Don’t Stop Believin’

There was a time when my son, like most two-year-olds, decided he no longer would eat anything green. It happened suddenly and took me by surprise, as he had previously ingested just about anything you put in front of him (including non-edible items!). Then one day it was as if he’d had a toddler conference call and they’d all decided to go on strike (I checked with other moms whose kids also were refusing vegetables, and they all were experiencing the same timing…hmmm).

This went on for about two years until one day we were traveling and stopped at a roadside diner for supper. With my order I got a side of broccoli. Josh took one look at it, yelled “trees,” and started eating them! My husband and I just sat there looking flabbergasted. Was the strike over? It was. From then on he has loved broccoli and tried and liked other veggies as well. I attribute it to watching “Veggie Tales” and loving those characters (which somehow transposed into wanting to eat them?), but I really think the “union” sent out a memo declaring the strike was over!

When Josh first started with speech therapy, his therapist made an offhand comment to me that she felt he had a good chance of learning to speak eventually. I stood there stunned because it never, ever occurred to me that he wouldn’t talk! I always assumed he would, not having read the statistical “evidence” (at that time) that 75% of children with autism were non-verbal (which is no longer considered valid, thank God!). Sometimes ignorance is bliss. It took a while, but at about age four (around the same time as the broccoli breakthrough) the light bulb went on, and he began to see that speech was power…when you talk you get what you want!

Many years later I now have a 15-year-old wanting desperately to get his driver’s license. I admit I had my doubts on that one. Here was a child who hadn’t even learned to ride a bike, often couldn’t follow two-part directions, had difficulty focusing on one thing for any extended period of time, and frequently forgot to turn in his homework. In a word, inattentive. Not a good candidate for something as serious as driving I thought.

But then I thought about the leap of faith I had to take when he first wanted to walk our dogs by himself. We practiced walking around the neighborhood together and learning to walk facing traffic and on the side of the road, and one day I consented to letting him try it on his own. I was pleasantly surprised that he remembered everything I taught him and was able to navigate safely home (he still doesn’t know it, but I also had binoculars trained on him the entire way, just in case!).

With this in mind, I decided to let him try to master this rite of passage, but I had some caveats. First, I would be teaching him and we would take as long as was necessary to accomplish this. Second, it would require lots and lots of on and off road training. And third, he wasn’t getting a license unless or until I felt he was ready, no matter whether the state wanted to give him one or not.

Fast forward two years, and this boy who once had the attention span of a hummingbird, had gone through many, many hours of studying, testing (it took five tries before he even got his permit), and driving in all kinds of weather conditions and times of day both with me and with two driver training schools we employed. To maintain focus he would, as Josh put it, “zen on it.” He proved to me and the state that he was a good driver and passed his driver’s test on the first try. My car has a permanent dent and my hair is a lot grayer because of the experience, but I couldn’t be prouder of him!

My point being don’t stop believing that things will change and that your child will overcome whatever obstacles are standing in his/her way at the moment. It may take a lot longer to accomplish some goals than it would for a typically-developing child, but it’s possible. You will never know until you try. We still have many obstacles to overcome before Josh is independent, and I frequently remind him of how many things he’s already accomplished on this journey. Fingers crossed that the next thing he will “zen on” will be getting a keeping a job he likes! Right now that doesn’t seem like a possibility, but then I think about the broccoli.




    Darlene Blade | February 23, 2016 at 1:04 am

    I love your vision.You are so right about never stop believing. Where would Logan be today If I didn’t not believe in him. A lot of prayers and tears along the way but I will never stop believing in what he wants out of life.
    As of now he has no interesting in driving but that day will come.
    One day, yeah one day.

    Tonya Mirtes | February 22, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Great article! Just goes to show you, behind your wonderful young man, there is an amazing mother! Never stop believing!

    Melissa | February 22, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Oh how important it is to find those mentors that have paved the road before you! Carolyn is that to me. So glad to see and read this blog. Sam has amazed me in his 18th year of life. First car, first wreck, first job…All we have survived,learned, and prospered. Indeed, anything is possible!

    Babs Tierno | February 22, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    As I currently endure the tree eating battles, it’s hard to believe I’ll ever get to the driver’s license battles. One day at a time. 🙂

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