Tag Archives: autism and the family

We Have to Keep Trying – Autism

When Emma was first diagnosed, she was four months away from her third birthday.  Since that fall, now seven years ago, we continue to show up for her in ways we could not have imagined.  As many of you with a child with autism know, engaging your child can be complicated.  Emma cannot have a “conversation” the way her neuro-typical brother, Nic can.  We cannot have discussions with her, there is no easy back and forth of ideas and opinions.  Because Emma is rigid in her desires, outings can become problematic if they are not kept to a strict schedule.  The central park carousel must be ridden and then we must go to the zoo, but only after we have watched the brass animals go around when the clock strikes every half hour.  Once in the zoo we must watch the seals being fed and then go see the penguins, followed by the aging and now blind seal, then the polar bear and finally a visit to the bats, before we can leave.  Often Emma will then insist on a visit to the petting zoo where she is more interested in patting the metal replicas of the animals, which then make the appropriate animal sounds, than the real animals.

When both the children were toddlers we were frequent visitors to the American Museum of Natural History on the upper west side of Manhattan.  During the winter months I often took the children four or five times a week.

“Once the kids are older, I hope never to go to that museum again,” I grumbled to Richard one afternoon after an exhaustive five hours spent there.  “And can we add every playground that exists?”  I added.

And then we got the diagnosis and everything was up for grabs.

My time with Emma now includes listening to music and dancing together, walks and yes, lots of playgrounds, amusement parks, the zoo, the various carousels the city has to offer, swimming, but also reading and her literacy program.  Richard still takes Emma to see “the snake bite boy”, which is Emma’s name for the American Museum of Natural History.  But it is during Emma’s “study room” sessions that I see her progress in real, identifiable and concrete ways.  It doesn’t matter whether I am feeling optimistic or not, the evidence is there, right in front of me.  We have kept a record of those first hours when she was learning to form the letter “a” to now, when she is struggling to write two and three sentences at a time.

This morning was a difficult session.  She was required to write three sentences from memory.  At a certain point I said, “We cannot give up, Em.  We have to keep trying.  I know it’s hard, but you can do this.”

Those words were probably more meaningful to me, than to her.  They would be an apt mantra for me to repeat to myself every morning.

No matter what, we cannot ever give up.  We have to keep trying.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:   www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Literacy and Autism

We have been working intensively with Emma on her reading, writing, typing and more recently math and verbal skills.  The reading, writing and typing program we began in January.  It was at this time that she painstakingly learned how to form each letter of the alphabet.

This morning Emma wrote this, in answer to the written question – Did the cat jump? – after I had made the cat jump.

In answering the question – Did the boy jump? (the boy as seen in this photo was lying in a bed) Emma wrote:

In accessing Emma’s progress, I need to compare her to herself and not other children.  I have seen over the years how easy it is to become discouraged when I compare Emma to her brother or any neuro-typical child or even other children on the spectrum – unless they are much more severe.

“This isn’t going to be a sprint,” Richard once observed, after seeing yet another neurologist.

And it isn’t.  Emma is making slow and steady progress.  We work with her for about three hours every day on her literacy, math and verbal exercises.  There has been no instantaneous miracle.  She has not begun to write on her own in complete, complex and revealing sentences.  She has not gotten to the point where she is able to tell us what it is like for her to be her.  She cannot answer questions regarding anything remotely abstract.  (Which doesn’t mean I don’t continually hold out hope that one day she will.  I do.)  But at the moment, I am happy to reflect on her slow, steady progress and it fills me with joy to work with her each morning and to see these beautiful sentences that she constructs on her own.

Someone once asked me – Is it good enough?

The idea being that I had a preconceived notion of how I wanted something to be and anything short of that meant it was an utter failure.  Sometimes being “good enough” is still pretty fabulous.  So yes – Emma’s progress is good enough.  In fact, it’s better than good enough, it’s wonderful.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Hope – Autism

For those of you planning a trip to New York City, you must take in the High Line, New York City’s most creative and interesting park, built on the old elevated tracks on the west side of downtown Manhattan.  The High Line spans more than twenty blocks and eventually will end at 34th Street.  Last Sunday we came upon this art installation at the bottom of one of the High Line’s many entrances/exits.

On each of the little red and yellow tags people had written what they hoped for.  One said, “Cure Ann of her cancer” another said, “I hope I will love Miquel forever”, and still another read, “Please make Mom get better”.

