I have a confession to make. I have been holding my son back. Angel will be seven this year and there is so much that he can do. He can do more than I thought, more than I imagined. Of course, I did not realize this before because I never gave him a chance. I told myself he is autistic. He needs me. I need to do these things for him. Then, I would get a note from school about something he did and it would totally wow me. Suddenly, I realized that I need to give Angel more chances to develop the life skills that he will need to become more independent.
Over the last few months, Angel has proved that we should always presume competence. For so long, I thought that he could not read sentences. Whenever we tried to read to him, he would close the book and say “The End.” It did not click that since he is able to recognize sight words, he was developing the building blocks for early literacy. Then one day while doing homework, I decided to let him read a story that his teacher sent home. Guess what? He read the whole story. He sounded out each word. I only needed to step in a few times to help, but he did it and my heart swelled with pride.
Then there is the potty training roller coaster. This is one milestone that may come much later for individuals on the autism spectrum. I admit that Angel’s school pushed us and for that I am grateful. They had him going without pull-ups in school while we still had him wearing them at home. Soon enough we got on board and the consistency helped. Now Angel is being night time potty trained. With the guidance of his school psychologist, we raised the bar. How would we know if he could do it if we never give him a chance?
One final example is the way Angel handles himself with his typical peers. We took him to the playground this past Saturday and two boys wanted to play tag with him. They kept chasing him and asking him his name. He finally told them and then he said hi. Soon one of the boys caught him and I guess Angel thought he was being grabbed too tight, so he yelled and pushed the boy away.
I decided to let them work it out even though I was standing nearby. Then one of the boys asked Angel, “What do you speak?” I guess he thought Angel did not speak English because Angel did not engage him in a conversation. For once, I just let the situation play out. I did not intervene and I did not explain anything. It was not easy to do but I did it and Angel came out okay. Those boys were good boys and they did not make fun of my son. For that, I am grateful. I am not saying I will always stand back, but I know that I won’t always be there and at some point Angel will have to learn to deal in the typical world.
My son has come a long way. By the standard list of developmental milestones, he is delayed in several areas. I can admit that. However he has made some strides and as autism parents we celebrate every stride and every milestone no matter when it comes.
To Angel: I promise to always raise the bar with you. I promise to always presume your competence. Besides my love, this is the best gift that I can give to you.
BMWK: What can you do as a parent to raise the bar for your child with autism?
Check back every other Tuesday for additional articles from Kpana Kpoto as she shares her experiences and what she learns as she raises her son that has been diagnosed with Autism.