I can decide: seeing extraordinary success and progress in Mr 8’s life

By Alive & Well

Since my Mr 8 withdrew from public life (!) three years ago, he has not ventured out into organised activities at all.

No football clubs or basketball teams or smart art or chess clubs. We’ve given him the time he needed to be at home, to heal some of the symptoms of his autism, and to grow and thrive as a little person.

Now, he’s ready to take his first steps into activities outside the home. He’s been telling us, and we could see it for ourselves. So a couple of weeks ago, he started his first extra-curricular activity – trampolining at the wonderful National Institute for Circus Arts in Prahran – and apparently, “it’s awesome.”

What a difference three years makes

jumpingHe’s learning lots of fun trampoline tricks. He’s listening to the instructor and giving him his attention. He’s interacting with the other children (all neurotypical as far as I know). He’s waiting patiently for his turn. He’s trying and trying and trying again when he doesn’t know how to do what’s being asked.

These are all things that children with autism find really hard to do, and he’s doing them. I couldn’t help but shed tears of joy as I watched. And I love that he’s building his physical strength and fitness at the same time.

Less obviously successful was Mr 8’s visit to the mainstream school we hope he’ll join in 18 months’ time. But I have decided that it was, in fact, a huge success.

It’s all about motivation

For the past three years, he has only gone places that were already familiar – and he has certainly avoided places with lots of other children.

But more recently, he has started looking forward to seeing family friends and playing with their children. He has come along to his older brother’s football games. And as a family, we have had a taste of what it’s like to do “normal” family activities together.

So when the school rang to ask us in for a chat, even though he wouldn’t start until 2013 – an awfully long time in terms of his development – we decided to give it a go. And guess what? He came with us, he walked breezily into the school, he sat in a glassed-in (and therefore extremely distracting) meeting room and talked with the teacher for 5 minutes.

That’s huge. He wouldn’t have been able to do any of those things a year ago. Or even six months ago.

Then, he closed off. Put his head in his hands and said, “I don’t want to talk anymore.” OK my love. That’s totally OK.

Deciding to see success, without expecting perfection

Some of the staff at the school might be thinking “how will we educate this boy?” but we know that unless he’s ready when 2013 rolls around, we won’t send him.

We know that when he’s motivated, he lights up like a Christmas tree and nothing gets past him (hence the exemplary trampolining). We know he’s making incredible progress when we are out and about. We know that the school is a nurturing and thoughtful environment. And we know that when the time comes, we’ll work as a team for the best outcome for our boy.

How do you help yourself to be positive and decide to see success?