Closing out another school year makes me realize just how far munchkin has come—especially over the past year. At times it may not seem like we’re making progress (or not as fast as I’d like, might be a more accurate statement), however, when I take a step back and really think of those early days and the warning signs I saw, Jackson has progressed light years from where he started.
The other day I was compiling a mental list of the red flags that initially tugged at my heart years ago. The list filled my head so quickly that I thought I should write it down, if not for any other reason than to remind myself of Jackson’s progress. The following is a cursory list of things that used to send Jackson into a complete and total sensory meltdown. The majority of these things have become non sequiturs, or bother him only minimally and only on rare occasions.
- Leaf blower
- Hand dryers in public restrooms/being IN a restroom with hand dryers
- Being in our swimming pool
- Open car windows and/or sunroofs
- Coffee grinder
- Loud noises
- Unfamiliar situations
- Standing in grass while barefoot
- Having his photograph taken
It’s not a brief list. Admittedly, I’ve taken his progress for granted and had forgotten most of these things. It’s only when I really give pause to life’s day-to-day activities that I’m taken aback by all he has overcome.
The past few weekends have been busy for us. We’ve had opportunity to participate in a couple of terrific autism-related events. Mother’s Day weekend Jackson participated in the local Surfer’s For Autism (http://www.surfersforautism.org/) event. This is the second year we’ve been involved with this fabulous organization/event. Last year, Jackson was terrified. Although he had taken swimming lessons, he hadn’t yet learned to swim. I understand how this would be overwhelming in and of itself. Additionally, the prospect of getting water in his face was terrifying to Jackson. This year, the event was a huge coup for munchkin. Initially he was determined he was NOT going to surf. He had convinced himself a tidal wave was going to sweep him out to sea. But with much coaxing from me, my husband and the organization’s amazing volunteers Jackson gave surfing try. With a death grip on the board he made multiple attempts to ride the waves to shore on his tummy. That was all I asked for—that he give it a try. I couldn’t have been more proud of my little bug.
An SFA wristband. A year ago Jackson wouldn’t even consider wearing it. This year he wore his band for the entire event. Small victories.
This past weekend we participated in a 5K fun run/walk and kids’ walk for Florida Atlantic University’s (“FAU”) Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (“CARD”) (http://www.coe.fau.edu/centersandprograms/card/default.aspx). My race took place at 7:30 AM and Jackson was excited to cheer me on. The kids’ race was slated to take place immediately following the 5K. Prior to Saturday morning Jackson had been excited at the prospect of running a race. Once we arrived at the race, however, he stated he didn’t want to run. I wasn’t going to push the issue. I ran my 5K and while walking for my cool down I asked Jackson if he would run if I ran with him. He said, “Sure! Let’s go!” We returned to the starting line and Jackson ran his first race. He loved it! Not only did he run, he was the first to cross the finish line. He has already asked me when he can race again. I’m so proud of Jackson for stepping out of his comfort zone. That’s not an easy task for anyone, let alone someone with sensory processing issues. And it’s not something he would’ve dared do just one short year ago.
We also attended a birthday party for one of Jackson’s friends yesterday. There have been many birthday parties we’ve attended where Jackson adamantly refused to participate in the activities and simply wandered off to lay on the floor, alone. He had no interest in the excitement of the parties or the children. Watching Jackson withdraw into himself at these parties was very difficult for me to observe as a parent. On those occasions I honestly didn’t know what the future held for Jackson or for us as a family. But watching him fully engaged, running and playing with his friend and the other children yesterday filled my heart with joy.
The past few years may not have always been easy and required much therapy and work, but it is so heartening to see the fruits of Jackson’s labor. Of course, his progress makes this mama happy, but more importantly I’m thrilled to see Jackson overcoming, accomplishing and participating in things that were but a dream just a few short years ago. I’m proud of you, Jackson. You have worked so hard for these victories. Savor them, my sweet boy. Savor every minute of them. You’ve earned it!
(If you’re interested, Jackson also participated in a Mother’s Day video at our church, Palm Beach Community Church (http://pbcc.cc). Again, this is something he would absolutely NOT have considered doing a year ago. Anytime the children’s ministry performed during a service, Jackson would bolt from the stage to the safety of his Sunday school teacher’s arms. My husband and I both had tears in our eyes as we watched this video. Perhaps you’ll get a chuckle out of it. Jackson appears at approximately minute 2:12 and at the end. I hope you’ll take a look. Enjoy!)
Mother’s Day at Palm Beach Community Church