Love and health were the most popular “hopes”.  I would have written one of my own had I’d thought to bring a pen with me – Let Emma live an independent, happy life, filled with loving relationships.  I guess the thing about hope is it keeps us moving forward.  Hope allows us to get through tough times.  I am reminded of the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:  “Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith, where there is despair, hope…”  Regardless of ones beliefs, these words have given solace to a great many, myself included.

For more on Emma and her journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

One Last Night

Sunrise

It’s hard not to feel the overwhelming beauty of life when seeing a sunrise over the mountains, like this one, as we did yesterday.

Emma has asked to go back to our little rustic one room cabin almost every night since we last spent the night there about a week ago.  Since we are leaving tomorrow, returning to New York, we decided last night was our final chance to spend in it.

“Hey Em, do you want to spend the night in the cabin?”

“YES!!!!” she shouted, jumping up and down.  Then she dashed upstairs, returning a little while later carrying her backpack.

Nic opted to stay with his Granma, so the three of us set out, Emma racing ahead of us up the little trail.  When we arrived and had settled in, Emma threw on her nightgown, despite the fact it was only 7:30PM and still light outside.

“Don’t y0u want to sit with us and watch the stars come up?”

“No, not going to sit outside.  Time for bed!”  Emma said snuggling under her sleeping bag.

Richard and I watched as the sun set, whereupon the bats came out.  Just as a bat whipped past us, less than two feet from where we were sitting, Emma appeared.

“Em, did you see the bat?”

“Bats come out.  Bats going to bite you!”  Emma exclaimed, looking up anxiously.

“No.  They eat bugs, Em.  They’re not going to bite you.”

“Okay, okay, sit with Mommy!”  Emma jumped onto my lap, pulling a blanket up around her shoulders.

When we got up this morning and began packing up to return to civilization, Emma said, “Spend tonight again in the cabin?”

“No Em.  We have to fly back to New York on Thursday.”

“Get on the airplane,” Emma said nodding her head up and down.

“Yes, we get on an airplane.”

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

What Matters

We are leaving soon.  Back to New York City where our other life awaits us.  The children need to get ready for a new school year, medical forms need to be filled out, bus companies need to be contacted and confirmed, school supplies need to be bought.  Nic will be entering 6th grade and there’s a certain excitement in that.  Emma doesn’t enter a “grade”.  She will be placed in a class with other children on the spectrum, who are near to where she is academically.  I am always filled with trepidation at the start of a new year regarding Emma.  It is difficult not to give in to fears and worries.  Will she excel?  Will her new teacher and classroom be a good fit?

The truth is, Emma has progressed more in the past seven months than she has in five years.  We attribute this to the literacy program we began in January of this year.  We have now added a math program as well as a verbal program.  Emma is working each day for about three hours on these various programs.  It has been amazing to witness.  Progress.  This is the word every specialist we’ve ever spoken to has used.  Is she progressing?  And the answer to that question is a resounding – Yes.  We cannot predict what the future holds for Emma.  We cannot know how far she will go.  But as long as she continues to progress we know we are on the right track. I heard someone say once – Progress, not perfection.  It’s an apt thought for any of us.

Emma at dusk last night

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Bumps In The Road

Inevitably in life we have all experienced things that have forced us to slow down, perhaps take another route, do things differently than we would have liked.  I think of these things as bumps in the road.  I try to refrain from judging them as good or bad, but just as the way things are.  There are some moments I’m better at achieving this kind of calm perspective than others.  It’s easy for me to feel all that is happening at work is “horrible”, but the truth is, a series of events have been set into motion and I have had to make the decision to fight back, to defend myself or allow another person to harm me and in harming me, harm my family.

Emma experiences her own “bumps” along the way.  Things that happen, which force us to change well laid plans.  Plans she is excited about and is looking forward to.  But more and more, lately, Emma has taken these things in stride.  She is learning to adapt to a world that is often precarious, constantly changing and shifting.  It is a wonderful thing to witness.  We all must adapt to our ever changing circumstances.

Emma makes me happy –  Both my children do.  Try not to smile while looking at this next photograph.

I dare you.  No smiling.  Come on, it’s impossible not to feel a tiny degree of joy, right?  I love that.

Here’s another photograph that can’t help but bring a smile to my face.

This was done yesterday during Emma’s “study room”.  She is writing longer and more complex sentences.  Her reading is coming along beautifully.  Excuse me while I jump up and down with excitement!

So no matter how heinous things get at work, I have my family.  My beautiful, amazing family – and that’s all I need to bring things into the proper perspective.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Emma’s Rainbow

One of the wonderful by-products of this mess at work is that I am spending every day with my family.  Yesterday we ended the day with Emma saying to me during dinner, “Go outside with just Mommy?”

