Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spring Forward

“Gonna look ahead, no turning back,
Live every day, give it all that I have,
Trust in someone bigger than me
Ever since the day that I believed
I am changed, and now I’m stronger.”
--“Something in the Water”

Today is one of Alex’s favorite days of the year: the springtime change in which we move the clocks forward one hour to begin Daylight Savings Time. All week long he has eagerly been asking about changing the clocks, and later he will happily make sure all of our clocks are precisely accurate for the new time. On this day when we “Spring Forward,” I can look back on the past week and see that Alex, too, is showing signs that he can spring forward, making great progress in many areas that have held him back.

While Alex has made progress over time in his expressive language, we have noted that his speech has especially improved lately. Listening carefully to what has been said on television or in conversation, he waits instead of interrupting and asks thoughtful and relevant questions. Often, he asks the meaning of words he has heard, and he listens closely as we provide him with examples and synonyms. In addition, he has been making comparisons of his own such as, “Temperatures are like the stock market; they go up and down.” In addition, Ed noted the other day that a big change for Alex is that he is not only asking questions but also speaking in complete sentences most of the time, which is a huge leap forward for him.

This week we took Alex to the dentist for his regular six month cleaning and check-up. We decided to take him to our family dentist for the first time instead of a pediatric specialist, as we have always done in the past. Because of the improvements he has made in his behavior, we felt that he could handle this change. Thankfully, he proved us right and was very cooperative at the dentist when he had his teeth cleaned and checked. In fact, I was amazed by how relaxed and calm he was while sitting in the dentist’s chair. Other than having the hygienist adjust the seat before Alex sat down because he doesn’t like the movement of the chair and having him wear sunglasses to shield his eyes from the bright light, he was a typical patient. We were so proud of how well he handled this new situation, and as an added bonus, they told us his teeth looked great.

In addition to adjusting to the new dentist, Alex’s music therapist is throwing new challenges at him because he believes Alex is quite capable. Although his therapist understands Alex’s need for routine, he also wants to make him more flexible. To this end, he brings different musical instruments for Alex to play each session, and this week, I noticed that instead of the familiar group of songs they usually do together, he had a whole new set of songs. Despite the changes, Alex adapted nicely and seemed to welcome the variety. Similarly, Alex has recently been much more flexible when it comes to going places. For quite a while, he enjoyed going places in the evening but was hesitant about going out during the day. Now, he’s ready and willing to go any place any time, which is a testimony to his new flexibility.

One of the new goals has been to make Alex more independent from Ed and me. Even though he is a young man, he still relies upon us to take care of many of his daily needs. This week, his computer teacher began the weaning process by having Ed stay out in the lobby during computer class instead of staying in the room with him. Fortunately, Alex adapted to this change quite well, and his teacher told Ed that Alex had done a “fantastic” job. Since he seemed to handle this situation well, this week we also left him with his respite caregiver for the first time. For the past four months, whenever his caregiver came to visit, I stayed in our home office and graded papers while they watched television and chatted in the family room. Because Alex seems very comfortable with her, I felt that the time had come where we could leave and know that he would be cooperative for her. Once again, he proved us right, as she told us that he was “perfect” while we were gone, enjoying a rare lunch date and giving Alex a chance to be independent from us.

One of the hardest things for Alex to learn has been patience; however, he has lately shown signs of mastering this valuable quality. His behavioral therapist commented to me on Friday that she has noticed how much more patient he has been lately. Previously, when he had to wait, he would often become anxious, repeatedly check his watch, and comment in frustration, “It’s taking too long!” Whenever we had to wait, we felt as though we had a ticking time bomb with us, worried that he would have a meltdown when he’d had enough of waiting. Yesterday, he demonstrated how well he’s learned patience as we were waiting quite a while before being seated at a busy restaurant. Even though the restaurant was quite crowded, he was excited about having breakfast with everyone from my side of the family (thirteen in all), and he had to wait for a table and for his food, he remained calm and content the entire time. Of course, we were very proud of how maturely he handled himself.

Looking back on recent events, Ed and I are delighted with the progress we are seeing Alex make, much of which seems somewhat sudden in nature, essentially his own version of “Spring Forward.” Although we have been working on many of these improvements for a while, we are thankful to God for these changes that are making life easier for Alex, and in turn for us. Consequently, we know how far he has come, and we look forward with anticipation to see all that the future holds for Alex.

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…” Philippians 3:12-14

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