As Richard and I revel in Emma’s affectionate embrace, New York City is experiencing an extraordinarily, early spring. Purple, yellow and white crocuses are peeking out from mounds of dirt in great bursts of color.
This weekend the weather hovered around 60 degrees, today it’s suppose to go up into the 70’s. The firemen, always good indicators of the temperature outside, across the street from our loft, are wearing shorts. People are smiling, daylight savings time is in effect and this morning Emma was still asleep when Nic and I left the house. Short of pinching myself to make sure this isn’t all a dream, as we waited for Nic’s bus to arrive, I couldn’t help but wonder – What’s going on around here?!
In addition to Richard’s beautiful post from yesterday, Emma is making progress in countless ways. So I’d like to take a moment here to take stock, a kind of inventory gathering of this past year, to highlight how far Emma has come.
One year ago, Emma was struggling with forming the letters of the alphabet. (I’m not kidding, I just went back and looked at my old notes.) Today Emma is reading at a first grade level or higher. In addition, Emma is writing and typing full sentences in answer to questions posed. Emma knows more than 200 words by sight, she understands punctuation and uses a period, question mark and comma appropriately. Emma knows to use an upper case letter when beginning a sentence both when writing by hand and when typing. Emma is learning to use the past, present and future tenses when speaking, writing and typing. Emma has made a massive leap forward in her use of the correct pronouns. In addition (no pun intended) she is able to write simple math sentences, adds and subtracts 1, 2 & 3 up to the number 30. Emma loves doing mazes and connect the dot pictures. Emma continues to enjoy favorite picture books, but is now reading them herself! She is no longer simply flipping through the pages, but is actually pointing to the words and READING! I know, I just said that, but I find this really, very, very exciting.
Emma’s greatest deficit is in her expressive language, but we have been working on that through Dr. Blank’s “Step into Stories” program and through a number of other exercises and work we are doing with her. Emma is working with Joe after school for a solid two hours and is able to attend during that entire time, with just a few two to three minute breaks throughout.
For the past three weekends, we have taken both children out to brunch at a different restaurant each time and Emma has sat and eaten food from the menu. Any idea how exciting that is? We live in New York City, after all. People here eat out more than they do in, but for us, it’s exhilarating. She sits in her chair, waits for the meal to arrive, engages with us, and enjoys herself. Eating out together as a family was not something we have, up until now, been able to do. One year ago we were having to pack a separate suitcase with the foods Emma would eat whenever we traveled. Going out as a family to a restaurant was not something we even considered doing. Emma has slowly expanded what she will eat. This past Sunday Emma ordered apple juice and made no fuss when it arrived in a tall glass with a straw. A year ago, not only would she not have ordered apple juice that she was unfamiliar with, but had one of us ordered it, she would have refused to even take a sip without a great deal of protest. This is the same child who would spend an entire day refusing to drink or eat anything, if it was not familiar and known to her.
In gymnastics Emma is beginning to be able to perform a cartwheel that actually resembles a cartwheel. She is able to do a hand stand, does jumping jacks on the trampoline and has learned how to touch her toes during the stretching period. I know, all of this sounds pretty rudimentary, but for Emma these are monumental leaps forward.
As Richard so eloquently wrote, Emma spent Sunday walking with us, not running ahead, there were no grunting or squealing noises, no sudden bursts of arm waving while jumping about, just walking, arm in arm, sometimes reaching for one of our hands, sometimes stopping to give one of us a hug. There was a great deal of laughter, playing and interacting while Richard and I floated along on a cloud of joy and gratitude.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: Emma’s Hope Book