Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Doodle's Autism Journey

As 2009 comes to a close, it's a good time to stop and reflect on the incredible progress Doodle has made this year. She's come such a long way in a short amount of time! I was thinking this evening about the journey we have made since discovering Doodle had autism and thought I'd take the time to post a few thoughts about our journey in the coming weeks.

A typical day back then consisted of the following:

Wake Doodle up at 7:00 and try to get her ready for daycare. Most days this usually involved one of us crying before ever arriving at daycare (sometimes both of us). Picking her up from daycare resulted in a knock-down, drag-out Meltdown that could easily last 2-3 hours. I'm not talking the kind of tantrum an ordinary kid throws to get their way, either. I'm talking about high pitched screaming and crying for hours on end and nothing will console Doodle. I'm talking about Doodle getting so mad she would go somewhere in the house and pee all over the floor (ew!). I'm talking kicking and screaming so intense that you will walk away bruised and beaten if you get anywhere near her. I once naively thought that a friend of mine's daughter was too spoiled because she would throw tantrums in public. Boy, was I wrong! Payback's a bitch!

When Doodle wasn't throwing a tantrum, she would often wander through the house repeating random phrases. Holding a conversation with her was often like listening to random soundbites on the radio - nothing really connecting any two thoughts together. Phrases like "I'm going to Valleyfair." would follow "Emily has an orange ball." over and over again.

I often had the feeling that Doodle didn't understand what I was saying to her. I would constantly have to say "Doodle stop. Look at me. Where's my eyes?" to get her to listen long enough to hear what I was saying. When she looked at me, she would immediately avert her eyes, point at me, and say "Dun, Dunh."

At pre-school, Doodle had a difficult time talking with other kids. She had no idea how to initiate a conversation with another child, let alone play with them. She had one close friend from daycare that she could interact with, but other than that, she had a hard time initiating play. She preferred to speak with adults and they commented that her conversations were always off topic. People often commented that she was lost in her own world.

Finally, Doodle lacked focus. She could not ever sit through an entire meal at dinner. She could not focus long enough to write many of her letters at school. She couldn't focus long enough to use a scissors to cut a straight line across a piece of paper.

Yet she had an extremely vivid imagination - something that always amazed me. You could tell in her world things fit together differently - yet they were amazingly beautiful to her. She saw things differently than most of us - saw the little details that we so often miss. I always pictured it as if she had a bubble around her playing fantastic movies all day long that she was enraptured by. Occasionally, those of us on the outside would get a brief glimpse into her world to enjoy the magic.

That's how I will always want to remember Doodle's autism. A gift sent to us to treasure and cherish - teach us about our ability to restore, recover, and create our own magic. I will always be thankful for that.

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