Celebrating life’s little moments

By Alive & Well

Credit: Salvatore VuonoLast week my husband Sam took our middle son, Mr 8, out for some one-on-one time. Now, I realise that might sound like a perfectly normal thing for a parent to do, but it was actually a huge milestone in Mr 8’s development.

HUGE. And it reminded me how important it is to stop and celebrate when life serves up a victory, no matter how small it seems.

Let me explain…

Sam’s been doing one-on-one excursions with our two other sons for a while now. It’s a fundamental part of how he connects with each of them individually without any distractions, particularly because we spend a lot of our home time helping Mr 8, who is autistic, develop his social skills (he’s home schooled in a special playroom in our house).

So Sam takes the other two out on their own on a regular basis – to the cricket nets for some practice, or to grab a bite at the local tapas place or the pub around the corner. Whatever they decide to do, these times are always really precious for both Sam and the kids.

However, Mr 8 had never had his one-on-one time outside the house. That’s because about 3 years ago, he pretty much checked out. The double whammy of chronic ill health and an Autism Spectrum Disorder meant that his sensory integration was shot to pieces. The slightest noise or sensation could distress him. Even leaving his bedroom was an ordeal.

We’ve come a long way since then, and sometimes it’s the littlest things that make you realise it.

Two little moments that were major milestones

Imagine, if you will, our delight at the following conversation between Sam and Mr 8:

“When am I going to have one-on-one time with you, Dad?”
“We have one-on-one time in your playroom.”
“No, when are we going to have one-on-one time OUTSIIIIDE the house, like you have with my brothers?”
“Whenever you’re ready! What would you like to do?”
“I’d like to go to the oval and kick the football with you.”

You could have knocked us over with a feather. A significant event had just taken place: he actually wanted to go out with his Dad. We were jumping up and down with excitement at this new chapter in our incredible son’s life.

Not long after, I was playing a game with Mr 8 in his playroom – the one where we try to shoot balls of paper into the recycling bin – when he turned around and said, “Mum, you’re really great at getting the ball in the bin!”

Wow. He noticed something happening in the world around him and turned his attention to it. He praised someone else for something they’d done. That’s a big deal for someone with social interaction challenges. Ticker-tape-parade stuff. So I celebrated it with him – not just for me, but for him. It’s critical to the way he learns.

Remember to celebrate – it’s important!

While families with a special needs child will have a particularly acute understanding of all this, it’s important for everyone to remember to celebrate life’s simple pleasures.

One of my favourite blogs is 1,000 Awesome Things, because it encourages me to develop an attitude of gratitude, a sense that I can choose to feel lucky even when I’m faced with a bunch of reasons not to. It reminds me that there is joy to be found in things like:

  • Making a baby laugh (“because you know they’re not faking it – awesome!’), and
  • Helping older people with computers (“because it makes you feel like a genius – awesome!”).

Stuff like that, duly noted, can keep you going sometimes. Perhaps I could send in a suggestion: “when your autistic son chooses to notice you – AWESOME.”

What are the little things you feel grateful for? How are you cultivating gratitude in your life? How has your child (autistic or otherwise) surprised you recently?