4 hours of Preschool Special Education every weekday - plus - at school he gets:
- 2 - 30 minute sessions of Occupational Therapy
- 2 - 30 minute sessions of Speech Therapy (the SLP pushes in to team-teach 2 days a week)
- 1 - 30 minute session of Physical Therapy
- Music Therapy and Adaptive Art with his class
2 - 1 hour sessions of Occupational Therapy
2 - 1 hour sessions of Speech/Feeding Therapy
1 hour of Aquatic Physical Therapy
1 hour of Special Instruction
1 hour of Special Needs Social Skills Play Group
1 hour of Special Needs Music Class
- plus - 1 to 2 hours of DIR/Floortime daily (which we're getting better at implementing as naturally as we can at home)
Now, I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. Jack still has a very long way to go, but he wouldn't be where he is right now without all of that. It has taken Jack a year and a half of an intensive therapy regimen to see what progress we have seen. I'm incredibly grateful that we have been able to provide that and that we continue to be able to provide that for him.
At the risk of sounding contradictory, don't you ever feel like your kid just needs to be a kid? I used to abandon this idea, thinking that every moment of his day needed to be crammed with...well...something. If he wasn't in therapy or school, I needed to be doing Floortime as though my life depended on it.
Well, that burned us both out. We couldn't sustain it. We all need time to unwind and relax. Sure, if left to his own devices, Jack will revert to self-stimulatory behavior and fixating on letters. He'll self-absorb into his letters or his iPad. I used to fight stimming with every bone in my body. I was going to drag Jack kicking and screaming out of his self-absorption and into my world and I was going to keep him here.
The lesson I've learned a year and a half into his diagnosis is that it's simply not possible. While it may change forms over time, I've come to realize that stimming and self-absorption is always going to be a part of who Jack is. He will always feel more comfortable in his world, where he can be himself and who he is.
While I may not implicitly allow or embrace it, I must learn to accept it. To accept him. To accept that this is who he is, and that there might be little I can do to change that aspect of his neurology.
He has a busy schedule. His brain is in overload by the end of the day. It is cruel for me to not allow him some release.
In our house, you'll find that we don't fight stimming as much as we used to do so. I never discourage the hand-flapping. I allow him some time each day to arrange his letters. I give him 30 minutes of iPad time a day. I allow him to watch one episode of Super Why! a day. On the days when we don't have school or therapy, I allow him to just take a breather and relax.
Why? Because my autistic child is just that - a child. Regardless of his special needs, he is a little boy who deserves time to have fun and play. His play may not look what you and I consider to be "play", but he enjoys it. I should allow that enjoyment. He deserves to relax and be happy.
The lesson learned in the past year and a half is this - every moment can be a teaching moment, but not every moment has to be a teaching moment. Our kids are different, but they're still kids. We should allow them a bit of precious time each day to be themselves. They'll be happier for it. I'd like to hope that one day Jack will be able to understand that I love him for who he is, letters and all.
And I do love him more than anyone on Earth - letters and all.