Sunday, July 13, 2014

Improvement


As our summer is coming to its halfway point, I realize that signs of Alex’s progress are everywhere, especially compared to the past three summers, where his behavior was unpredictable, making him untrustworthy.  In the evenings after Alex has gone to bed, Ed and I regularly compare notes about how things have gone that day; this is something we have done for years. Frequently, we have discussed Alex’s problematic or concerning behaviors and brainstormed possible causes and ways to handle these issues. Lately, however, we marvel at how well he is doing. As Ed commented last night after the three of us had enjoyed a pleasant dinner at a restaurant, we never take these good times for granted because we know how precious they are.

One of the nicest surprises this summer has been the emergence of what we have dubbed “Nighttime Alex.” For the past few years, Alex has often been too tired in the evenings to enjoy activities and preferred to go to bed early. Frankly, we were relieved that he wanted to go to bed early because his behavior was tiresome for us, and we all needed a break from each other. Now, Alex seems to be at his best in the evenings, and we have been thankful that we can now do fun outings together like typical families.

This summer, we have been able to attend several free concerts outdoors at our local downtown park. Not only does Alex have the energy to stay awake, but he also has the energy to bob to the music, clap his hands, and enthusiastically push the cart we use to transport our folding chairs. With his eclectic tastes in music, he has enjoyed listening to music from the 1950’s and 60’s, jazz, rock and roll, and even Celtic music, and he’s looking forward to the upcoming band concerts. To satisfy his concern of “Will there be food?” I always pack something to eat and drink, which makes his evening complete. Besides the music and snacks, he likes to watch other people, and he finds little kids especially entertaining. He always behaves himself at these concerts, doesn’t seem bothered by the noise and crowds, and sits calmly and patiently the entire time, never asking when we are leaving. Not only does he relax and enjoy the show, but Ed and I can also relax and enjoy the show, knowing that he’s content.

Another outing we have savored this summer is going to restaurants. Although we have gradually been getting Alex used to dining out, he has made improvements recently that make going to restaurants more pleasant. First, he is more trustworthy than he used to be, so we don’t constantly worry that he’s going to grab things or say things to get attention. Also, he has become much more patient about having to wait, so he doesn’t get agitated while his food is being prepared. He additionally maintains that calm demeanor when plans have to change suddenly. For example, if a restaurant is too crowded and we decide to go elsewhere, he readily accepts that change, or if an event is rained out, he’s willing to do something different. This spontaneity makes life so much easier for us because things don’t always go as planned. Finally, a major change for Alex is that he is starting to order from the menu himself instead of relying on me to order for him. Thanks to the coaching from his therapist, he has learned the skills and confidence he needs to be more independent, and he seems to feel proud that he can tell the waitress what he wants.

This week we saw evidence of his increased confidence when we took him to the eye doctor for his annual exam. Because his behavior has improved, Ed and I were less nervous about how he would handle the appointment, and he did very well. Not only was he fully cooperative during all the testing, but he also answered all the questions he was asked without any hesitation. As we were selecting new glasses for him, due to a slight change in his prescription, he noticed the price of the frames and showed concern about the cost, saying, “Oh no, that’s too expensive.” After I assured him that we weren’t worried about the cost because he needed new glasses and told him that insurance would pay part of the expense, he seemed to be relieved. We were pleased with how nicely he interacted with the staff, who seemed to find him quite likeable. In fact, the woman who adjusted his glasses kept commenting on how sweet he was, which made us proud.

Yesterday morning, we took him to the monthly Saturday social activity offered by one of the agencies that provide services for him. Alex looks forward to these events every month, and he was especially excited that the planned activity was watching the Disney movie Frozen. Even though he has seen this movie before, he still eagerly anticipated going. Once again, he patiently waited, acted pleasant, and sat nicely the entire time. Instead of constantly worrying about how he was going to behave, Ed and I were able to relax and enjoy the movie with him.

As we have seen progress in Alex this summer, we are grateful that we can do typical family outings because he can behave himself. While we are pleased that he has learned to act appropriately in public and even be quite pleasant, we are even more pleased that he can engage in activities that make him so happy. Although it seemed to take a long time for him to master many of these skills, we are thankful for the improvements that make our lives better and happier and know what a blessing this progress truly is.

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.” Revelation 2:19

4 comments:

Autism Mom said...

Fantastic! It is so amazing to see progress, it is a wonderful feeling. Congratulations to all! :-)

bloggingastrid.com said...

Oh wow, I'm so happy for all of you. I, being autistic myself, totally understand how being unable to handle crowds and noise can impair your ability to enjoy typical activities. It is great that Alex is improving in this area.

V ickie said...

LOL! My son is a Huge "Big Bang" fan too! We have the "soft kitty" singing cat so no one will ever ask me to sing! It's wonderful that there is always progress to be made, no matter how old they are!

Pam Byrne said...

Dear Autism Mom, BloggingAstrid, and Vickie,
Thanks for your nice comments! Years ago I read an encouraging statement that said one of the good things about autism is that people with autism continue to get better, no matter what their age. We have certainly seen this to be true with Alex, and that gives us hope that he will improve even more with time.
Take care,
Pam