I have said in the past that my children have been my greatest teachers. And that statement is as true today as it was the first time I ever said it.
With that said; I came to a realization today about my relationship with my children. They both are heroes to me. For anyone who has a child with autism they will understand how awe inspiring their child’s gains can be. Every improvement is noticed and commented on. It may take our kids longer to learn something but in the long run does it matter if your son or daughter was 12 when they learned to tie their shoes. At 13 it isn’t going to matter much. At 32 it ain’t gonna matter at all!
So what is the definition of “hero”? Well dictionary.com says the following:
“a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal”
And the Merriam-Webster website says the following:
“an object of extreme admiration and devotion”
Of course there are other descriptions of heroes at both sites, however these two represent what this blog entry is all about.
“A person who, in the opinion of others has heroic qualities” – Let’s examine that for a moment. What is a heroic quality? I think one example is going above and beyond to aid your fellow citizens. Now most would not consider autism or its treatment to be of a heroic nature. But if a person thinks about the amount of time it takes to heal the body in order for the brain of an autistic to learn then it can been seen as a heroic event for the individuals with autism.
JR is a handsome young man. He stands close to 5 foot tall. For a boy of 11 I think that is pretty tall. He has my pale Irish skin tone and green eyes. Not emerald green, more sea foam green.
The work he has put in since his diagnosis, especially; since arriving at the Vista school has been nothing short of a full time and part time job in the work force. He arrived at Vista on August 28, 2003. His strengths (as numerous now as they were then) have altered in what they are. He has always been a very affection child. His need for deep pressure is what laid that ground work I think. He loves hugs, being tickled and rough housing. He has a winning personality, very happy most of the time, quick with a smile and laugh and JR has a belly laugh so funny everyone usually ends up laughing before it’s all said and done. His other strengths come from observation I think. His imitation skills are pretty age appropriate in my opinion. His intelligence as well as his cognitive processing are also age appropriate. These are the strengths.
Now for the weakness category and as time is passing this category is getting smaller as the strengths category is getting longer. One of his big “weaknesses” is his stimming. He stims with water and with his movies. He can, using the computer and mouse find the exact location of his movies repeatedly. What triggers him to these particular scenes is varied depending on the movie itself. Sometimes it’s the songs, sometimes the graphics and other times it’s random sounds.
Personally, I myself see nothing wrong with stimming. We all do some form of it at various times. Think about the pen tapping, the hand wringing, the pencil chewing, the foot tapping we all do these things under times of stress. An autistic’s stimming as long as it’s not self-injurious or dangerous to others is perfectly fine in my opinion.
Samantha the soon to be 15 year older sister of JR is another hero in my book as well. Here is a young woman who at the age of 6 while her brother was 3 and getting diagnosed came home from 1st grade back in 2000 and her world as shaken as what ours was. At the time we couldn’t give her an explanation of what autism was because we didn’t really know how the “A” word related to JR.
She came through the fire with grace and dignity considering how young and how upside down our world was turned. Since JR’s diagnosis Sam has become a great help. Last June I went away to Philly for a week and Sam helped her father out getting JR up and off to school. She made dinner most nights, helped with general housework and making sure JR’s routine was maintained while I was gone.
The end of April until the first few days of May Rodney and I will be attending the Cherry Hill NJ conference sponsored by the autism and aspergers association (anyone interested please go HERE). While we are gone Samantha, along with some outside family support will be taking care of JR. She’s very excited as she is being paid for this and we are equally nervous as she will be alone for the most part.
So in addition to being my greatest teachers my children, are also my heroes. Life hasn’t been easy for any of us however, I do believe that what doesn’t kill you does in fact make you stronger.