“Yeah okay, Em.  We can go outside together as soon as everyone’s finished eating their dinner,” I told her.

Once outside, Nic was already there throwing the frisbee for the dogs.  Emma said, “Hold hands with Nicky?”

“Sure Em,” Nic said.

“Run through the sprinklers with Nicky?”  Emma said, jumping up and down.

“I’ll run through the sprinklers with you, Em.  Here,” he said, holding out his hand.

And then they began to run together.

Through the sprinklers…

And then Emma changed into her bathing suit and they ran again, this time through a rainbow…

And out the other side.

Laughing and together, just the way any brother and sister might.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Work and Family

Things have been horrific at work.  Tremendous stress and upheaval, but despite it all, my children and family keep things in perspective.  I remember when I first heard the word “autism” and later read how those with this diagnosis tended toward anti-social behavior  I felt terribly sad.  Sad because I thought at the time it meant that Emma would miss out on the things that have made my life most meaningful.  My happiest moments have all been with my family, my favorite memories are all involving family and friends.  But so are Emma’s.  She still asks to go back to California to – “Uncle Andy’s wedding.”  When we’ve told her he won’t be getting married again or at least everyone hopes this to be the case, she says -“Go to California.  Andy’s wedding again?”

We’ve tried to explain that weddings are unusual celebrations, not the sort of thing one does every few years, at least for most of us.  But nothing we say fazes her.  She had such a wonderful time in Napa Valley at my brother Andy’s wedding, she wants to go back, be among my extended family.

My fondest childhood memories are of coming out to Aspen to visit my grandmother.  Her house was brimming with relatives, her brother, my Great Uncle Paul, a number of his children would come for tea every afternoon after skiing.  She had dinner parties, more relatives would descend and close friends were called, “Aunt” and “Uncle” even if they weren’t technically speaking.  The smells of cooking, burst forth from the kitchen, the upstairs always had the distinct smell of moth balls.  I loved going up to her attic and rummaging about through enormous steamer trunks filled with clothing and photographs from another time.

Emma is like me in this way.  She has a phenomenal memory and it is always about people and family that she refers to when she is recalling something she wants to do again from the past.  “Go back to Cape Cod” is one of her more recent requests.  Every summer Richard and I used to go to North Trurro.  We always had friends come and join us, a kind of revolving door of people – there was Kat and Randy, Christian and his girlfriend at the time, Anna.  Emma asks for these people by name, she hasn’t forgotten any of them.

So when things become difficult with work, problems arise, no matter how dire things can seem, it is my family who always bring things back into perspective.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Sunday in Aspen with Emma

Yesterday I spent the entire day with my family.  This was a first since they arrived a week ago.  In the morning I took Emma on the 4-wheeler.  I couldn’t remember how to put the thing in reverse so I made sure we went places which only required forward movement.  The whole shifting gears thing was a bit tricky, so Emma learned quickly that she needed to hold on to me as we galumphed along – something she doesn’t usually do when riding with Richard.

After our ride we took the dogs for a walk.

And on the way we saw this…

Upon further investigation, it turns out it was the desiccated pelt of a coyote or perhaps a deer, hard to tell at this late stage.  My mother evidently found it lying on the path several months ago and hung it on this shrub so the dogs wouldn’t drag it around.  Emma was utterly uninterested and walked right by.

After our walk, we went up on the gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain where a blue grass band played.

On the ride up the mountain, Emma played a game where she went through a list of all our various relatives and added, “cousin” or “uncle” or some other title before their name.  Then she got a little creative and said, “Jungle Andy!”

“No Em!  Not jungle Andy, Uncle Andy,” we said, laughing.

“Uncle Andy,” she responded, then very quickly added, “Jungle Andy!” as we screamed “No!  Not jungle Andy!”  Emma thought this so hilarious that she kept it up for the entire 20 minute ride.  And in truth, it was pretty funny.

After our lunch on the top of the mountain, Emma stood in line to bungie jump.  The weekends are particularly crowded and so we ended up waiting…  and waiting…  and waiting.  For 45 minutes or more, I lost track of how long we waited.  But finally it was Emma’s turn.

After Emma finished bungie jumping we drove out to the Snowmass Recreation Center and swam in their outdoor saline water pool.  Finally we drove home, changed and went to Takah Sushi for dinner.

