January 12th is my one year anniversary blogging. January 13th is Owen’s 2 year anniversary at his school. These two year anniversaries really do me in. Sigh. When we left MA, it was with the promise of a better life for Owen and, subsequently, the rest of us. His school program is top notch—one of the best—based on the studies of children with autism. They follow the ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) approach that was shown to recover 48% of children with autism—to teach them to be indistinguishable from their typical peers. The rates at this school were even higher.
Among the first parents I met was another family from our town. Her son, 5 months older than Owen, was nonverbal when he began the program. A year into the program he doesn’t stop talking. At 5, he knows over 200 sight words and goes to a typical preschool 3 afternoons a week with a shadow. This was my baseline.
Owen started off with some difficulty. While he had a 35 hour work week in his home program, he had never been to school or day care. I put him on the bus and he was gone from 8am to 3pm. After school he had another hour of home teaching. Now he receives 2 hours of home teaching. I can’t blame him for being overwhelmed and a bit resistant. Sitting for lunch, with his classmates was one of his biggest challenges. He even came home with bruises on his back from being held in the chair.
Of Owen’s progress, one of the teachers said she had never seen a child “skyrocket” like him. I smile now thinking about it. Owen, my nonverbal child, had all of his vowel sounds in isolation and the majority of his consonants—less the more difficult ones like “f”. Next they would build up consonant-vowel combos and consonant-vowel-consonant and then words. I couldn’t believe they could teach a child to talk using this method. It seemed like it would take forever at this pace. But I had heard from other parents this method worked. And I believed.
I don’t know where or when things changed. When the “skyrocket” changed to a “speed bump”…but it did. Owen would gain a word and then lose it. Kevin and I reinforced the best we could and can the teaching at school. We try to generalize it in our natural environment. No one would admit Owen was at a plateau.
Owen should have begun preschool this September. If he had gone down that expected path…at the very least, we hoped he would start this month. I asked them to lay it on the line and they said he most likely won’t be returning to district anytime soon. Now I must begin to formulate my arguments for keeping him at his school rather than sending him to another school that costs less and isn’t as good.
How does any of this relate to knitting? Knitting was my solace after Owen was born. Even before he got his diagnosis, I needed the knitting to get through the difficulties of life with this little boy. I honestly feel like knitting kept me sane as I blamed myself for my failings as a mother. I had raised two pretty well behaved children—Cameron and Gracie. Why couldn’t I do the same with Owen? We have some of the answers now. Owen is not like his siblings. Of course, he is also like them in some ways too. However, I don’t feel like knitting. My passion for knitting is waning.
Wow, I wrote that a week ago but didn’t post it. The feelings are pretty much the same right now. Owen surprised his teacher today with his ability to spell his name using Alphabet train cars. It destroys me what is locked in side that mind of his. I wish I could find the key to let it all out. To let him out. He is a remarkable child. I wish I knew him better.