An Amazing Day

This past Friday, September 14th, was one of the best days I have had in a while. On Thursday, I had a procedure, so my husband took the next day off just in case something went left. I woke up late, but I rallied up, took a shower, and did some actual design work. I forgot how zoned in I get when I am working; it is a it like hyper-focusing, but I like to think of it as “flow.”

My husband and I decided to take some time and go to Starbucks, get a regular coffee, sit outside, and work while also catching pokemon and spinning pokestops. After an hour, we left to go pick Caleb up from school together. As we were walking to our car, Mr. Frame, the special-needs coordinator, asked me if we heard the news about Caleb’s math exam. I was totally confused. Then Mr. Frame told me that Caleb placed into 6th grade math. 6th grade!!! I never imagined he was that good at math. His ability to generalize mathematical rules and principles is outstanding. I was a bit taken aback because I had requested to be in the room when Caleb was tested; Caleb has developed some anxiety issues and he made it clear that he wanted me with him. However, since he started school, he is having less anxiety. I think the schedule really works for him. He also has half days on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so he does get a bit of a break. Now, he has a half day because he has either Focus Academy or his feelings doctor. I have wondered if we should look into CBT for Caleb, but with his anxiety decreasing, I think the path we are on is a good one.

After  I was done doing a happy dance in the parking lot – and yes, I really was dancing around in the parking lot – my first thought was to call my mother. Then anxiety set in and I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I know that Nana loves Caleb, so I figured I should let her know. This is big news.

I have been working with Caleb since he was 2 years old. All of us as a family, including my mom, researched autism, and tried to remove obstacles that impeded his learning as well as supply proper support so he could learn new behavior. We all have put in countless hours driving him to therapy, all kinds of therapy. We have all worked with Caleb on talking and walking and running and eat right. Caleb did do most of the work – I am in no way taking away from him this accomplishment. I am saying that he didn’t get where he was alone. Our family all took an active interest in Caleb’s well being. My husband was willing to change the way he saw his future and let me be a stay-at-home mom with Caleb. I worked with Caleb for hours a day. If I didn’t have the opportunity to do that work, then Caleb would have never reached his full potential.

It takes a village to raise a child. We have a village. Our village doesn’t only include family, but friends who listened and understood our difficulties, the doctors and therapists who have helped Caleb learn how to be not neurotypical, but autistic who can thrive in a neurotypical world. Our village also includes friends of the family or random strangers who gave us advice. We didn’t agree with everything, but any new piece of information was another aspect we could research and judge for ourselves.

And then there is my shining angel, Caleb. Okay, he isn’t an angel, but he is my BBF (Best Buddy Forever). He is so full of curiosity, love, spitfire, creativity, and brilliance. Yes, I push him a bit tiger-mom-esque, but Caleb did the work. Caleb put his still developing mind to work, with the aspiration of going into second grade math. That was our goal this summer – for him to skip first grade math and go into second. Halfway through the summer, we are doing fourth grade math. I have no idea how he placed into 6th grade math, but I know that his amazing brain worked incredibly hard.)

As a celebration, he got to a pick a day – either Saturday or Sunday – to go and do an outing. The only catch is that it had to be cheap (we are saving up money for our third dog.)(Yes, third. Don’t judge. 🙂 ) Caleb chose Sunday as our funday. We walked around downtown, however after about 1.5 hours, the boys were both tired and complaining. I wanted to keep going, but alas, I have to yield to the majority. Caleb got to do whatever he wanted (within reason) and eat what he wanted (again, within reason. The sour patch kids for breakfast was a definite no-go.), and go to bed a bit later than usual.

All of this has made me realize that I don’t truly understand Caleb’s abilities. I need to learn more about autism. I need to be an autism advocate. I see it now. I’m working on what I can right now, but that is a whole other post that I need to get to.

Right now, my migraine is exploding as the effects from Hurricane Florence make their way over Michigan. The day before the storm is usually the worst day. I am anxious to see how Caleb behaved today at school, and whether or not he has a migraine. He has been doing so well at school lately, even days when his head hurts. I am so proud of him, my heart is bursting as well as my head.

I have to say, at least for us, Temple Grandin is our diving rod. Every suggestion or idea she has, we have tried it. It hasn’t been easy. My husband and I were talking just the other day about how many things we have tried and failed at. Teaching Caleb sign language? Fail. Working on Caleb’s handwriting with a million different toys? Fail. Fail. Fail. Toy X that Caleb said he couldn’t live without? Fail.

We have had a lot of failures and stumbles, but my husband and I agreed to look at it as data. Even the absence of data is data. We would analyze the situation, and then synthesize the old information with the new. So, how is Caleb able to do 6th grade math? I have no freaking idea. We have tried so many things to help him over the years, that we don’t know what worked and what didn’t. And it is not like you can run a double blind study with one child. But, somehow, things are working, rolling along.

For the first time in my life, I am not scared for Caleb. I think he is going to be a lot like Charlie from Supernatural (played by Felicia Day). She said that she didn’t do well with authority, so she knew that she had to make herself irreplaceablely good. I believe that Caleb’s abilities will outweigh his disabilities. I believe that Caleb will be irreplaceable no matter what he does. After all, he is already irreplaceable to so many of us in our village.

Author: jessicajean79

I have a B.A. in Interactive Multimedia and an M.Ed. in Instructional Technology. I started my Ph.d. in 2007, but in 2009, my husband and I met and decided to have a baby. Caleb was a high-risk pregnancy and a high-needs baby. My husband and I both agreed that Caleb needed a stay-at-home mother more than I needed to finish my schooling. Instructional Technology is the study of how people learn. My focus of my research was motivation; my wickedly awesome dissertation that I never finished showed how to create an environment that fosters motivation. All this information has been invaluable to me. As far as learning theory goes, I believe in using Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Behaviorism. With young kids, Behavorism is most popular, and with reason; most of the studies on autism and learning have been based upon Behaviorism, specifically B. F. Skinner. I still believe in the use of all 3 learning theories. I am a mother, wife, doggy-mom, big spoon, little spoon, and data-driven.

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