Emma was terrific.  Not a single meltdown.  She waited the interminably long wait to bungie jump, she went along with all the plans, even when they changed at the last minute due to things beyond our control.  And at the pool, she showered, washed her hair and then for the first time ever, brushed her own hair, completely, without any help from me.  When we went out for dinner that evening, we brought along her food, she ate with us, then played, making faces and being silly.  When it was time to leave, she ran ahead toward the car, never a protest.

Now that’s a great day!

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Emma’s Party

Last night we had some guests over for dinner.  Emma, upon hearing guests were arriving, announced, “It’s a party!” before dashing off to her bedroom to don the appropriate attire.  When she returned, wearing a dress my mother wore to dancing school in the ’30’s, we all oohed and aahed.

“Emma!  What a pretty dress you picked out.”

“Look!  It’s so beautiful!” She said bouncing up and down and twirling around.

My mother told us it was a Hungarian dress that had a velvet vest and a faux fur hat, which evidently Emma had chosen to forego.

Emma seated at the dinner table wearing her party dress

Emma loves a party.  She always has.  She has no inhibitions, loves nothing more than to sing and dance in front of a crowd – the more the merrier.   Her love of parties is something I am always surprised by, as both Richard and I were so very shy at her age.  It’s one of those things, like her talent for holding a tune that we joke about.  “She must get that from you,” I tell my husband.

“Not me.  Don’t know where that came from,” Richard will respond.

And if my mother’s in the room, she’ll usually get the credit.  “Must be Mom,” I’ll say, looking over at her as Nic rolls his eyes.

So after dessert (Nic and his Granma made a fabulous cheesecake, which Nic decorated) and the plates had been cleared, Emma ran downstairs in her pajamas and said, “Ready for performance!”  She gestured with her hands for us to gather in the living room and take a seat.  She waited until everyone had sat down before launching into a song, neither Richard nor I had ever heard.  The song whose lyrics at one point are – “I am the thunder, you are the lightening” was sung in a loud voice while she did a little dance.

Emma singing and dancing

When she’d finished she said, “Sing it again?”

“A different song, Em.  You can sing one more song, but it has to be different.”

So she chose an old stand-by, Gwen Stefani’s “It’s my life”.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Nic’s cheesecake

Emma’s Struggle with Pronouns

I have written about this before – Emma’s continuing struggle with using the correct pronouns.  It is something one sees in children on the spectrum.  Pronoun confusion, lack of pointing at an early age, a lack of engagement or initiating play, these are all warning signs in small children and almost all children diagnosed with autism share at least a couple of these.

Emma uses the word “you” when speaking about herself, but also when speaking about someone else.  It’s a word she uses for anyone, herself included.  As in “You want to go on the 4-wheeler?”  Someone who doesn’t know Emma would assume she’s inviting them to go with her and the response is often an enthusiastic, “Yes, I do want to go on the 4-wheeler!”

Emma, then happily runs outside, turns the engine on and waits for the unsuspecting person to join her.  This scenario actually happened with our cousin Max, whom neither of the kids had ever met until last summer.  But when Emma says things like, “Bye Emma!” to the person she has just been introduced to, things get a bit more confusing.

So last night when Richard and Emma picked me up from my store in town, she said, “No not going to see July fireworks.  They’re too scary.  Mommy has to pick you up.”  Then she paused and said, “No, Mommy has to pick me up!”  We were surprised and pleased.

“That’s right Em!”  And then as an aside to Richard, “Wow!  That was pretty great.  She corrected herself!”

Emma then repeated herself several times, “Fireworks too scary.  Mommy will pick me up.”  She looked from Richard to me proudly.  “Good talking!” she said, before leaping into the car.

During the ride back to the ranch she tried various variations on this theme.  Each time using “me” correctly.

It was a proud moment for all of us.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Em & The 4-Wheeler

Emma on the 4-wheeler

Perhaps more exciting than even the ARC (Aspen Recreational Center) is the 4-wheeler kept up on the ranch.  For those who are not familiar with this piece of machinery, it is a cross between a kind of Hummer version of a motorcycle and an open air golf cart.  My two nephews, Colter and Bridger, are cringing at this crude and citified description of mine, because it is actually an essential piece of powerful ranch equipment used to change sprinkler heads, and to haul a variety of other things.  Things I do not pretend to know about.  To me, it is the vehicle we use to go looking for coyote, fox and other wild life up on the ranch.  Last summer we found a den of coyote pups, so cute(!) whose mom lay basking on a nearby rock, unruffled by our intrusion, she didn’t move a muscle as we rode by within ten feet of her pups.  (I know Colter and Bridger – you guys might want to just shut your computer down at this point – it’s got to be painful to read this description.)

