So Far Gone

The week before last I posted about what’s disappeared: lethargy, toe-walking, aimless drifting, low muscle tone, sleep problems, clumsiness, and most of Martin’s echolalia. Those are all behaviors that Martin used to have, that he no longer has, and that popped immediately to mind when Adrian and I were discussing treatment costs.

Not long after publishing that post, I was walking home from Martin’s school, pondering his progress, when I remembered “transitioning.” It was a slap-my-own-forehead moment, like, Oh yeah! Transitioning! Until mid-summer 2011, transitioning—i.e., the ability to stop an activity and begin another—had been one of our biggest concerns. Martin’s teachers at his old school mentioned it constantly; moving from the gym back to the classroom prompted a tantrum, as did moving from circle time to table work, or music to snack. We experienced the challenges at home, too. I needed only mention bedtime or going out or a visitor’s arrival in order to upset Martin.

Martin (like most any toddler, I imagine) still has trouble leaving the playground or his best friend’s house. (A five-minute countdown helps. “Martin, in five minutes it’s time to walk home. Five minutes.” Sixty-second pause. “Martin, in four minutes it’s time to walk home. Four minutes.” And so forth.) It’s been months, however, since straightforward change of activity posed problems.

Transitioning is so far gone as an issue that I didn’t even happen upon it when making the case for what we’ve spent on treatment. And I’m not the only one who forgot. “Transitioning?” Adrian asked when I brought it up later. “That’s right. Geez, that was forever ago.”

With a little more consideration, I’ve come up with other issues so far gone that they didn’t make the initial list of what’s disappeared.

Bolting, for example. I can remember a time when I could not pause to greet a neighbor, because Martin would be half a block away within seconds, never once looking back to check his mother’s location. Now, unless he’s really engrossed in a sandbox or something, Martin makes eye contact even from across a playground, keeping tabs on me. Not quite as close tabs as I keep on him, but still.

The inability to sit. I went months without being able to listen to a sermon in church. I was too busy pulling Martin out from under the row in front of us, or chasing him down the aisle, or retrieving him from whoever’s personal space he’d invaded. Last Sunday I heard every word of the sermon, relaxing with my arm around the shoulders of Martin, who was flipping the pages of a book.

Injuring himself. For a time bruises appeared on Martin so constantly that I stopped trying to track their sources. He banged into furniture, fell because he wasn’t watching his step, shook his head so fiercely that he smacked it into walls, tipped chairs over while attempting to arch his back enough to see behind him. Today, if there’s a bruise, there’s an identifiable cause.

Adrian says sometimes that a day will come when this whole chapter will be a distant memory.

I’m working on sharing that dream.

Twenty years from now Martin will be playing U.S. Open tennis, or making his debut at the Met, or accepting a Rhodes Scholarship, and I’ll smack my own forehead and recall, Oh yeah! Autism!


Adrian and I were getting into bed one night last week when Adrian said, unprompted and unheralded, “He is getting better. He really is.”

Adrian neither prefaced his statement nor provided supporting detail. He did not even specify “Martin.” He just said, “He is getting better. He really is,” and then opened his iPad to read.

End of story.