Having words and communicating are very different. Peter’s had “words” for over a year now, and each and every one of them is a gift in it’s own right. Many children with Autism don’t ever speak, I’ve never taken for granted how blessed we are.
I talk a lot about our wonderful therapists. Each of them is Peter’s personal cheerleader in many ways. Each of them has changed his life, and ours through him. If it takes a village; Peter has a nation.
Tomorrow we say good-bye to Peter’s speech therapist, Stacy. She and her fiancee are off to Maine to touch many more lives. We’ve known this day was coming since she began working with Peter in April of 2008. What we didn’t know was how hard it would be to let her go.
Stacy has worked diligently with Peter and our family over the past 14 months. She is a bright and welcome presence in our home. Peter adores her, and so do we. She’s not only his teacher and his advocate, she is also a dear friend.
I find it almost karmic that yesterday Peter and I had our very first conversation. It’s not that for some time he hasn’t been using his words to communicate, but over the past few weeks he’s had an incredible explosion of both receptive and expressive language. He’s putting together sentences and answering questions with more than a yes or no (which even 3 months ago was unimaginable).
I had taken Peter to OT yesterday, to see one of our other angels, Amy. I’m trying to snip the apron strings a little bit and leave him once in a while so that he won’t be too shell shocked once he starts the summer TEACCHing program next month (aren’t you proud of me Beth and Missy?).
So, as usual, during bathtime I talked to Peter about his day. Though I hadn’t been there for a part of it so that was unique. I asked him what he did with Amy, fully not expecting a response, and certainly unaware that this particular interaction was going to change my life forever. Isn’t it funny how life’s greatest moments sneak up on you like that? How a seemingly typical Tuesday evening can be the best day of the year?
My previously non-communicative son looked me in the eye and answered me. “Peter in the rice room.” I almost fell backwards. I pushed, “Peter, you played in the rice room with Amy today?” He said, “Yes.”
And so it went like this;
Me: “What else did you do with Amy?”
Peter: “Treasure hunt, kitchen”
Me: “You went on a treasure hunt in the kitchen?”
Me: “What did you find?”
Peter: “Chocolate Ice Cream Cone”, starts playing with bath toys “Nemo is orange, Nemo is Orange, NEMO IS ORANGE (this means “I can’t find Nemo, Mommy. He’s orange by the way. Oh, and Mommy did you know that Nemo is Orange and I cannot find him?” and he’s done with our conversation).
Me: “Do you love Amy?”
Peter: “Yes. What happened to Nemo? NEMO IS ORANGE!”
And that was it. My son and I had a conversation about his day. He connected with me, he understood me, he recalled and recounted events, and he shared with me…because he wanted to. In the Autism world, that’s what we call a miracle.
Tonight I had a similar discussion about his Giggle Friends class. It was no less miraculous. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever stop tearing up in wonder when I think about the gravity of what happened yesterday.
Stacy, you’ve done some pretty amazing work. It’s such a gift that you are here to see the fruits of your tireless efforts. We can never thank you enough, and while we are sad to say farewell, we know that there are lots of “Everybody’s Boys” in Maine that need you.