Three years ago, when Gavin was diagnosed, we were advised to make a new road map for him. It was recommended that we move forward with our expectations of his growth cautiously. We needed to be aware that everything we had planned for him may or may not happen.
I watched friends post on social media about their children’s accomplishments with bittersweet emotions. Many of the posts were about children who were Gavin’s age or younger, but were doing things he was nowhere close to achieving. I obviously was happy for my friends and their children, but my heart broke a little each time wondering when/if we would ever be able to share in those same milestones.
This week I got to share in some of the events I thought might not ever happen; destinations I wrote off our road map three years ago. These events came later than I had on that originally planned, but the great thing is we just took a long detour.
On Wednesday, Gavin started his last year of preschool. This event was huge for a multitude of reasons. The first being that he wasn’t starting this year in the autism sub-separate classroom, but instead he was entering an inclusive environment. Second, we decided late this summer to move his school to one closer to our apartment since he no longer needed the sub-separate room. He was scared, as any child would be entering a new school, but he asked me and Doug if he was going to this school because he was a “big boy”. What an amazing observation. Even Gavin is able to recognize his own growth and realized this new school was almost like a reward for his hard work.
Organized sports and activities were another area of our road map that I deleted from our thoughts. I watched Gavin struggle for years to listen to teachers, to play well with others, and to follow directions for an extended period of time. However, in late March, after Gavin switched classrooms, he was invited to a birthday party at a gymnastics center. The party focused on a ton of group activities and involved kids waiting their turn while they sat peacefully in a circle. I had been to these parties when Kendall was younger and my level of anxiety was high bringing Gavin. I was sure he would not sit still and I would be chasing him around the room the entire time. However, to my surprise he was participating fully. He listened to everything the instructors asked the birthday guests to do. He waited his turn patiently and participated enthusiastically when it was his turn. I saw a new boy. A boy who was developing at his own pace, but was finally ready to be involved in social activities.
Later this spring Gavin joined me at one of Kendall’s ballet lessons. He leaned over half way through and asked, “Next year I do ballet?” I was shocked. This was the first time he expressed interest in a group activity that wasn’t school related. I leaned over and said, “Sure, Gavin. If you sit quietly through the rest of her lesson you can do ballet in the fall.” I have never seen him sit so calmly before. He didn’t make a peep. He watched for the next 30 minutes in silence and when the class ended he leaned over and said, “Now I do ballet next year?” It was impossible to say no.
I was ecstatic to enroll Gavin in ballet, yet I knew we had one last step to get him there…the clothes. Even if Gavin wanted to be a dancer I was concerned that he didn’t realize this meant he had to wear a certain outfit. After convincing him that he wouldn’t wear the same clothes as Kendall, he finally understood he needed a white shirt and black pants. I asked him to wear black shoes for class, but he insisted on white. I think it was the one way he felt like he had some control of the situation.
This Saturday, after a short struggle to get him dressed, we walked Gavin over to his first ballet class. He followed the directions, as I would expect any four year old would. He tried when he understood the instructions and sat quietly when he was unsure what to do next. In normal Gavin fashion, he spent the bulk of the lesson taking in the room; studying it so he knew where all the things belonged. Overall, he did great, and I know going forward he is only going to get better. We are beyond proud of him not just for his ballet lesson, but for wanting to be involved with other children. His recent accomplishments have demonstrated to me that nothing needs to be completely written out of our plans for him and that all good things take time.