Ryan finally opened his Easter gift yesterday, about a week after Easter. He devoured his skittles, M&M’s and lollipops, the only three candies Ryan likes. (Children on the spectrum are very particular about what they will eat.) But he would not touch his wrapped present. He has to be in the mood to open it. And I have to tell him what’s inside, because he doesn’t like mysteries. How does he know a snake won’t jump out at him?
In a way, buying presents is easy for many parents of children on the spectrum. We don’t have to buy them. Many children with autism just aren’t interested in toys. Presents never had a lot of meaning to Ryan. But I, like many other parents I’ve talked to, just can’t not put a present or two under the tree at Christmas or a present in the Easter basket.
Again, Ryan has to be in the mood for present opening. That happened yesterday. And, as he gets older, he’s finding that he actually likes the presents he’s unwrapping. He loved the basketball hoop that can be placed over his bedroom door. Ryan fell in love with basketball after participating in “All American Athletes,” a local non-profit program for special needs children that meets weekly and teaches kickball in the fall, basketball in the winter, and t-ball in the spring. I’m so thankful for that program and the volunteers that helped Ryan become interested in sports.
Easter is a little different when you have a child on the spectrum. We were careful not to mention the Easter Bunny, because Ryan would only worry about a large bunny entering his house in the middle of the night and making a lot of noise. But on Easter morning, we told Ryan that he had an Easter basket. He wasn’t the least bit interested and ate his breakfast and got dressed before he even glanced at it. He didn’t really look at it until after church.
By the way, Ryan LOVES church. We couldn’t be happier. Ryan loves the structure and the predictability of it. He now likes the music (the organ used to be too loud), the children’s sermon at the front of the sanctuary, and Kid’s church. Ryan is finally walking to the front of the church on his own when it is time for the kid’s sermon. In the past, I walked him up the aisle and showed him where to sit on the floor in the front. The first time, Ryan wanted to run up onto the stage and join the choir. But now Ryan is walking to the front all by himself and actually telling me not to come.
Church hasn’t always been this easy. We could attend church when Ryan was young enough to be in the nursery. But when he got too big, we faced a lot of opposition from our little boy who is sound sensitive and couldn’t handle the organ music, the singing choir, or the amplified voice of the minister. For awhile, we just didn’t attend church. Then, when we felt he was ready, we slowly introduced him to the church service. We walked through the sanctuary on a Saturday when it was empty. He sat in the lobby of the church several Sundays where it wasn’t as loud but he could hear the sermon and music. Ryan’s ABA therapist came to church a few times and helped Ryan get used to the service.
Now Ryan is a pro at going to church and loves it. Sean and I spent our Easter laughing about our silly little boy who loves going to church, but has no interest in his Easter basket or present. Life with Ryan and his unique, creative brain is not bad, just different. We wouldn’t change it for the world.