It’s a given, no parent likes to see their child struggle, really struggle with something. That is one of the hardest things to swallow about autism. So many things are a tremendous struggle for the Roc. Little things, simple things that other parents take for granted. Opening baggies, zipping zippers, screwing and unscrewing caps, getting shoes and socks on, brushing teeth, cutting with a scissors, and writing are just some of the things the Roc struggles with in regards to fine motor skills. In the past many of these things would immediately frustrate him and he would SCREAM and throw a raging fit. As he has grown, so has his patience, (a teeny tiny amount, but I have to acknowledge it) and his verbal skills. Now, while many of these things still frustrate him, he tries just a little bit longer (sometimes we even get “No, I wanna do it!”) or he asks for help (many times in a screech, but I’ll take it!)
As his mother it has been so hard to watch him struggle. So hard not to compare him to my friend’s children who do almost everything with ease. So hard not to want to change things somehow for him. Help. Fix it. Do something.
Why does everything have to be so hard for my baby?
But that is what makes the little things that much sweeter.
I remember when I first gave the Roc a marker and a sheet of paper. He concentrated hard, fisted that marker, and proceeded to fill the whole page with compact little squiggles. I bought a couple sketch books and he alternated between filling the pages with dots, lines, the letter H, (for some reason only known to him) or those original scribbles. I found it fascinating that he had the focus to continue page after page. For awhile I saved that first paper, proud of the perseverance it took to evenly space out those squiggles. Then the word autism pushed it’s way into our house, parked itself on my chest, and I saw those repetitive squiggles differently. Repetition and perseveration. Hallmark signs. Desperately I tried to get the Roc to draw something different in his sketch book and to reverse his grip on that marker. I pushed too hard and pushed him away from wanting to write or draw with me. I had to take a step back.
He started preschool and at home I let him return to filling up his sketch books with squiggles, dots, lines, and the letter H. I wondered when he would draw something, anything other than those repetitive images. My mother (the former teacher) sent me a list of fine motor activities and the school OT sent home some suggestions as well. I worked on them with him when he would allow, trying not to push him too far into frustration.
Over time I saw the slips coming home from the preschool OT start to change and rejoiced for the progress.
Eventually he started to reverse his grip at home and stopped fisting the marker. Now in full day kindergarten he is required to do much more writing and has “homework” each week, one day of which is writing the sight words they are learning. He still likes to scribble all over a page if you let him so I usually print the words lightly in pencil and give him a marker to trace over them with.
Earlier this week we were working on his “homework” and I asked him if he wanted to draw when he was done. He was really enjoying the little marker his OT sent home (a crayola pip-squeak, perfect for those kids who want to hold the writing utensil at the top – can’t do that with a tiny marker!) and I asked him if he could draw a house. I fully expected him to scribble all over the page but instead he looked at me, looked down at the page, and then drew this:
Holy smokes!! I didn’t know he could do that! He went on to draw two more but the first one is the one I saved and slapped up on the refrigerator.
Even if no one else really grasps the amount of time, repetition, and literally hours of work this kid has put in to be able to draw that little house, I know. I get it. And man am I proud of that little wonky house and the kid who drew it!