We recently celebrated our 3rd year milestone of our Sped center. As usual I gave the welcome remarks. And it went on like this:
"If there are three things that I have learned from the three years that our center has grown into, having seen the kids grow and learn significant life skills, having shared the other parents' joys and growing pains over the triumphs and trials of raising kids on the spectrum, it is this: One, there are no small miracles. Two, to be grateful for everything. And three to always celebrate our children and life in general no matter what."
So many changes have transpired this end of the year. Our two teachers have moved on to another chapter in their lives. And our senior sped teacher will soon be starting a new life too. That leaves me with two new sped teachers and the imminent possibility of me being more hands-on with the training of the teachers and kids, and undergo more trainings in special education. I would have expected myself to be anxious about all these changes transpiring. And yet, all I feel is a sense of calm and peace that everything is happening as it should be. That everything will turn out okay because it is simply time. A season and reason for everything. And coincidentally, I have found an avenue that allowed me to unearth my old buried deep passion for poetry. But then again, having been through everything I've been through, coincidences don't belong in my vocabulary anymore. And for all this, I consider it to be a miracle, I am grateful and I am celebrating it everyday.
But the bulk of my purpose in this life has always been my boys. And of course this post will be about them and the many milestones they have been reaching. I realize it has been quite a long time since I last wrote about them save for intermittent Facebook status updates. But I've never been one to be contented with one-line phrases or one glance readings so here's a lengthy post if only to celebrate my boys yet again. Over and over again. So yeah, the above paragraphs are a mere introduction. Here's the real thing...;-)
Imitation. One very important learning skill, prerequisite to teaching functional communication. A challenge to most if not all children on the spectrum.
“In general, imitation is important because of the developing ability to construct internal representations of the behavior of others and to duplicate them. To imitate physically, the child must be able to perform at least three tasks: turn-taking, attending to the action, and replicating the action’s salient features” (Owens, 1996, 145).
My boys face this challenge as well though it has improved over time. One clear although unconventional and perhaps incidental example? Just recently, Morgan has discovered that he can move my desk quite easily near the bed where he'll be able to cross from the desk to the bed in semi-jump. Until the semi-jump became one full-blown, hands in the air, unmistakeable grin-on-his-face jump. Garret then followed suit and in just a few seconds had his own improvisations-- climbing up to the window sill, hanging on to the window frames for balance, turning around and jumping full body on to the mattress not unlike the one you see on the old Nestea commercials. The mattress seemed to be a better choice than the good old trampoline. After which of course, Morgan imitated his big brother. The two of them taking turns unprompted, patiently waiting for one to finish jumping before taking his turn. This has been their nightly ritual, their form of play, their happy place-- still no clear verbal language to each other and yet the understanding that they have with each other is crystal clear and perfect. This morning at the center as the caregiver and during the break, as usual, Garret climbed up the railing of the stairs, both feet on the lower railing, arms outstretched balancing. Yep, this is normal for us. I have long stopped having a mini heart attack when I see this sight. You just get used to it, you know. And what do you know, the Morgan calmly took his place up there too once Garret came down, once again imitating his big brother. I smile now amused at the thought that if my boys would have been neurotypical, it is but natural to scold the older sibling for modeling such "bad behavior" that the younger siblings would ultimately and always follow. But thank God, they're not neurotypical. You ask, "Why thank God? Shouldn't you be wistful and wishing they were?" Well, no, because otherwise I wouldn't have noticed the little itty bitty milestone that some if not most normal parents take for granted-- my boys overcoming the challenge of the simple task of imitation. Oh how they do imitate now!!! Of course, I do realize, this is just one part of the even greater challenge in improving their communication. But this is no less important.
Another thing that strikes me as I watch my boys everyday is how their interaction with each other have grown considerably. Take this for instance, Garret does not like to play in our koi pond turned ordinary mini-swimming pool, alone. He patiently, oh ever so patiently waits for his little brother to wake up from his afternoon nap and when he does, practically pulls Morgan out from the room and out to the pond. And when they do play and frolic in the water, I can see clearly how it's not just parallel play. They have moments where they communicate in their own way. Morgan spontaneously hugs his kuya. And Garret looks at the pink chubby cheeks of Morgan and pinches it smiling. Garret plunging into the water, Morgan observing his big bro and imitates him. Taking turns. Doing it together. Having fun together. It is one of the many things I live for everyday--seeing my boys playing with each other and actually having a language of their own. Their own little world. Their happy place. But most of all, when I see them, all I see love emanating from their souls. The kind you see that's simply untarnished, pure, raw for whatever they comprehend about it and however they show it. Long before they were both born, I had an idea how my life would be fulfilling having both of them. What an understatement that was. Little did I know what I was in for. I was in for one tremendous love that just fills your heart and soul with the kind of raw, overwhelming emotion that breaks and bursts your heart with a force that you think you will literally explode. And as I always say, I'm gonna need a new heart. Despite all my misgivings, heaven help me, the universe have still been merciful to have blessed me with this kind of joy every single day. Every single day, I think to myself I must have done something right in my life.
This morning with Morgan in my arms mouth slightly open, softly snoring. Yes, the kind of cuteness that just breaks your heart again and again. I hold his right hand stroking his palm and fingers, breathing in the smell of my king. And as I breathed, my chest just warmed involuntarily with the sudden thought, this right here, my boys, this is my joy. And I could not and should not ask for anything more. Garret snores softly as well in the other bed with his papa. Everything was quiet save for the mayas announcing the break of day outside. In the early hours of the day, my mind is quiet as well, save for my prayer, my declaration, an admission of humility--
Every day is a miracle day. And for this I am grateful. And for this I celebrate my boys. I celebrate my purpose in this life. I celebrate my life.