A Remarkable Night

Filed Under (Adam, Communication, Development, Joy) by Estee on 15-10-2010

Tonight has been a most remarkable night. Adam has probably talked the most he has in his lifetime.

I have no answers why. We’ve supported him, taught him, spent six years fine-tuning, changing and adapting things. By “things” I mean his therapies and education, devices, strategies, habits, you name it. We made sure he didn’t do things too soon, trying to be attune to Adam’s needs, which have been many. His needs keep changing. It’s a journey. It’s a dance where the steps keep changing, a jazz troupe with a new riff or musician every few weeks. We aim for consistency yet nothing stays the same. Adam never stays the same.

As I said in The Autism Acceptance Project video a few years ago, “when a children are happy, they can learn.” Sometimes I had doubts. Should I have pushed Adam harder?, I asked myself after he lay sound asleep after a difficult day, or a day when I was challenged by others who insinuated I was not doing enough for my child (while not really knowing us). I’m not here trying to give myself kudos or to dismiss the choices of others. Yet, there is a part of me tonight that is proud that I stuck to my guns by doing what I felt was right for Adam as well as my needs and values as his mother.

Our lives, as that saying goes, are comprised of the choices we make. I’m quite certain I’ll continue to make mistakes like all parents, but overall I’ve always believed that being as sensitive to Adam as he is senstive to his environment and to others has been a necessity. By viewing it as such, I made the choices accordingly. For those of you who don’t know us, this started Adam was only 18-19 months old. By the way, I expect my ideas and parenting style to be continuously challenged. It seems to go along with the territory of being a parent. It is gratifying that once in a while we get some kind of affirmation about the choices we have made. That is what this blog post is, in part, about. But really, it’s more about the need to be sensitive and to be open to change as well as our ability to adapt. These are the “things” I have to continuously re-learn. I hope I’ll get better at it.

Adam has had quite a year, not to mention years of going through “people” in his life because of the education and support he has required. His life has been pretty consistent, mind you, but not without upset, as life is for everyone one way or another. This year, he began a new school and the change took a few weeks of getting used to. He lost his words and he engaged in more “OCD” or ritualistic behaviour, desperate to create order out of chaos.

Over the course of four weeks, this has abated. He still has some difficulty letting go of some of the rituals that he began as a result of the change.

“I can’t stop. I can’t stop,” he told me tonight after I silently redirected him towards my bed. Too many words from adults can be irritating not to mention too many “no’s.” He has taken to getting in and out of two bath-tubs in my home. He wasn’t that happy with me, but the crying was brief, about two minutes. I turned on the soft music, helped a rash that was bothering him to soothe Adam a little more, and we just hugged. “I can’t stop,” he said again calmly.

“I understand you are telling me you can’t stop,” I repeated so he would know that I was listening. His body relaxed and he lay deeper into my arms.

That was the only challenging part of the evening. The rest was a night of Adam telling me that he went to the zoo today, that he saw a Gorilla and a Lion, that his rash was “itchy…it is bothering me,” to what he wanted to eat, in full sentences — not the usual two or three word phrases. On his walk he said things like, “I want to go this way,” or “I don’t want to go there.” Perfectly. In the evening he asked for certain lights to be turned off. When I was getting it wrong several times over (there were a few lights on and it took a while to figure this one out), he pointed towards the hallway. “Turn the light off outside!” he said forcefully. Phew. Glad I finally got that one right!

He was asking for books unseen (therefore unprompted… all of this was not prompted in any way), and we read quite a few, of course ending with Dr. Seuss. Tonight was Horton Hears A Who …”a person’s a person no matter how small…”

Change is hard. Change can be good. We can’t stop change. Finding the right time to teach certain “things” has been a challenge because Adam is bright but very sensitive. Knowing when to push and when to back off is based on the uniqueness of Adam, not solely on Adam’s autism. I thank the team who keep sticking with us on this remarkable journey.

A remarkable, notable evening.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.