Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fantastic February

Yesterday, as the month of March began, many people I know here in Northwest Indiana were delighted to see the end of February, which has been a very cold and snowy month. Somehow that shortest month of the year can seem like the longest, as winter fatigue descends and makes us more eager for the arrival of spring. Despite all the cold and snow that kept us inside more than usual, somehow cabin fever never really bothered me much this year. Even though I’m looking forward to warmer weather, more outdoor activities, and the ground being covered with grass and flowers instead of snow and frost, I have to say that we’ve had a fantastic February because Alex has been so good this month.

Since the bitter cold and icy roads often limited our activities last month, we had to look for ways to keep Alex entertained. Fortunately, he has been doing a great job of suggesting things he’d like to do and was understanding if weather had to change our plans. Perhaps the most significant indicator of his progress is that he has developed patience and no longer seems annoyed or frantic about having to wait for things to happen. Lately, he has become very good about finding things to keep himself occupied, primarily reading books and researching topics of interest on his iPad Mini. In addition, he has become engaged in watching American Idol, which keeps him busy and entertained two evenings a week.

A couple of weeks ago, he went to a middle school girls’ basketball game at my school for the first time, which he had been requesting to do for a few weeks. Although I was a bit concerned about how he would handle the noise, especially in our old gym where sound echoes in the exposed rafters, he didn’t seem overwhelmed at all. Despite the silliness of some middle school girls from another school sitting in front of us who were taking pictures of themselves doing stupid things and laughing more loudly than necessary, Alex appeared less annoyed by them than I was. He simply looked at them with a bemused smile. Even though I told him that we could leave anytime he wanted to go, he decided to stay for the entire game and seemed to have a great time following the action, smiling and pleased my school won the game.

Last Saturday morning, we took him to the dentist for his six-month checkup, and as usual, he was delighted to go. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, Alex has always had good experiences at the dentist, so he looks forward to going every time. He practically skips to the door, and he always comes out of the appointment with a big smile, showing his teeth all shiny and professionally cleaned. Once again, his favorite part of the experience is seeing his beloved hygienist, who looks like a supermodel and calls him “Sweetie” in her deep sultry voice. After a good appointment where he had no problems or cavities, she told me that he was “wonderful,” and we were pleased that he had been cooperative for her and that he enjoyed his visit.

Later that evening, my school was holding a Mardi Gras festival for the students, and the teachers who were sponsoring the event had invited all staff members and their families to attend. While I wasn’t certain how Alex would handle being around all that noise and activity, we asked him if he would like to go. Eagerly, he decided that he wanted to go to the event and kept calling it the Mardi Gras “meeting.” I explained to him that it was a party, and he was definitely enthusiastic about that. As soon as we arrived, he immediately wanted to know if there was food he could eat. After scanning the various food booths for potential gluten-free and dairy-free food, I decided his best bet was Mexican food. After surveying the choices, I looked for students whose cooking skills I believed were safest and chose the booth run by a very nice young lady who is one of my former honors English students. She prepared a walking taco without cheese for him, a bowl filled with corn chips, ground beef with taco seasoning, and lettuce. After finding a bench where the three of us could sit, Alex happily devoured his food with a bottle of orange Fanta to drink.

While we were there, some of my colleagues came over to say hello, and Alex was polite enough to respond between bites of his food. After he finished eating, he enjoyed walking around the gym to see all the game booths and even won a prize—a sucker—on a game in which he had to spin a wheel. Mostly, he liked watching all the various activities and seeing the middle school kids having fun, especially during the tossing of Mardi Gras beads. Despite the loud music, constant motion, and the inevitable noise made by more than four hundred middle school kids having fun in a gym, Alex never seemed the least bit overwhelmed, and his smile indicated he was having fun. In fact, Ed, who isn’t used to being around middle school students like I am, commented that Alex handled all the noise and confusion better than he did. Once again, we were pleased that Alex not only behaved very well in a new situation, but also that he had such a good time. When we came home, he told us that he wants to go to Mardi Gras again next year.

To most people, these rather ordinary experiences may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but for us, we realize how much progress Alex has made in his ability to cope with new and sometimes overwhelming experiences. The progress he has made indicates something we are doing—behavioral therapy, music therapy, medications, nutritional supplements, or a combination of all of these—is working well. Maybe even just giving him opportunities to try new things while we are there to support him has helped.  Whatever the reason, I’m convinced that God has guided our steps to help Alex, and we are thankful for the improvements that allow him to participate in activities that enhance his ability to enjoy life.

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15


Marjorie said...

so happy to read this!

K. C. Wells said...

What a fantastic way to end an otherwise trying month! ❤️

Lynn Mayden said...

So happy to hear Alex is handling noise so well. The other weekend I took Sean (10 year old asperger/ADHD) to the movies with his sister and myself. We forgot his usual noise blocking headphones. Yikes! He really wanted to watch the movie and we didn't have time to go back home. He says that is ok mom I will just cover my ears. In the beginning the movie was loud but he adjusted well and never threw a fit. 2 years ago we would have had to leave the theater because he would not have been able to handle the noise level.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I enjoy the Love you have for one another and the progress you have made. I feel like each day your growing closer and closer to each other. That is Wonderful... I wish others could read this.
Here is an article that i feel you would enjoy.

Let me know how you like it?

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Marjorie,
Thanks for your nice comment--always good to hear from you. Hope you and your family are doing well. :)

Pam Byrne said...

Hi K.C.,
Doesn't February always seem like the longest month? Good to hear from you--keeping you in my prayers for peace and good health.

Pam Byrne said...

Hi Lynn,
Great to hear from you! I'm so glad to hear that Sean is making good improvements, especially with his sound sensitivities. Most people take simple things for granted, like watching movies, but we autism moms know what an accomplishment that is when our kids learn coping skills. Hope he continues to get better and better. :)

Pam Byrne said...

Thank you for your kind comments. You are right--our experiences have made us stronger. We're thankful for the progress Alex has made and keep praying that he gets better and better with time.
Take care,