Clearly these posts are becoming less and less frequent, though things have been busy (that’s always my excuse, I know). My final exams for over for the term and I have three more work days before I get 2 1/2 weeks off (working at a university most definitely has its advantages).
Lots of updates on Monkey. First of all – we have a 4 year old (how the heck did that happen?). This was the first year that I think she understood that she was being celebrated. We sang happy birthday, and she had a big smile on her face and wanted to get to the cake part as fast as possible. She is still not interested in presents…but baby steps. We had a small birthday party (with 9 other kids) and had it an an indoor playground which offered private birthday parties. Having the run of the place, and controlling the amount of children I think was vital for Monkey to have a good experience. She gets overwhelmed when there are too many children or too much noise, so I think this is important to consider for future birthdays. She had a blast though, and it was so great to see.
A couple of weeks ago, Monkey’s JK teacher e-mailed us to inform us that Monkey was going to be receiving the “kindness award” at a school assembly. This made my heart swell. I am so worried about everyone showing her kindness and empathy – yet here is our little girl being kind and showing the world that. She took a group shot with a few other kids from her class and held up her sign proud with a big smile on her face – it was wonderful to see. Her holiday concert is next week (though we have NO idea how this is going to turn out – but it will be an adventure!)
Autism Ontario runs special events all year rounds for people on the spectrum and their families. These are often subsidized and allow families like ours to participate in events that we might not otherwise be able to participate in. One of these was The Santa Train, which allowed us to try meeting with Santa in a different way compared to a standard mall visit. The train ride was about 75 minutes long, and included live musicians singing Christmas Carols, a train ride, cookies, hot chocolate, and a personal visit with the big guy himself for every child. Monkey still wasn’t keen on sitting in Santa’s lap – but man she was beaming when she met him. She asked for “cake” for Christmas which made all of us (including Santa laugh – sure thing kid! In short it was wonderful, and being with other Autism families didn’t make us self conscious when our kid was climbing all over her chair or getting up to walk around because everyone around us got it, and understood. We didn’t bat an eyelash when there were children around us having trouble waiting in line or took a little longer getting on or off the train. Everyone on the train just wanted to enjoy the event free from judgement and glares. It was wonderful and a memory that I will hold very dearly.
I can tell you that other than her first couple of Santa visits (the first at 3 weeks old, the second at just over a year old), the last two years have been a disaster. Last year, we even did a Sensory Santa event in the hopes that it would be a more positive experience. We didn’t try to force Monkey into doing something she didn’t want to do, but we did ask her to try it. Some might wonder why we bother with this knowing full well that there is an 80% chance it will not go well. Here is the thing: Autism may win out most of the time, but we have to try even if we think the probability of failure is high – even if all other signs point to it not being a good idea. We have to try because I just like any other parent wants my child to participate and feel included. We want to give our daughter the lesson of always trying even in the face of fear or failure because that is the only way to grow as a person. With the same sentiment, if we only do “safe activities” how is our experience with Autism supposed to grow?
Don’t get me wrong – I know that there are definitely things we will not be attempting anytime soon, but as Monkey grows up, I want to continue to push her boundaries and our boundaries little by little. 80% of the time, it might fail and autism may win out, but I am going to get back up and try again – because the times that it does work are so worth all of the failure and effort.
I am not sure how much posting I will do over the holidays, so let me take this time to wish you and yours a wonderful festive season and best wishes for 2018. We are looking forward to seeing Monkey learn and grow next year, and can’t wait to see what she does next.