Now that I have thoroughly humiliated my fabulous nephews with my utter ignorance in all things to do with ranching, I will attempt to move on.  When Emma arrived in Aspen the night before last, one of the first things out of her mouth was – “Go on the 4-wheeler?”  Followed by, “Go to DuBrul’s (my cousins’s) house?”

When we told her she couldn’t do either of those things, she then went for her back up list.  “Go see motorcycle bubbles?”  (This requires interpretation as this is what Emma calls the 4th of July fireworks, which we missed this year as we were in New York.

“No not going to see motorcycle bubbles.  Go swimming in indoor pool.  Yeah, go to the ARC.”

When we informed her that as it was almost 9:00PM, this wouldn’t be possible, but promised to take her the following day, she said, “Go to outdoor pool?”  (Meaning the Snowmass rec center’s outdoor saline water pool)

Finally tired of our feeble excuses about the late hour and how everything was closed, she conceded sadly, “Time for bed.”

But the following morning the list was proffered up and there wasn’t much we could say as our excuses of it’s too late, no longer held any weight and she knew it.  So off to the ARC Emma went and then a trip to the grocery store where she was able to procure her favorite chocolate milk from Horizon, before getting the 4-wheeler from the barn.  We were also able to load a bale of hay into the front to carry back to the house to set up with a bull’s eye so that Nic can practice his archery skills.

Bringing hay back to the house for Nic

It’s good to be home with the family!

For more on our escapades and Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

These Last Few Days

Every day for the past month, Emma has gone on the bus to summer camp with her brother, Nic and her therapist Joe, shadowing her.  Joe tells me this year has been terrific.  Emma has tried new things, been engaged and interacted with the other children more than the year before.  Today is their last day before coming out to join me in Aspen.  Because it’s their last day, Nic told me, they can do whatever they like.  Nic said he was probably going to play soccer, practice his archery, swim “a bunch of times” in the the lake and do gymnastics.

I am interested to hear what Emma will do.  When I called last night, she was with Joe in her “study room” so I couldn’t speak to her to ask.  Not that I would have gotten a clear answer.  The future and past are difficult concepts for Emma to express.  I never know when I speak with her if she’s referring to something she wants to do, did do, will do in the future or wished she could have done in the past. Despite my confusion in regards to what time frame is being referenced, Emma is usually without complaint.

Emma at camp – 2011

Every afternoon upon returning from camp, Joe and Emma go into her “study room” where she works on her literacy program.  I haven’t worked with her for the last ten days, so I am eager to see how she is coming along.  Emma’s literacy program, perhaps more than anything else, has caused a significant shift, in Emma, but also in me.  The progress she’s made since this January when she was just learning to form her letters, to now, where she is writing one and two sentences, is tremendous to see.  But I also feel she is gaining a certain degree of self confidence.  Working with her has been incredible as I know how hard it is for her, but she continues to do the work anyway.

Sleep, wake up, sleep, wake up, go on the airplane and see Mommy!

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

A Phone Conversation With Emma

Speaking on the phone with Emma has always been challenging.  She tends to forget that there is a person on the other end and often walks away, leaving the phone dangling there before someone either abruptly hangs the phone up, not realizing I’m still there or answers it in a harried sounding voice.  Sadly, since I’ve been out here in Aspen working, both my children and husband remain in New York City, so the only communication I have with any of them is by phone.  This morning I called before the children left for camp – which meant calling them at 5:45AM Rocky Mountain time.  The following was my conversation with Emma.

A rustling sound followed by, “Hi Joe!”

“No, Emmy.  It’s me, Mommy.”

“Oh!  Hi Mommy!”

“How are you Emma?”

“I’m fine.  Have so much fun at camp.  Last day.  Last day summer camp.”

“Two more days, Em.  You have two more days and then it’s Saturday and then you and Daddy and Nicky and Jackie fly out to Aspen!”

“No more summer camp.  Fly to Granma’s house!”

“That’s right Em.  I can’t wait to see you.  I miss you so much.”

Silence.

“I’ll be at the airport, Em, waiting for you guys.  I am so excited to see you.”

Silence.

“Emmy, have you enjoyed camp?  What are you doing there today?  Anything exciting?”

Silence.  Then humming.

“Emmy?”

More humming of a carousel song – whose name I cannot remember.

“Hey Em?”

More humming and the sound of her moving away from the phone until the humming was from far away.

