There have been a great many things that have happened in the past year since I last updated, many of which deserve their own post and their own due. In many ways, this has been a "reality check" kind of year, highlighting exactly what challenges we still face as a family while also bringing forth some wonderful surprises and accomplishments. In short, we're getting a better idea of exactly what Jack's long-term needs may be - at least for the foreseeable future - and our approach is evolving along with our boy.
Jack is now 6.5. He just completed kindergarten in a self-contained mixed disability class and will be returning to that same placement and grade-level for a second year. I have mixed emotions about this, but I feel that it was certainly the best option we had at the end of this year, which itself was a challenge both to him and us as his parents. More on this at another time.
To meet Jack's changing needs, we have tried to implement some new supports and services. We discontinued physical therapy last Fall only to resume it this past month. We attempted a social skills group only to find that a) Jack wasn't ready for it, and b) that it wasn't what we wanted for him anyway. We discontinued that group after just a couple of months.
We have looked outside the box a bit to help Jack grow. Now we are doing weekly music therapy (which he seems to enjoy) as well as private swim lessons (which he loves). Both have been brilliant, if not slightly unconventional, ways to help meet Jack's needs. More on both in another post.
Jack has had some real challenges this year. It's been difficult to find ways in which he can communicate effectively and ways to help him manage his debilitating anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The latter two issues I had always just lumped in with Jack's autism, but I am coming to see them as both influenced by and separate from his identity as an autistic boy. His anxiety and OCD seem on face to be more severe than what some of his autistic peers struggle with and it is these issues that present us our daily challenges at the moment. I have said repeatedly that I would not strip Jack of his autism as I see it as a central part of what makes him who he is; however, I would take the anxiety and OCD from him in heartbeat because of the genuine pain they cause him. In light of that, we are again pursuing medication and treatment for Jack for these specific issues, but have not found a good solution thus far.
Jack's year has not been entirely a struggle. He seemed happier this year as opposed to the last and made genuine connections with the teacher and para-pro in his class, as well as with his new SLP at school and private OT who seem to really understand him. He even seemed to find a kindred spirit or two in several fellow autistic classmates. To see him connect with these children for brief moments - in their own way - was beautiful. We also took Jack's first plane trip up North to visit family...and Jack rocked it. So in light of the struggles, there were new possibilities.
You might recall that Jack is not the only offspring meandering about the Reinventing house. The other sweet soul is his little brother Andrew, who is by all indications NT and - at the age of 14 months - asserting daily his status as a fledgling toddler. The bond he shares with Jack is special and so often exactly what you'd imagine of a little brother. He idolizes Jack, but gets in little nonverbal squabbles with his older brother from time to time. They both enjoy the same toys at this point, so sharing is a challenge, perhaps slightly more so for Jack as Andrew will gladly give his brother a much coveted toy if Jack is truly distraught over it. He seems to understand when he can push Jack's buttons and when he cannot, and he often tries to join Jack in whatever he's doing by way of parallel play.
In many ways, raising Andrew has been a challenge in that his needs are so different from Jack's at this same age. Already a proficient walker, Andrew is more mobile than Jack was for most of his second year and more capable of creating havoc and chaos within a matter of moments. The dichotomy of both independence and clinginess that he demonstrates at this time can be exhausting, but I imagine is very typical of raising a NT toddler.
Most of all, he's a little love punctuated with a little mischievous nature and the personality of a social butterfly. He loves and lives and laughs full-speed, which is not at all unlike Jack, just different.
More adventures, challenges, and triumphs - because there are always triumphs - are on the horizon for the Reinventing boys. Welcome back to our story.