I am a firm believer in the old adage of ‘You learn a new thing everyday’ but little did I know that it would come to define our life with our ASD girl. This long, long journey is made up of baby steps, trial and error, testing and learning strategies and every so often a stride or a leap forwards.
Those steps, leaps and strides are momentous. It means that something is working; we have found the key to a particular, nuanced behaviour. It means that our little family unit is pulling together, as a team, to get over the ever increasing hurdles in front of us. It means we are attuned, it means we are winning, it means that tomorrow will be brighter still.
It can be as simple as our daughter remembering it is polite to say ‘hello’ when people arrive at the house or as momentous as a night without a meltdown but these last two weeks have had way more strides than I expected. Firstly, our little lovely said ‘I love you too Mummy’. Crack… my heart just broke (again). She said it! I know she does love me (the cuddles and giggles and kisses and squishes are testament to that), but she said it. I said ‘Goodnight, I love you’ as I always do and she said it back to me! You may be shocked to hear this if you do not have an ASD child but her verbal demonstration of love knocked me for six in a really wonderful way – you should have seen the smile on my face and the look of disbelief when I told my husband about it.
Then, after a rather elongated bedtime which is common in our house, I could tell she was working up to something – there was a nagging thought at the back of her ever-active mind, some misdemeanour someone had done over the day that was preying on her mind. The argumentative criticism of my reading started, the fidgeting, throwing the bed covers off came second and then she shouted about how two boys had been really mean. I stayed very calm (goodness knows how as I am pretty exhausted this week), and amazingly it dissipated. But that was not the ‘stride’ – that came when five minutes later in a calm little voice (with a rather adult inflection) she said, almost as an aside, ‘Really sorry about that mum, I didn’t mean to be nasty to you it was just someone really annoyed me at school’. YIPPEE, a realisation that her deflection of annoyance on to me was not the right thing to do – wow.
The third momentous move forwards was yesterday when she said ‘X was actually quite nice to me today’. Nothing unusual about that you hear me say, but it is. She never feels people are being nice/kind/tolerant/friendly towards her. The X in question is a boy who she thought was the bee’s knees for the first week of term but then really could not cope with. Well, it looks like we are turning a corner there too. We had a chat about having things in common, learning to like people, finding things to talk about, ignoring the bad and focusing on the things about them you do like. She is a clever wee thing who is growing up in so many way and I am proud of her every minute of the day.
I sometimes wonder whether my brain is in fact big enough to remember all the successful strategies or whether my resolve is strong enough to stick to them at all times (for the fear that deviating will create another rod for my well-rodded back (terrible English but you know what I mean). But, these little glimmers, these things that non-ASD kids (and their parents) take for granted are, for us, special events worth celebrating. When she starts to realise she really is a Supergirl and that she is amazing, can do anything if she puts her mind to it, well that really will be a day to remember.