For eighteen years, I believed all of the experts…the doctors, teachers and therapists. I never once doubted them. I was told that Buddy was in his own little world, that he didn’t understand, that he never would. And that I shouldn’t waste my time on manners or explanations. That all of this was a waste of time and effort.
So I talked AT Buddy, not to him. The mom in me never gave up on the manners part though, I am a stickler for manners.
Then our lives changed. Three major pieces of the puzzle fit into place that year… I saw a movie on HBO about Temple Grandin. I had read a few of her books, so I knew her background, but seeing the movie and watching with her commentary was the first eye opener. I also met my cousin and his wife, they have a son a year older than Buddy, that also has autism. My cousin gave me the best advice…”play dumb”. Then I saw Carly Fleischmann on 20/20…that was it icing on the cake.
These 3 factors changed life as we knew it. I started playing dumb. I started saying “Buddy, I don’t know what you want, you need to show me” and “Can you help me, please?” I also started paying closer attention to what he was looking at. And I would imagine what I would be thinking if I was looking at the same thing. Then I would talk about it and imagine Buddy’s curiosity. Saying things like “Did you see that plane, Buddy? It had cool red wings, did you see the red wings?”
I started thinking about what I thought were coincidences. Like the time he was about 4, he had a little train Christmas tree ornament. It made this cute little “choo choo” sound. Well, it WAS cute the first few dozen times. I got tired of hearing the annoying little train, so when Buddy wasn’t looking, I stuck it on top of the fridge. A day or two later, Buddy had found it and I had to give it back. The next time it annoyed me, I stuck it in a cabinet. Buddy discovered it there too. So the next time it drove me crazy, I thought “That’s it!” I waited until Buddy was in the living room and I took the train into my bedroom, closed the door, lifted the mattress corner, and tucked it a few inches between the mattress and box spring. I felt like a champion…I won the battle of the choo choo! Or so I thought. About a week later…guess who had the train?! I never thought about it, just thought he found it somehow. Fast forward back to the present…I realized that I TOLD everyone where it was. I spoke about it freely, assuming that Buddy either wouldn’t listen or understand. Never thinking that he not only heard me, but understood EXACTLY what I was saying.
I am so grateful, for these 3 life changers. Autism is a box, and I was keeping Buddy inside. I am so glad that we opened the box and let my sweet boy out. It may just be my perception, but Buddy has grown more in these last 5 years than in the 18 prior.