empty his groceries onto the checkout counter and gave the lady the money for the bill. He did forget himself once and launched about three pounds of apples into the trunk of my car but otherwise was amazing. I was very proud of him and told him so. He seemed quite pleased with himself. The best part of the evening was when he passed by a little girl, she must have been about 3 years old, who was expertly navigating her own little cart with her daddy. Michael got so excited. He said, “Oh look, you have a little cart too! Just like MEEE!” So many great new experiences for him last night, I could just almost feel his brain network growing a little!
This all from the child who expertly broke out of his bedroom two nights ago and ran between his room and the toy room for several hours before we discovered him (William was having an exceptionally noisy tantrum and we didn’t hear the child lock pop open over the baby monitor like usual). I thank God he only wanted some toys and didn’t get the notion to explore the house or (God forbid) leave the house. Michael had lots of fun at Lowe’s yesterday laughing at different colored spools of chain while I picked out a new locking mechanism for his door. It’s weird and disorienting to have to continually conjure up new ways to keep your creative little genius locked in his room, but Mommy and Daddy have to sleep some time, so it has to be done. It’s a pretty simple safety chain that you see in city apartments, but this one is attached to the top of his door and the slider attachment is bolted to the wall above. It’s about 7 feet up, I can barely reach it, and unless he moves a super heavy dresser (we would definitely hear THAT over the monitor), he’s not reaching that one any time soon.
The ups and downs of autism and ADHD are pretty crazy. The downs can be scary or depressing, but the ups can really give great moments of joy. It’s an odd feeling to be cheering on a 5 year old for simple things like spontaneously saying hello or goodbye or being able to follow his mother through a store, but those are huge achievements for my 5 year old, and I’m going to celebrate where I can. Michael is getting nothing but praise from his Sunday School teachers who remember what he was like 2 years ago. They tell me to keep doing whatever it is that we’re doing because he’s making so much progress. It’s hard for me to see that as much as others because I feel as though I just deal with the underbelly of life a lot and despair that he’ll ever overcome his disabilities. I’m so grateful when God sends moments like last night to show me that Michael can be in recovery.