Wednesday, June 19, 2013

NBA and My Two Little Champions

I never thought I would be writing about NBA. Or any kind of sport for that matter. But I am. Although in a non-conventional way. Because with all the heat and excitement of Game 6 yesterday of the NBA finals, I cannot help but be overpowered and drawn by the hype. So bear with me. But of course, mostly, this will be about the two little men in my life who are way more gorgeous than Tony Parker.

Babbles, utterances, single words that most of the times serve functions other than what it's meant for, these are what my boys have in their language bank. Often times I wondered whether they actually mean something by them or whether these are just one of the many repetitive behaviors that are characteristic of kids on the spectrum. As an autism parent, it is second nature for me to anticipate my boys' needs even before they realize it themselves so much so that I fail to recognize and realize that despite their language impairment and cognitive delays, they still absorb everything they hear, see and feel and that they are always, always communicating something important. Admittedly, I have been too afraid to hope that the time will come when my boys can communicate with me as clearly as other kids do with their parents. Having been disappointed so many times, where my patience is constantly tested, where every bit of hope and perhaps even my faith exhausted, I forget that every little thing I do as a parent, as a mother, as a teacher to my boys does bear fruit.

No matter how long it may take.

Simply because miracles happen.

And, because they're called miracles, they seem to not come very often as much as I want them to. They come at the most unexpected moments. They come at the most opportune time where I am barely hanging on by a thread of my faith, just when I am about to give up. And maybe the old adages are right in that miracles come simply when the time is right. When we have worked our asses off that we're pretty damn sure they're literally falling off. And what does this imply? It means we work for it. I have to work for it. Miracles. The truth may be that we have to earn it. I have to earn it.

This morning, as I was helping Morgan get his drink of water, I did the usual prompting and commenting, "show give" (for open palm gesture) expecting him to reply with the usual "Mmm", because no matter how many times I prompted him in the past days to say "drink" no response ever came close. So when he suddenly said, "ding" before putting the bottle to his lips it took two or three seconds to register that he meant "drink" in my dumbfounded brain, I was ecstatic! I quickly ran out of the room to tell their father which elicited a kind of joy on his face only a father can have that surpasses the joy had the Spurs beat Miami in Game 6 of the NBA finals. (Wink!)

And now as my two thumbs are furiously punching the qwerty keypad of my phone, Garret is constantly asking me to open his pack of eggnog cookies. I pause every now and then to do the work, "Garret, say 'Open'." He looks at my mouth and with all the darn apraxia his brain could manifest but with all the strength of will of my little prince could expel, he looks at my mouth, looks at the ceiling as if in concentration, and says an emphatic, " Ppphuh!" Again my heart soars and again I quickly went to inform my better half. And again appeared the face that confirmed how no matter who won the NBA finals, it doesn't matter. Because all that really matters is that his little man said " Ppphuh".

This is what I learned today:

One, my boys' babbles and utterances do mean something. They are absorbing everything I teach them, they are feeling every facet of life I show them. They are communicating to me and the world around them. I just have to pay closer attention and listen more carefully.Because when I do, I am able to give value to my boys' manner of communicating. And when I am able to give value to what they are telling me every single day, I am able to give more importance and more meaning to our connection. I am able to have a deeper connection with my boys. And maybe even a relationship with them not unlike neurotypical parents and their neurotypical kids where conversations and out of the box ideas flow freely. Maybe an even more profound relationship if I haven't already.

Two. I mustn't lose hope. Because as Tyler Knott Gregson says,
"I do not believe there is a more destructive and dangerous force than hope but I do not believe that there is a more necessary and perfectly beautiful one either."

More than a mother with a strength of a thousand armies when it comes to loving my boys, I am but human though, I do what I can with the best of my abilities and through my frailties I get impatient, arrogant and easily discouraged but when it comes to my boys this I should always, always carve in my heart, I shouldn't and mustn't give up. When it comes to my boys I mustn't give up. Because to love them unconditionally is to always believe in them and to give them the ultimate gift of the human spirit--hope. Hope in themselves, hope for better things to come after every struggle they will surely face and hope in the best of people they may encounter in their lifetime, no matter how many times they fail, no matter how many times they get disappointed, no matter how dark and winding the tunnel of their life map may seem.

Three. Faith. I have to believe. Because miracles do not work if I do not believe. Every day. 365 days a year, until my last breath. I need to trust in the universe. That everything is working according to a higher and deeper purpose. That the outcome of my journey as a mother, as a person, the end mission of my boys' journey and their autism and the journey itself, are by and in themselves miracles in every essence of the word. Good things come to those who wait, the saying goes. And better things come to those who work for it. With faith comes patience and discernment. I need to believe, be patient and reflect on things that have come to pass and pray for whatever will come to pass.

