Walking With Drake

One Mother's perspective on autism.

The Firsts

It could be said that one of the many joys of parenthood is witnessing “firsts.”  Mothers everywhere long to be able to witness their child turn over, crawl, walk, eat yucky peas, and blurt out, “Mommy.” My journey as a mom is a bit different. Many of Drake’s firsts have happened when I am not around. 

Of course, many mothers may miss their child’s firsts.  This could be due to the child being with another caregiver or being in daycare.  The difference is this - usually when a child says their first word, the word will be repeated over and over.  New words will be added in the days to come and the joy of hearing those new words wears off.  Life goes on, kids develop, the routine and chaos of life takes hold.  It can be easy to take those firsts for granted. One of the blessings of having a child with autism is that you learn to never take anything for granted.

Drake said his first word almost one year ago.  “Hug.”  Such a beautiful, magical, sweet word.  I received this text from his therapist Melissa on the day he said it.

I was thrilled, ecstatic in fact.

Drake said this beautiful word again, in nursery at church, to someone who loves him dearly.  This gentleman told Drake to give him a hug and out of the blue he uttered the word, “hug.” 

I haven’t heard this word at all and it doesn’t bother me one bit.  What matters to me is that he has the ability to say words.  I believe with all my heart that Drake will talk one day.  The road may be long and it will be a process, but I believe he will talk.  In fact, I know he will talk because he constantly perseveres and triumphs over many hurdles.
A few months ago I pulled out a puzzle that Drake struggled with for many months in OT. Because his fine motor skills are sometimes weak, he needed lots of hand-over-hand help. He hated puzzles and would object any time I pulled one out. One day, out of the blue, he put each piece in perfectly.  I was astonished. I was thankful. He persevered, and with encouragement mostly from his therapists, he learned to put the puzzle together!  

Drake has accomplished so many firsts because of the due diligence and talent of his therapists. Here is a list of his accomplishments thus far:

  • ·      I’m thankful that his therapist Melissa potty trained him in about 4 months.  In my mind, she deserves a gold medal.  Potty training is so difficult for some kids with autism.  Besides forgetting to ask to go, Drake has mastered the potty.  The kid even stays dry at night 90% of the time.

  • ·      Drake has learned how to communicate effectively through signing.  He now knows several signs and uses them to communicate most of his needs.  His speech therapist, Quincey, is also teaching him how to use an AAC communication device. 

  • ·      Drake plays games at clinic with other kids several times a week.  He takes turns, engages, and loves every minute.  Because of this, he now likes to play games at home.

  • ·      Drake has learned the importance of play and how to interact more appropriately with his peers. In the last few months I’ve noticed him trying to engage with other children far more than he ever has. All of these play skills have been taught and encouraged by his amazing therapy team.

  • ·      Drake now enjoys having books read to him.  I think one of the great joys of motherhood for me is being able to read a book to my child.

So you see, firsts for me are not all that important.  What is important is Drake’s development and success.  I trust Drake’s therapy team completely.  They work so hard to help him learn and be successful.  I don’t care if Drake utters 1,000 words to them before he says them to me.  The end result is all that matters.  I want Drake to continue to learn, develop, and feel comfortable in his own skin. It is because of these amazing therapists that he is gaining confidence and beginning to understand this complex world.  

I don’t think there are enough words in the English language to thank the people who get to witness these firsts.  And while, I know we are blessed with an amazing therapy team, there are some who have not been as lucky. Each first Drake’s therapist has with him gives him confidence and assurance to do it again. When we work on things at home and he succeeds he looks at me with a big smile on his face. That is learning at the best possible level.  He is happy that he can accomplish things that were once difficult for him.  I know Drake has a long road ahead of him.  I know there will be difficult days but these amazing ladies have paved the way and given him so much confidence to be successful. I cannot imagine where we would be without their support, help, knowledge, and love. 

Giving them Drake’s firsts is my pleasure.

ABA Lead therapist Melissa
ABA therapist Elizabeth

Not pictured:  Quincey(Speech therapist), Kelly (BCBA),  Lindsay(former lead ABA therapist), and Kate(former OT)

We love and appreciate you all!

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