This morning we had a small breakthrough: Andrew asked for help. He signed 'help' and tried to say it, while pointing at something he wanted.
While this may not seem like much, we need to take every success, even small ones, because that's sometimes all we'll get.
Let's go back a couple of years:
Some of you may know that my wife and I have four children, one girl and three boys. Our first two children, Emma and Jacob, are 'normal' kids and our next two boys, Matthew and Andrew have autism. Because they are both non-verbal we have been learning sign language and trying all sorts of other things to help them.
When Andrew was born he seemed like a 'normal' kid for the first six months or so. Because we were going through the diagnosis and treatment for Matthew, we were relieved and very hopeful for Andrew's future.
When he his about eight months old we started noticing behaviors that made us think that he was hard of hearing. We were actually very okay with the idea. We were already learning sign language for Matthew and we had made some connections in the deaf community in our area so the idea of having a hard of hearing child was not overly daunting. After all, compared with autism, hearing aids are a quick fix. After all the tests were done they came back that his ears work perfectly.
The audiologist was smiling as she shared the news, and my wife and I were both feeling very down. If it wasn't his hearing, then there was something going on in his brain, and that's not an easy fix.
So to make a long story of doctor visits, and paperwork and more visits, and more paperwork, (if I haven't mentioned before, my wife is a saint!) we got the diagnosis of autism for Andrew. It is impossible to describe the emotions of that moment, and that's not the point of this post, we're celebrating a success!
Bringing us up to the present:
Andrew is now three and a half, he knows his entire alphabet, upper and lower case and in sign language, he can make several sounds, but rarely words, he is going to early intervention, and making strides each day. Just the past two days he has been getting excited about copying sounds and words with Mommy.
One area that continues to be a challenge for Andrew is that while he will copy sounds, he often won't make his own sounds or words. If he wants something, he might pull us, or take our hand and point to what he wants. If we can't guess what it is he wants, he gets upset.
So this morning Andrew wanted a balloon that was up on a dresser and he looked up to it, turned to me and said something that resembled the word 'help' while he made the sign for help.
"Do you want help getting that balloon?"
"Here you go."
Andrew took the balloon and went to play without thinking anything of it, while my wife and I stood staring at each other in amazement. For the first time in three and a half years, there was no pulling on our arms, no crying, no whining, just a simple request for help. Amazing breakthrough!