If by some miracle the Spurs do win the NBA finals, I'm sure Garret and Morgan's papa would be very happy. He usually pushes for the underdog. Me, on the other hand, I could care less about basketball and all that hullabaloo. All I know is that I'm rooting for my two "underdogs" in the world of normalcy and neurotypical development, always. Because in my eyes, with every struggle they face and overcome everyday living in our "normal" and if I may add, chaotic world, they are champions, in every sense of the word, miracles even from the moment they were conceived. Of course, without having to say it out loud, but affirming it nonetheless, for the father of my boys, if Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan would be few of the San Antonio Spurs' hands holding that elusive NBA championship trophy, for him, that would just be an added bonus to the challenges our little men overcome everyday.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Autism Proof

I never thought the day would come when I would be explaining to my son why I spanked him. But it did. And for me, for us in our family, this is another milestone achieved. It's not so much as me explaining to him why I had to do it as it is he understanding my explanation. As in really understanding the events that led me to him spanking him. And perhaps truly understanding the most important reason of all.

Garret is 8 years old. He has single words now here and there. A-koo (Apple), Ana-na (Banana), Graesh (Grapes), Fish, Skweh (Square) among those that are more or less consistent, clear and unmistakable. Two word-phrases still elude him though. Conversations, all the more. But I haven't lost hope. If there's one thing I still believe, it is that one day, my little prince and I will be talking under the sun, the moon and the stars non-stop. One day. And I could just imagine the things we would talk about. Or maybe I will just gape in wonder at him when the time comes and he will be doing all the talking.

Language is expressive and receptive. There can be no true language without both. Expressive language obviously can be measured by how much a child speaks and how he speaks, uses the words, etc. Receptive language, on the other hand can be partly measured by how much a child expresses himself. And this is where the discrepancy happens, I believe. Because so much of what a child understands does not necessarily translate into verbal responses. After all we have what we call "choices". Even at a very young age, children begin to practice making choices, choosing what to answer. Yes or No. Cake or Ice Cream. Blue or Red. Behave or misbehave. And it seems, as they grow older, mental mapping, reflection, pondering, processing any input from the environment all the more contribute to the quantity and quality of verbal responses and behavior, of course. I would love to cite a reference for this paragraph but I think I do not need to because these few sentences are products of what we all experience. Common sense, you may call it, don't you think?

So back to the point of this blog post. Two nights ago, I spanked Garret. Our newly-cropped ears Dobe, Riley was trying to play with him, licking him as he went out of the room,which Garret does not like. So he pinched the ear of Riley. I called his attention once. Still he did not heed my reprimand. He pinched Riley's ear again. This time I swatted his bottom with one firm smack. He looked at me, went to our room and hid under his pillows. His papa called to him. He refused to approach his father. He sobbed quietly, looking at me like it was my fault he was crying, which of course was understandable. It went on like this for 10 minutes or so until I couldn't take it anymore and approached him. He was lying face down. I did the same beside him and put my arm around his back. I stroked his hair and said, "Garret, I spanked you because you did not listen to mama. Riley's ears will get hurt if you pinch it. And I have to spank you because you have to learn to listen to what mama says." Or something like that. I tried to make my words really simple and easy to understand. He looked at me, tears in his eyes. I continued, "Mama spanked you because Mama loves you." At this, I left him alone to process everything I said. After three minutes or so, he stood up and joined Morgan jumping on the bed, smiling slowly as if nothing happened. And that was when it struck me, as in really struck me-- Garret understood me. Really understood what I just said. In his own non-verbal way. Actions do speak louder than words ever will. He understood more than any two-word phrases and sentences could ever measure. But more than anything, I was amazed at the thought that what I said got through to him. Somehow beneath the seemingly sound-proof walls that autism builds around the world of my son, my words were autism-proof. I connected with my son on a different level, and he connected with me. And that meant everything. Because just when I was up to my neck with self-doubt and on the brink of losing my patience and perhaps some parts of my faith all together, a breakthrough like this happens.

So what have I learned from this? Three things: One, language is more than just spoken words. More importantly, it is seen, clearly seen in what is not said. What I say, what I do, my little prince is taking it all in. As Morgan does. They understand everything that goes on around them in their own way perhaps even in a more hypersensitive manner. They may have autism but they may be more in tune with life than I am. So this is a note to self in my other aspects in life as well. I have to be more sensitive to body language, facial expressions, subtle nuances that people I interact with, communicate with me. Sometimes, words only serve to cover what is the truth.

Two, even if I begin to lose hope and question if any of what I'm doing as a parent is ever working, even if I forget the one true thing that gets my boys through, the one powerful force that nothing could ever surpass, the Universe does not forget and somebody up there is just taking it all in as well. And when the time is right, he / she tells me, shows me in his own verbal and nonverbal way as well, like saying, "I did not forget. And here it is, what you need. I may have had to postpone some miracles so you would learn the value of patience, discernment, reflection and gratitude always. And I did this for no other reason than because I love you." Well, what do you know, my stubbornness and know-it-all attitude is also given a firm smack on the bottom.

And three to wrap it all up in one tidy neat bow: Love, what I have for my boys, what the Universe has for me unconditionally, is autism proof always. :)