What did you do at school today? Did you have fun? What made you laugh? What did you not like? Who are you friends with? Why are you sad when I ask this question?
We always feel like we are starving for any scraps of info about what Johnny is doing when he is not with us. We hear other parent’s ask their children when they pick them up from school and we look at each other and share a look. We ask Johnny but all he can do is smile at the many questions we ask him. Sometimes we get lucky and he laughs really loudly and hugs us with joy so we then think we have a clue what he was doing that day. Sometimes he’ll sit on our laps and look at us so intensely and then try and get some words out as I ask him about his day.
Right now we rely on 2 communication booklets that go back and forth between his 2 schools, his teachers and us. We crave any nugget of info of his life away from home that we find ourselves quickly grabbing it out of his bag and devouring the info about his day. We hate the days when we don’t see any entries. Don’t they know that any little tidbit or anecdote about Johnny will suffice?
3 weeks ago I find a little folded up drawing in Johnny’s bag with little pink crayon marks on it. Hmm…that doesn’t look at all like something Johnny would have done. Did it get in his bag by mistake? His education assistant’s entry in the communication booklet says that a little girl in Johnny’s class wanted to draw Johnny a picture and he was very excited about this and the little girl wanted Johnny to take it home with him. When I asked him about it he got so happy and excited and wanted to hold it. Later that evening when it was time for bed he wanted to take the picture to his room and showed me where to hang it on his wall. It is still there now and he smiles when he sees it. If no one had taken the time to write in the booklet we would have not enjoyed a glimpse into our son’s life
Two weekends ago I was helping Johnny have fun painting when it seemed like he was on one of his prolific painting frenzies where he loves to play with colours and mix and draw and have fun. 8 pictures later we were finally done and we have lots of new artwork to decorate our walls. On Monday I get a newsletter from his private school where a university student describes how she has been having the kids of experiment with colours, paints, and making coloured water etc.
This past Friday I open up Johnny’s backpack and find his homework duotang (yes he gets homework at age 4 and its due every Wednesday) and inside there is a photo proof package for his class picture that was taken at the beginning of October. We had a little entry in his communication booklet that the photo session went well but no information beforehand to prepare Johnny. The next day there is a calender for October in his bad and sure enough “Photo Day” in big letters. Sure I would have snipped his hair a little but he looks great in his pics but what I mean is when you have a child with Autism you don’t surprise them with new things out of nowhere. You always prepare them because THIS is a change in their routine and it might be something they might feel uncomfortable about. Johnny doesn’t mind when I take his photo but let’s just say the passport photo session at Black’s Camera store was challenging and the school photo session could have gone very badly. I’ve let the teachers know that if any new things are coming up that they need to let us know in advance in order to prepare Johnny.
So the next time you son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, or granddaughter want to stop you when you are very busy to tell you some innocuous tidbit about their day, please stop what you are doing and take the time to listen because I’m here to say how lucky you are.