First, though: You know you're in for an interesting conversation with your child's speech pathologist when she starts out by saying, "Yeah. So this might sound weird, but the other day I was at Babble.com and..."
Yesterday was a mini-parental-update day at Noah's private school. I don't know what else to call it. I stick around for an extra half hour after school and meet with all of the various teachers and therapists (last count we were up to a baker's goddamn dozen, I think) and discuss Noah's progress at school and at home. But we don't sit down for it. And no one takes notes. So it doesn't feel like a real thing. I completely forgot about yesterday's and didn't even take my coat off until the third therapist came over to talk, which is when it finally dawned on me that oh! Right! That's today. The mini-thing. Okay.
Noah's progress is, in a word, spectacular. A little over three months into the program (it's the DIR/Floortime model, for the special ed geeks out there) and they're all thrilled at the improvements they've already seen. They want to throw everything they've got at him -- listening therapy, music therapy, more speech -- because he responds so well, because he's *right there* and *so close* and it's *allsogreat.* This time last year we were still reeling in the wake of his teacher's not-very-veiled threats of expulsion. This year, everyone loves him. He's a sponge, a positive spirit. He is loving, he is kind, he is so very bright.
I've been carefully and cautiously celebrating the little things: fingerpainting, riding a bike, Halloween costumes, the loop, the very first time he ever looked at me and asked "why?" (last week. LAST WEEK.), the very first time he zipped up his winter coat all by himself (today. TODAY.). And yet I still feel like I missed something, particularly in this past month. I can count on one hand the number of real, honest-to-God kill-me level of fits...yet can't put a finger on exactly when the good days started to outnumber the bad, and at such an uneven ratio.
He digs around in his backpack after school, eager to show off his latest project: N O A H spells Noah, Mommy.
He brings me elaborate Lego creations that no longer resemble the ones he once saw on the box: Look what I made, Mommy.
He plays more like a kid than a ruthless engineer, the last stand between order and chaos in case someone puts a blue block next to a yellow block instead of the RED BLOCK RED BLOCK. There is imagination, purpose, even the occasional good guy and bad guy. I am the Mommy Airplane with a broken wing, he is the Baby Airplane who calls the Compliceman to come and bring me a Band-Aid. A weirdly-shaped office building with an ugly radio antenna on the roof becomes mysterious and magical: Look at that pyramid, Mommy! There are mummies inside that pyramid, Mommy.
He tells me about his friends, his teachers, what he did that day. What they had for snack and who got in trouble on the bus. He tells me about the blue songs and the red songs and how the Christmas tree is "spicy" and that he can't eat a certain food because it's too much like "the ocean" and that shade of orange is too "rough" and every day we get a clearer picture of the nonstop sensory assault he faces and what the world looks and sounds and tastes and feels like for him: This song is yellow, but also kind of green, Mommy.
When he gets overwhelmed and overstimulated, he no longer screams or lashes out or kicks. He gives his body a good head-to-toe wiggle instead and starts everything over. Sure, it looks a little strange, but four-year-olds are a little strange, and it's a pretty effective reset button -- and one that he seemingly came up with on his own, his very first self-discovered coping mechanism: I shaking the itch out, Mommy.
Everyday he is more "in" than "out," his teachers say. Everyday the other children in the class appear more foreign to me, more difficult than my own, and I am acutely aware that of all of them, Noah's chances for mainstreaming are much, much higher than theirs.
He is still delayed, of course. Just because he finally asks "why" questions now doesn't mean we're allowed to ignore how long it took him to get to that point. When you teeter on the barest edge of "pervasive" there is always something else to worry about. He still has a very hard time interacting with children, with dealing with the inevitable, unpredictable aspects of daily life. He cannot use a spoon or a fork, or unbutton his shirt, or hold a crayon correctly, or...or...
He throws his arms around me a hundred times a day: I love you, Mommy.