On a monumental day in the life of this blog…my 300th consecutive daily post…I am glad to use it to celebrate a truly monumental little boy; my son, Henry. It was his fifth birthday yesterday, and we did our best to celebrate within the limits of quarantine and the fact that it turned out to be a snowy, cold Colorado day.
It’s been a little while since I’ve written about Henry’s journey since being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) earlier this year. I believe my last post in that series chronicled the difficult days of summer, where he was adjusting to therapies and we were struggling to find our way to best help him and work with him. He had some pretty significant meltdowns and we worried about what we feared could be a new normal.
I am pleased to say that in the months since, we have been seeing some truly inspiring progress. His therapist team has been fantastic, and Henry has been working so hard and doing so well.
The big meltdowns, which for a while were daily, are now very rare. He still gets overstimulated and upset sometimes, but now we know the signs better and can offer up ways to help early. Even more importantly, now Henry has more tools at his disposal to communicate, regulate and soothe himself. So working together, we are often able to short circuit those moments before he feels completely overwhelmed.
He has become more flexible. Part of our struggles have been working around what could be really challenging rigidity, His therapists have found ways to help him go with the flow a little more, and we’ve also learned how much Henry loves visual schedules, timers and other things that help him create and process structure.
His academic skills have been growing, he is making progress on all fronts, and most importantly, he just seems more relaxed and happy. His overall mood has risen, he laughs and makes us laugh all the time, and he just seems excited about being Henry. Going through this process, there are always goals and objectives and things we look to achieve in Henry’s growth, and that is all so valuable, but the North Star for us is helping Henry be his best self.
It is still a journey with a long, long way to go, but we are thankful to be where we are and I could not be prouder of our Henry. Like any of us, he has days where he doesn’t want to put in the hours, and that is completely understandable. But he does the work with a wonderfully spirited attitude. And we communicate so much better. He has made enormous strides in learning how to express himself, letting us know what he feels and what he needs. We’ve learned a lot about how to listen and how to ask the right questions.
And on Sunday, Henry turned five years old. It’s honestly hard to believe. He’s been looking forward to since about the minute after we finished opening presents on Christmas, asking every day how long until his birthday. The day finally here, first thing in the morning we unveiled his present, a brand new kids’ drum set.
He had gotten a little toy drum set from Grandma and Pop Pop and has really taken to that, so we thought we’d give this a try. Henry loves music and rhythm and we think he might really find it to be a fun way to express himself. Indeed, he sat back there and immediately looked like a natural. He was using both the bass and high hat pedals and doing some pretty great little drum solos. It’s really cool to see him so excited about it.
We have him signed up to start drum lessons at a nearby school that specializes in working with kids with special needs, and he is really looking forward to getting started. It’ll be fascinating to see how he does.
That done, it was a day of hanging around the house, eating junk food and playing. We had initially hoped to take a hike, but it was mighty cold and snowy out so we punted on that idea. Henry had long ago asked for an Aladdin birthday cake, and Erin found a bakery that would do it for us. I picked it up and indeed they did quite a great job with it.
I was also supposed to get birthday candles, and didn’t realize until I got home that I had gotten the trick kind that keep relighting, but oh well. Henry didn’t seem to mind.
It was quite a day for the kids. Donuts for breakfast, McDonald’s for lunch, cake in the afternoon and pizza for dinner. Not too shabby. Henry wouldn’t have it any other way. Yeah, we didn’t get to have a big party or go out to a restaurant, but Henry isn’t the kind of guy who cares about any of that stuff. Some good food, movies, playing superheroes and a few rounds of Mario Kart and he was happy as can be.
Happy birthday, Henry. We love you, appreciate you, and look forward to watching you grow.