Just a quick post after a quick (2 night) trip to visit my parents in MN. It was my mom's birthday and little J impressed us all by coming into the dining room for the birthday rituals of singing, candles & cake (OK, his was gluten-free "ring-tings" which is all the store had, though I am not quite sure what they actually were!).
Most of the time he is at my parent's house he spends upstairs in grandkid's bunk room, in the TV room, or covering his ears. While we all sit and kibbitz in the adjacent dining room/ living room, he disappears, appearing only with his hands glued over his ears. We haven't been able to figure out why, we've checked the lights, my dad's hearing aid, anything we can think of—even ruled out strange smells because sometimes covering his ears is the only filter J can think of to use, regardless of what sense is being assailed.
But Thursday night my guy was a champ, singing and clapping and helping glow out the candles, then hanging around long enough to eat and ask for more.
We were so happy he included himself in the fun. The beauty of it was the ritual. He has celebrated enough birthdays in enough venues to know it's always pretty much the same, no surprises. When he knows the plan he can let go of some of the anxiety that seems to contribute to his sensory overload, and actually relax enough to interact socially.
I can only hope that that as he learns more and more rituals, the day to day challenges will become fewer. Starting with mundane ones like waiting in line for rides, taking turns at games, while we work toward more complex rituals like meeting new people and making small talk—they will all become easier for him.
I've been writing about times when the challenges I face raising a special needs child seem to come a little easier, and about how it seems like I am moving forward, even when it feels like I'm pushing against a wall. Sometimes my little guy's progress is simply sharing a happy occasion with his family, and then it's time to step off the path and smell the roses.