This past Saturday, we took Ryan to Lowes for a kids’ woodworking project. Afterwards, I realized just how much he changed in a year. The first time we did a project, Ryan’s ABA Therapist came along since he really did not want to go. But I was determined to get Ryan out of his comfort zone. He needed to spend more time out in the community where his surroundings might be a lot more stimulating than what he experienced in his own home. We guided him towards the back of the store where we could hear all the hammers loudly banging. Ryan had his hands on his ears and would have run back out of the store if it wouldn’t have been for his therapist. He did make his project, when we could convince him to let go of one of his ears and hold the hammer.
The second time, Sean and I took him. We walked with him to the back of the store, and as soon as we let go of Ryan’s hand, he bolted down the aisle. I ended up chasing him through the store. We finally got him to sit down and we put a hammer in his hand. I’m not proud to say that he threw it across the table and almost hit another child. We ended up leaving and completing the project at home. We decided to wait awhile before trying another project.
But, this past weekend, we tried again. It was almost a year later. Ryan was excited about making a woodworking project. We walked into the store and let go of Ryan’s hand. He wanted to walk by himself. It’s a habit to hold Ryan’s hand everywhere we go since he is a runner and will bolt right into traffic without a thought. Lately, I’ve been letting go more and more. Even in the parking lot.
He headed over to the box of hammers with a smile on his face. He carried the hammer and monster truck project to the table and sat down. He worked on hammering the nails by himself. He was proud of his project in the end, even though it might not look like if from the pictures. Ryan is determined to frown or look away for every picture. In fact, he had to be photo shopped into his first grade class picture because he kept turning his head around.
It’s so important to celebrate the small victories. It’s easy to forget what it was like a year ago and to focus on all the things Ryan still has to work on right now. I know that any type of improvement means that Ryan is learning and growing. I encourage all the autism moms and dads out there to keep a short journal of what your child is doing. Then look back at the entry from a year ago. It will make your day to see how much your child has changed. And your child WILL change, as much as it seems like he will stay the same forever.