Balancing “Can” and “Cannot”

This little boy, I think, is always going to keep us guessing.

The first question may be – what on earth?

John and I have spent a few years, now, trying to figure out just how to parent this child…and many days, I feel like I’m still at a loss. It’s hard to know when to challenge what we know are his abilities and when to cater to what we know are his inabilities. It would be easier, by far, just to write off some things and let the status quo stand, but that’s not what we want for him. Stagnating and not pushing themselves isn’t what we want for any of our children. That being said, we know that Danny, in some areas, is more of a 2 year old than a 3 year old…but the trick is, many of those areas are disappearing. Rapidly. And then you have the areas where he’s more of a 4 year old, or older. (The other day, he read the first 2 sentences of the snowman poem that was sent home for Eric to read as homework. Um, what? “This is snowman happy,” the paper said, so Danny cheerily looked at it and announced, “Ih ish oh-am AH-ee!” And I assure you, it translated much better aloud than in writing.)

I try to meet him at his level, but sometimes that’s so hard to find!

Our latest project, or challenge, is getting Danny away from being locked in his room at night. Now, that sounds pretty terrible, and it’s not something I talk about much – especially online – because I can see the accusations flying. We have had a hook and eye on Danny’s door for quite some time now. Our nightly routine finished with me taking him into his room and giving him a big hug. He would take his CIs off, put them in his box for them, and go lay down happily. I’d wave, close the door, and lock it. Some nights, he might get up and try the door, other nights he would just drift to sleep. If he tried the door and it didn’t open, he’d go lay down and that would be that. It gave him a definable rule that it is Time To Lay Down, and without it, he would decide it is Time To Play and wander the house until midnight.

Now, in about 2 months, we will have a baby. The room Danny was in is also the room the baby will sleep in, and our routine just…wouldn’t work. So we prepared ourselves for a lot of long, long nights.

…and Danny decided he would just lay down on the couch or the futon and go to sleep, and stay there all night long. Well, OK then. Apparently, from the last time we tried (about 6 months ago?), he became ready. Yes, ideally he would be sleeping in a bedroom on a bed, but honestly – who cares? He is in a safe, comfortable spot, sleeping all night long. Eric went through a fairly long phase of sleeping on the couch rather than his bed, and he is just fine.

This is just like most things for Danny. It may be at a different time than other kids, but he figures things out and decides what works best for him. Sometimes, we need to help direct that, because his choices aren’t very appropriate or safe… But often, it works. He’s growing more and more independent about the daily things of life – getting undressed, getting dressed, putting his clothes away in his hamper once he’s worn them, putting his shoes on. He’s full capable, and sometimes I find myself having to step back and remind myself of that. Because he passed the “typical” time to dress himself, I just got in the habit of always doing it for him. Why? Because it was easy. But parenting and easy don’t go hand in hand, so little by little I keep forcing him to work on it himself. If he’s struggling and getting too frustrated, I help, and I try again a little later. He gets there in time.

The biggest difficulty is remembering that just because he doesn’t talk doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand. That’s an easy one to fall into as well. Whether it’s autism, speech apraxia, or who knows what else he’ll eventually be diagnosed with, as much as he wants to talk and tries to talk, it just doesn’t work so well. He is really trying, though, very hard! We are developing our own language in this house, because he says a lot lately, it’s just nothing anyone outside Danny’s circle would understand. “Oh Ah-were. Ehhhhhhh OUK!” (“No water. I want milk!”) “Ah uh ow-aye. Ih-aye! Ehhhh ah-oo-air!” (All done outside. Inside! I want computer!”)

Unfortunately, I can see this being his biggest life-long challenge. And after reading this article, it reminds me all the more of how and who he is, who he could become, and that I will always have to work to remember that even when the rest of the world doesn’t.

There is a lot of personality in there, and one fabulous little dude who wants very much to get it out. He has so much to offer. I hope that, the more awareness is raised of people like him who are “trapped in their shells” so to speak, he will be accepted and embraced. He is so happy, and I want him to stay that way.

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