Counting to ten is a given around here. J does ten reps of his calisthenics because that’s how high he can count, right? Wrong… Dude has been faking the whole “only to ten” thing for ages, it seems. I told you he is autistic, not stupid…silly me I underestimated him. Go figure!
How did I figure out the “I can count to more than ten” thing? Well…we were negotiating a snack, cheese to be precise. I got to ten (it was shredded cheese and I was counting from one to ten while gently shaking the contents of the bag into a small bowl,) and J kept going…all the way to fifteen! His enunciation was crystal clear. He didn’t skip a single number. He repeated them simply because, in my shock and surprise, I put the bag of shredded cheese down and he was trying to remind me that I was in the middle of something. “ELEVEN!” I was just gaping at him as if he’d just grown a second head. Up came his hand and the sign for ELEVEN. Roll of the eyes at my inaction. “CHEESE! ELEVEN!” I blinked and he smiled at me. J’s expression seemed to say: I know, I know. I’ve been running you around in circles trying to get me to go past TEN and not skipping numbers. But you seemed so HAPPY trying to help me. The thing with the cookies…that was fun! The thing with the beads and the blocks…that was fun, too! I’ve been doing ten jumping jacks, toe-touches…ten of everything and you were SO excited…I thought going past that number would be bad for you…it would make you think there was nothing for you to do now. Can we get back to the cheese? Please? Hey…I KNOW there are more numbers out there…”
I put the cheese back in the bag and started over. Don’t worry. It’s J’s cheese bag…no one else will eat re-served cheese. We counted ONE to FIFTEEN and ended up with a small ramekin of cheese (low fat, of course) and off J went when he was done, smiling as if he’d just found the motherlode. As he walked up the stairs I thought to myself, ONE to FIFTEEN goes both ways, you know…you’re touching those toes FIFTEEN times this evening! And he did…when it was time to run and do his little exertions, J touched his toes, bent sideways, squatted and such fifteen times. He also has progressed to the LONG run in the Wii Fit Plus. This, of course, has to be done with music playing in the background because it makes it even more energetic. Yesterday we ran to Coldplay’s Viva la Vida and Counting Crows’ Accidentally in Love. There was clapping involved and arm stretches, air boxing…he had fun.
Why is he getting into this? I have to admit that I am very glad he is; it generates more things for my daily schedule, but J seems engaged in what we’re doing together. The weight, who knows, might or might not go down. I suspect that making the pounds melt away might be a little more long-term than just getting him to run and eating less. Our greatest concern is his blood pressure, and that is what we’re focusing on right now. His breathing is less labored…or my hearing’s going…I’m hoping for the former.
In the meantime…I guess we’re going to start working on SIXTEEN to TWENTY, unless J’s been sitting on those also. At this point, I believe he knows a lot more than he’s willing to show and I wonder why he plays it so close to the vest. Is it me? Is it that he thinks I don’t expect more or is it that he is trying to please me little by little so I will feel a greater sense of accomplishment? I need to figure out if I am, unintentionally, holding J back…even if I don’t want to or think I might be doing that.
So how do I move on from this? What do I want to try with J next? What can I do to move past the point where he feels like he needs to appease my anxieties by revealing his skills slowly, unfolding them like a very small gift in a rather large shopping bag crammed with colorful tissue paper? I know, from my other parenting experience, that kids at times assume that their parents either know or are not interested in the things they can do. I’ve told our oldest that a lack of interest is not the case, and now I’m wondering if I should tell J the same thing.
I want them both to learn as much as they can. I want to make them as independent as possible. Could it be that I’ve been so focused on making them independent that I’ve not been paying sufficient attention to the independence they already are equipped with? Have I been focusing so much on my own agenda that I’ve not been looking at theirs? These are all rhetorical questions, of course…only I can figure out the answer by actually observing myself, and J, better.
There you have it…J can count to FIFTEEN. J can sign to FIFTEEN and he can say every single number clearly and carefully, making himself perfectly understood. J doesn’t have to bounce back and forth, pretending to not know, pretending to be taught something he already knows by…well…ME! That is my mission for today…I need to figure out how to handle the realization that I might be hindering more than I thought…