Most Sundays we all play around the house until noon and then Ariane will do something with Nic while I take Emma on an outing, usually to the “big park” – Central Park. Emma knows what she likes and likes her routines, so most of the time our forays are predictable, except when I try to mix things up deliberately just so she doesn’t get too OCD about it. In the Spring, Fall and Winter months, the routine begins with a visit to the “big carousel” followed by the zoo, the children’s zoo, FAO Schwartz and the Apple store. Sometimes we start with a trip to the Natural History museum and then do one or two items on the other itinerary.
In late Spring, Emma will begin talking about how “the ice skating’s all gone…ice skating over”, in a very sad voice with a very concerned frown. In truth, she’s much more excited than sad, because she can’t wait for Memorial Weekend when an amusement park opens up where the ice skating rink used to be. It’s called Victorian Gardens and Emma has been talking about it and going over to the rink to see if it’s open every weekend for the last month.
Hooray! It opened this weekend and she went on Saturday with Lee and Sunday with me. We spent a few hours there and then we changed into her bathing suit and went to one of the playgrounds inside the park that has a nice sprinkler and a series of little pools she can sit in. We spent a couple more hours there, Emma playing in the water and in the sand and climbing and sliding.
When it was time to go home, Emma did a really good job of rinsing the sand off as soon as I asked her to – something that used to be incredibly difficult to get her to do without a complete tantrum. On the way to the train we stopped for a snack and sat on a park bench. While she was sitting there, happily munching away on her Pirate Booty, she pointed to a butterfly and said, “butterfly.” She pointed again when a woman walked by pushing a carriage and said, “baby asleep in the stroller.”
This is the second weekend in a row that she has pointed repeatedly at different things and labeled her sightings. I’m sure this won’t seem very significant to most people, but it was her lack of pointing and labeling that finally ‘clinched’ her diagnosis with ASD and cut through our last shred of denial. To see her pointing at things while looking at me for my reaction fills me with great joy – and hope.
Years ago we started a diary book that we called Emma’s Hope Book, where we listed every little advancement she made as a way to focus on the positive aspects of her recovery and to bolster our spirits as we repeatedly slid into despair at just how slow her progress has been compared to normal children her age. “Compare and despair” is a recipe for hopelessness and so we still cling to every new achievement as a victory flag placed on top of a mountain.
Emma’s Hope Book is alive and well here (and now open to the public) and more than ever does it serve it’s intended purpose for us – to cut through the other side of our denial — our denial of her gradual but indisputable progress. She is getting better, slowly but surely, more slowly than we would want of course, but moving forward one day at a time. We have hope – and the evidence documented on these pages – that she is getting better a little bit at a time, day after day.