“Em?”

“Oh hi honey.  She took off.  Nic wants to talk with you though.   He was going to call you this morning,”  Richard said.

I then spoke with Nic who informed me that he missed me and Emma did too.  He now knows how to blow bubbles from a single piece of gum, a proud accomplishment and something he had become convinced he would never be able to do.  He’s practicing his Alto Sax and loves it, is playing the piano and is working on a blues composition for it, while learning the guitar, so he is not as good at it, but is still enjoying it.  The sax he is shipping out to Aspen so he can practice while out here and his skateboard he intends to leave in New York.  He explained to me that he plans to buy another one for Aspen so he’ll have one here as well as in New York.  He requested that I find him a bail of hay so he can set up a bulls eye to practice his archery, which I’ve promised to look into.  As he told me all of this I could hear Emma in the background, talking, singing and laughing.  I could hear that Joe had arrived.  As I spoke to Nic, mining him for more information there was silence.

“Hey Nicky!”

Silence.

“Nic!”

Silence.

“Nic!  NIC!”

“Oh yeah, Mom?”

“Nicky, I was talking to you.”

Sorry.  Joe’s here, playing with Emma.  I got kind of distracted.”

Shrieks of laughter were then heard along with running and more laughing.  Talk about feeling out of the loop!  But also relieved everyone is having a good time and I will get to see them in another four days.  Just four more days…

Emma in her Pink Flamingo costume

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Summer Camp For Emma

For the last three summers we have enrolled Emma in summer camp with her therapist, Joe shadowing her.  The director of the camp has been incredibly accommodating, allowing Joe to shadow Emma and doing all he can to provide Emma with a “typical” camp experience among her neuro-typical peers.  Each year the other children, while often not exactly clear on why Emma behaves as she does, have been incredibly patient and eager to help when Joe told them she was  just learning to speak and sometimes didn’t understand all that was going on.  Each summer one or two little girls have taken it upon themselves to help Emma, self assigning themselves to her, urging her to join in and making sure she stayed with the group.  The first two summers we signed her up for two weeks and since it went so well, we went ahead and signed her up for a full month, just like her brother, Nic this year.  Yesterday was her first day.

Summer Camp last year

“No not going to go to Becky’s class.  Going to go on the bus to summer camp!”  Emma said yesterday morning as I fixed her breakfast.

“Are you excited, Em?”  I asked.

“Yes!” she shouted.  Then, “Going to go to summer camp with Nicky and Joe.  Going to go swimming in the lake!  Not going to take the school bus, no!  Going on different bus.”

“Yeah, Em.  That’s right.  It’s a different bus.  Which one do you want to wear?” I asked, holding up three different skorts.

“This one!” she grabbed hold of a pink skirt with shorts attached.  “And this one!” she said taking a white t-shirt from me.  “And this one,” she added, pulling a white and blue striped two piece bathing suit from the drawer.

“Okay, and how about we take this one for back up?” I held up a colorful one-piece suit in front of her.

“No, no, no!  This one.”

“Yes, I know you want that one, but we’ll just bring another one in case you need it too.”

“No mommy.  Just this one,” she insisted, jabbing her finger at the two piece.

Emma often reminds me of the children’s book character, Olivia.  Olivia is a pig who loves clothes, particularly accessories with stripes and shoots around on her scooter.  Which is where the similarities end – not the pig part, just the scooter and love of clothing and striped accessories.

When the bus arrived, Emma, Nic and Joe climbed the stairs amid shrieks of excitement and greetings.  Several children from last summer were riding the bus again and as the bus moved away from the curb, I could still hear the excited voices of the children.

When everyone arrived home yesterday afternoon, I asked Emma if she had fun.

She literally jumped up and down she was so happy.  But even during the summer, we must continue to work with Emma on her reading, writing and now, math.  Joe and I worked out that if he came early each morning, he could work one session of math in before they left for camp, while every afternoon I will do a session of her reading and writing.  Yesterday we worked on the word cat/cats.  Emma is coming along beautifully with increasingly difficult sentences which she now types out on the computer using her two index fingers or writes by hand – something that is by far the most challenging for her.  Pointing to an illustration of a man, I said, “This is not a kid.  This is a man.”  Then she was to write these two sentences from memory.  It was the only one which tripped her up, all the other exercises she did, often without hesitation, beautifully.  Such as when I pointed to a group of frogs jumping and asked, “Are these frogs jumping?”

Emma then typed – Yes, these frogs are jumping.

Progress, lots of wonderful progress!

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com