'Rylie, can you clean up? Put your shoes away please.' Rylie looked around, saw the shoes, picked them up, and went in the other room to put them with the other shoes. She's 21 months old and I've never asked her to do that before. I didn't expect her to be listening, or to know where the shoes go. That's because of what happens when I ask Hayden to put his shoes away:
Hayden, put your shoes away please. (not listening) Hey, Hayden. (twirling his socks) Hayden, are you listening? (no response) I get on his level, look in his eyes. Hayden, can you put your shoes away please? "I can't. I don't know where it goes." They go by the front door. "Where? I don't know. I can't do it." He's not really listening still. 'Come with me. See? Right here. Go back and get your shoes and put them with these.' He goes back to the shoes, but gets distracted and sits down and starts picking at a loose string on his sock. 'Hayden.' No response. 'Hayden did you put your shoes away yet?' No response. Go back, get on his level, ask him to put the shoes away. He snaps back into focus, grabs the shoes, and puts them away.
This is how my day goes. I brush his teeth for him because he has frozen holding his toothbrush in his mouth; get him dressed in the morning so we're not late because I've already asked him to get dressed 15 times and he's still sitting there in his underwear; I remind him to eat the food that's sitting right in front of him at dinner. Being my first child, I didn't know children as young as 21 months could understand and respond appropriately on the first request. Every time I ask Rylie a question and she answers me the first time I ask (and not the 25th), I'm surprised.
What a beautiful gift God gave me, to experience Hayden's worldview first, to let me understand how children with Autism think [to me, his way of thinking is "normal," her way of thinking is a pleasant surprise]. And then to experience Rylie's worldview next, to know that God made us all different so that we can fill in the gaps for others when it's our strength, knowing the favor will someday be returned. I will always need to help Hayden, but he has already helped (and changed) me.