This past week, as the year 2010 came to a close and 2011 began, the media provided a variety of reviews and highlights of the year. In looking back over our 2010, Ed and I would agree that 2010 has been one of our best years because Alex made significant progress in several areas. To summarize 365 days, our highlight list would include—as any holiday newsletter does—a health report, a description of recreational activities, and a mother’s proud accounting of her child’s accomplishments. Of course, when that child has autism, the highlights take on an unconventional tone, yet we treasure them nonetheless. To begin with, other than the issues associated with autism, Alex continues to be blessed with good health. His physical exam and annual blood tests showed that he is quite healthy, and his eye exam revealed that he still has perfect 20/20 vision. In addition, his visits to the dentist are always causes for celebration since he has never had a cavity in his life. Additionally, he had an evaluation with a psychologist, who confirmed that Alex does, indeed, have autism. We had not had him assessed since his initial diagnosis at four; however, we were not surprised by the outcome of the testing, and Alex seemed to find answering the questions entertaining. In fact, Alex likes going to any appointments because he finds them interesting.
While Alex’s primary pastimes still revolve around computers and books, he also expanded his activities by going to the playground and playing basketball with Ed. With practice and improved motor skills, his shooting ability got better over the summer. While he took pride in working on his basketball game, he took miniature golf less seriously but enjoyed his time on the course anyway. Despite constant reminders from Ed to look at the ball, Alex had more fun watching everyone else playing miniature golf. With his improved behavior and social skills, Alex enjoyed going to restaurants regularly. With some online research of menus and nutritional information ahead of time, we were able to find meals for him that fell within his gluten-free and dairy-free diet yet allowed him to dine out. Another outing for him was attending concerts this year. He was able to see two jazz concerts, two band concerts, and two American Idols—Ruben Studdard and Kris Allen—perform live. In addition, he looked forward to weekly music therapy sessions, where his favorite activity is playing keyboards. This year, he also continued his interest in games and game shows. He especially likes Deal or No Deal, which he plays on the computer with reckless abandon, always rejecting the banker’s offers with “NO DEAL!” Similarly, he enjoys playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker games with the same daring attitude, betting large amounts and scaring the computer opponents into folding their hands. With his math skills and his interest in money, perhaps a career as a professional poker player is in his future. At least he doesn’t jump up and down anymore when he has a good poker hand.
Alex has reached some interesting milestones and made some special accomplishments. After obtaining his official state identification card and registering to vote, he participated in his first November election, which was really important to him because he is very politically aware. Another sign of his maturity was that we finally trusted him enough to let him ride in the front passenger seat when traveling with one of us. In addition, we disengaged the child locks on the car doors, no longer concerned that he might open a car door at an inopportune time. He also learned to do a variety of household chores this year: pushing the cart at the grocery store, setting the table for dinner, helping cook meals, and shoveling snow. Not only was he more cooperative about following directions, but he took pride in doing a good job. In a less significant change, he expanded his limited wardrobe from knit shorts, t-shirts with short or long sleeves, and sweatpants to include track pants. Of course, his dislike of clothing with words or logos meant some hunting to find these athletic pants without any brand identification, but once we found them, he wore them happily. As far as obsessions, his ran the gamut this year from making extensive lists in composition notebooks to tearing up toilet paper and strewing it through the house to reading medical books so thoroughly we debated taking them away from him. If the professional poker player gig doesn’t work out, maybe medicine is a career possibility instead. After all, he would enjoy asking people their birthdays, ages, and weights, and concern for their health would be good conversation material for him. In all seriousness, we are pleased with the improvements Alex has made this year and feel blessed that most of the time he is a pleasant and happy young man. When Alex is happy, we’re thrilled. We look forward to seeing what the next year brings and how Alex develops with time and maturity as well as the grace of God.
“And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” Ecclesiastes 5:19-20