Blogospheric Rebound

Whenever I’ve posted as I did Sunday—that is, when I’ve complained—I’ve wanted achieve the blogosphere equivalent of a rebound. I’ve wanted, at least for my poor readers’ sake, to enumerate what’s going well, even if Martin’s progress is scant. Because, really, who will keep reading when I spew self-pity?

And so it is this evening: time to share some highlights.

•            He sleeps. We’ve had more than three weeks’ of uninterrupted nights. At 7:30 pm, Martin takes his final pills of the day, brushes his teeth (I assist), and reads a book with me. Then I deposit him in his bed, kiss him, declare my love, remind him to “sleep until morning,” leave the bedside light burning, exit, and expect not to see him again until 7:00 am, give or take. The reminder to sleep until morning is probably more superstition than effective guidance, but why mess with a working formula?

•            He tells me when it’s time to go. I can trust Martin to alert me when he requires a bathroom visit. True, he often gives me only 12 seconds’ notice, while simultaneously doing a jiggly dance and yelling, “I need potty! I need potty!” Nevertheless, I no longer have to drag him into every restroom we pass, which I used to do fear that he wouldn’t tell me if he actually had to go. I cannot recall his last daytime potty accident.

•            He interacts. We’re on vacation, and one of Martin’s neurotypical cousins, who is just three months younger than he, has joined us. They’ve been playing together. The cousin brings more focus and determination to the effort; she’ll turn to an adult and ask, “Why does Martin say ‘no’ so much?”, or, “Why doesn’t Martin want to do this?” But Martin participates, too. He chases his cousin and waits for her to chase him, and he drifts into her vicinity to check out what she’s up to. Eventually most of their play comes to resemble physical comedy. That’s what three- and four-year-olds do, right?

•            He checks my face. I credit our RDI work for this. When Martin and I are reading together, he looks to me for a cue of when he can turn the page. When Martin is tempted to enter unknown territory (to venture behind potted plants at the airport, for example, or to go upstairs in the vacation home we’ve rented), he seeks visual acknowledgment of whether the idea is a good one. (When I shake my head no, he ignores me and enters the unknown territory anyway. Again, that’s what three- and four-year-olds do, right?)

There you have it, poor readers. Four things that are going well.

And do you know, poor readers, that I don’t write a post like this only for you?

I write it for me, to remind (to reconvince?) myself that I believe in biomedical treatment for autism, that I have confidence in this path we’ve chosen, and that no matter how long the struggle, I will never give up trying to recover Martin.

Potty Sayer

“I need to sit on the potty,” Martin said.

This was Saturday afternoon. We were just spreading our picnic blanket on a stony beach at Montauk Point State Park, at least a quarter-mile of precarious terrain from the nearest restroom—and we know from past experience that Martin would rather have a potty accident than pee outside.

So if we were the parents of a neurotypical almost-four-year-old, we might have dreaded the words. But we aren’t, and we didn’t. Instead, I told Adrian, “I got this one,” grabbed Martin, and headed around the bluff toward the lighthouse restrooms, scuttling as swiftly as I could over a pile of rocks with a 45-pound preschooler in my arms. I spoke into Martin’s ear: “No pee pees yet! Hold them in. You can make it. Wait for the potty. No pee pees in your pants.” Martin, in return, poked his fingers into my nose and giggled.

We arrived at the restroom to find a line waiting. I raised my voice from a private whisper to a stage whisper—“Hang in there, buddy. Hold it in till we get to the potty”—hoping one of the queued women might take the hint and offer us her place. None did. We waited another several minutes.

Finally I lifted Martin onto a toilet seat, where he deposited his peepees into the bowl and then said, “I’m all done.”

Martin has been potty-trained, more or less, for several months now, with two exceptions. First, he still wears an overnight diaper to bed. That’s for security purposes; most mornings the diaper is dry when Martin wakes. Second, Martin has had trouble learning to tell us when he needs to go. Instead, he says something like, “I’m doing peepees,” or, “I need new pants,” three seconds too late. Up until now we’ve just been sitting him on the potty as often as possible, and he’s done his part by, usually, holding his business until a potty break.

So you may imagine our joy those occasions when Martin not only recognizes in advance that he needs to go but also thinks to inform us. That happened five times this weekend: once at the beach, twice at church, once at home, and—the biggest victory—once in the car, when we were stuck in Sunday-afternoon City traffic and unable to pull over, whereupon we asked him to please “hold it” until we got home and he did, an entire half-hour.

The round-trip from the Montauk beach to the potty and back again took me and Martin at least 20 minutes, delaying our lunch. No matter. When we returned to the picnic blanket, Martin in the same still-dry pants, no accident, Adrian lifted our big boy into the air and shouted,

“Ha ha! Way to go, Martin!”