It was so frustrating when we realized Dawson wasn't progressing as he should. After evaluations, school intervention, speech therapy, occupational therapy, switching to Children's for speech while we were there, switching back again. We needed wait lists each time we switched, and wondering if he'll ever get enough help to keep up or get anywhere. Each therapy session was frustrating. What did we accomplish in that hour? He played, screamed, refused to do what the lady wanted, and we went home. Repeat 2x a week. When he finally settled in and was more comfortable, they'd play and she'd prompt him to say things, but he never did.
2010, he was 3 and I was trying to get him to sit still on my lap for a picture. I swore he'd never stop being on the go constantly! They even wanted to put him on meds for it. I told them he doesn't need meds, he needs time. He's so much calmer now!
Months went by with no progress and it's so disheartening to watch every day and wonder if things will ever improve. Progress is so slow that we hardly notice it. Then one day I look back and think about how things were 6 months ago, and I see it. I look back a year ago and the progress is really amazing! Some days there will be a moment where he will do or say something and it will stop me in my tracks and I think "Wow, that was awesome!".
They don't happen much though, and often we get so weighed down with the everyday struggles that we don't look at the big picture and realize how far we've come. I'm so tired of him arguing with me! But that means he is talking, reasoning, and coming up with sentences that make sense! Some kids don't get that far. Some are non-verbal their whole life. Somehow that 2 year old who only had a couple words became an almost 6 year old who argues with me, tries to bargain, uses complex sentences with filler words that we worked so hard and long to teach him.
Even a simple "Mom, he took my ball" is amazing. The "he" and "my" is a very new skill. He used 3rd person labeling for a very long time. This year we taught him "he, she, her, him, me, you, my, I". Something that was very hard for him to grasp. "Took" is a concept he had to learn too. Instead of screaming and not being able to tell me what happened, he can say what happened and he understands what the child did and is able to process it and put it into words. The other huge thing is even getting him to tell me in the first place. Usually he'd be running after him, grabbing the child's shirt and getting the ball back. Instead he was able to control his actions, process what happened and tell me about it. Self control is a HUGE step for him, one we work on everyday and that I'm seeing much improvement on!
So yesterday I had a meeting at someone's house. A boy was in Dawson's face, growling, making scary hands, doing what boys do. Dawson is not a physical, boisterous boy. He will chase Gabriel around, but doesn't like wrestling or anything like that and doesn't like much growling either. Last summer, a boy did that and Dawson shoved him. It's what he did when kids crossed the line and got in his bubble. Therapy has been working all this year, taking him out to the community, having him interact with kids, learning how to deal with situations. It's working!
Dawson being nice to Gabriel. He was mad and in a time out for pushing, but he turned it around and was very nice to him after that. We still have our days, but it has been much better!
Dawson asked the boy, rather calmly and trying to reason with the child "are you being a dragon? I don't like that". It continued and Dawson backed away, I could tell he was restraining himself from pushing him, and the child was following him around very closely, still being very loud and growly. So Dawson put his focus on some legos without any prompting from me, and asked the boy "do you want to play legos?". That amazed me, because normally he wouldn't want anything to do with a child who has been in his face, but he really wanted to make this work and do something they both enjoyed. He asked him a few times, but got no answer and his mom asked him to stop. I was so proud that Dawson kept his cool! He not only didn't act negatively, but he even tried to engage in some play with him, despite being stressed at what the other child was doing.
It's hard with other kids, because you can't control both sides of the situation and things escalate so quickly. I was bummed that it didn't turn out even better and he didn't want to play, but we talked about it afterward and Dawson knows how awesome he did and that everything he did was a good decision. The situation did wear him down though, he was misbehaving a bit after that. I could tell he needed some playground time to run around and get that stress out of his system!
Afterward we went to a playground with a splash pad, and he happily got very wet and had a ton of fun on the playground. He came to me a couple times with problems, but he was actually running around and playing with another little boy he knows. It's so fun to see him recognize kids he knows and be excited to see them! A few years ago he didn't grasp the concept of friends, he pretty much ignored other kids all together. This makes me look forward to this summer, going to parks and splash pads, getting together with friends. I can sit back a little more now and feel comfortable just letting him play.
Looking back at all the stressful years we've had with playgrounds, social situations and places, it's great to see how far we've come. It's been stressful, people stop inviting us over because Dawson didn't know how to get along with other kids, and other kids don't realize they can't get in his face without him freaking out. Or he used to need someone at his side constantly so he didn't run away or do something dangerous. So we either didn't go places, or we'd be very stressed at the end. Dan and I were just talking the other day and he said he misses going to bonfires. I said we went to one last year, remember? He said no. Then I reminded him that Dawson ran away from him and locked himself in the neighbor's house (who were also at the bonfire). Then he remembered!
Thankfully I have friends who understand his needs, his progress and his struggles, who still invite us over and who understand instead of taking offense when he's not acting perfectly. No child is perfect, but as he gets older, it becomes less acceptable to do things. He's not a toddler anymore, but sometimes his behavior is more on that level. It just looks worse because he's a bigger kid now, so people are more taken back by a tantruming 5 year old than they were with the tantruming 3 year old.
So I'm thankful that we and the therapists have been working so hard on the community stuff, and helping him with self control and coping methods. It has helped a lot. We still have bad moments, bad trips to the store, but it's not as frequent as it used to be. He will walk by me in the store and not run away. He will even hold Gabriel's hand and walk with him when I have my hands full. He loves being a big brother and helping out too, which has been very helpful. Especially since he can run much faster than me! Yesterday I asked him to go get Gabriel, who had started running off, and Dawson ran to him, took his hand and walked back to me with him. Awesome!
Thinking back at each year and how much he has grown and matured over those years makes me excited to see what's to come. The days may be long and exhausting, but we are getting somewhere!