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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Regression in autistic child development is common, I hear. Adam will progress in many areas and at times, he appears so "normal" and I feel we are "scott free." And then it happens. For a week or two, he regresses into repetitive behaviours, in particular, visually scanning letters and numbers, lining them up, or getting a letter, in sequence, go jump on trampoline, get next letter and so forth. I thought I got used to these little regressions with the relief of knowing that he would still learn and that curve would keep going up, up, up...

I just experienced his longest regression and I became quite upset about it. He started a new integrated nursery school. It is a busier setting and more demands are being placed on him. There are two carpets in the room, one with letters, the other with numbers. Of course, his safe place, when he's uncertain, are letters and numbers, so everytime I peeked in, I would see him contort his body on the floor to look at each letter or number in sequence. At the beginning of week four, I'd had enough. "Push him," I urged the teachers and his shadows. "If he's not transitioned out of there and taught how to play with others and other things, he will never feel competent."

I was so freaked out (it seems I am always pushing people where Adam is concerned), I cried in front of Adam. I think he understood, because that same afternoon, he "snapped" out of it. He began to use his words, he was so "on." I will have to find the psychiatrist's name of the phenomenon that I've heard about -- where parents and children mirror each other's emotions, but when the child feels understood, they feel they can move on. I'll get that reference later.

As far as letters go, I let him do them when he finishes other things. In fact, at age three, Adam is writing his own letters on his magnadoodle. I am so amazed at his determination. I've heard of other kids using keyboards, but not write, and not this young. Has anyone else encountered this? It's also amazing because Adam had fine motor problems, yet with focus and determination, I guess anything can happen. This is autism's gift. It enables focus of such high degree, that so much can be achieved in the niches that interest our children.

For fun, I've been teaching Adam the piano. He has begun to use two hands now, just having fun. It's great. That's how I became interested in the piano -- just hacking around. The only thing I do is play for him. I've also taught him do, re, me. He has begun to imitate me.

So, I've been thinking this week of how the scale tips so dramatically when Adam learns. He exceeds in one area and the other seems like it has gone away forever. But I believe that can't be. It seems to be stored somewhere until another connection is made. Then another concept is understood, a new skill emerges. Tiny building blocks are constructed each day, and his learning is so intricate and deliberate that I am fascinated some days and awe-inspired on others.

I'm going to listen to Oliver Sacks tonight at University of Toronto. He's speaking on sensory integration. Keep you posted.


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