Today I’m speechless. A speech pathologist from the school board who has accompanied some of my son’s regular Autism SLP visit a number of times commented about how incredible he’s doing and she how she can’t get over the leap he’s made with regards to speech.
I am very happy about this but at the same time I know and Daddy knows that Johnny’s been outgoing and interacting since he was five. Johnny just didn’t show it as much with other family members and even less so with kids from school or at school. I think that he was very aware of how he sounded and was self-conscious about it so he chose not to talk. Princess, his little sister would get exasperated and say “why don’t you say something at school!”
So one of the things that I can say that it is common with Autism is the ability to take a skill and have challenges transfering it to another place called generalizing. This is not easy at all for my son and probably for a lot of other kids on the spectrum. When you’re in a friendly environment you know what’s expected and you know that you have security of the people that you know around you. There is an element of control and predictability so that you can take a risk and flop on your face but everyone is still supportive. I often think this is a reason why my son prefers the company of girls over boys at school. Boys will often raz each there and call each other out and say “I can do this better” while girls are more encouraging if you make a mistake. So when my son finds many parts of his day challenging I am not surprised that he seeks out girls. Not all the boys in his class are like this and in fact quite a few are very supportive but Johnny has to learn to build up his trust in them. The day he surprised a boy while walking to school by asking him how he was doing instead of just waving and saying hi. The boy was visibly surprised but happy too.
The next big thing for Johnny is to do what he does at home and do that at school and speak. The SLP said to me that she felt that he probably was able to be himself at home because it was all his things that he could predict around him since he’s used it. He needs to feel that comfortable at school. I agreed but for different reasons.
Johnny does not have a shy bone in his body but what everyone forgets is he knows he’s different and he doesn’t like to be different. He’s told me recently over and over quite bluntly that he doesn’t like the word different. When he opened his mouth and to tries to speak he knows that he didn’t sound the way he wants to sound. He would often read words and record them and just listen to himself and then have the iPad say it so that he could try to make himself speak more clearly. Every time a child or an adult doesn’t understand him and he has to keep repeating himself is extremely frustrating. It’s a constant reminder of being different and struggling with being different so why would you want to go out on a limb? I also don’t think it’s because of everything being structured at home so there’s a predictability. In fact at home I struggle to make our home life structured beyond life style routines. I am a spontaneous person and I find too many schedules styling my adventurous side but I try and make changes for Johnny. I just think it’s because as his mother I understand him most of the time even though it might not sound definable to other people. It is the same way with his little sister. She understands him no matter what he said and would tell people what it was he saying. In fact the same time she began to talk he began to speak. I think there’s a comfort in that safeness and it’s a security blanket.
What do I do when the person keeps insisting that with me because after all she is the professional? I have to remember I know my son best so I suggested that we can’t discount all the busyness and craziness of school which is really hard to be around and then you’re supposed to think of new things to say well which is so difficult. I can tell I’ve given her something to think about and see differently. I told her that’s its like this with most kids on the spectrum. There is just too much information coming in constantly and it’s just simply hard.
On a positive note, I have been getting lots of encouraging words from teachers and parents noticing how different Johnny has been lately. The common thing they say is socially he’s grown leaps and bounds. Others have said it’s like he’s a flower and he’s blooming and it’s so wonderful. He is and I am so glad that he is letting more and more folks get to know him as a person and find out what a lovely boy he is.