“Caroline? She’s my little girl. Why, what about her? Oh, you want to know about her. Well, she’s six, she’s in first grade at a great public school, and just made honor roll on her very first report card ever.”
Much to my delight, she loves to play drums and keyboards and has found a talent for singing. We are even in a band together called The Freddy Fred show. When she’s on stage she’s kind of a ham and wants to introduce all the songs. Missa Fred gives her lots of space and lets her ramble a bit on the mic’. What a friend.
I’ve had to teach Caroline that songs during a show don’t come in the same order every time like on a CD, so now between songs she runs from her microphone (down stage right next to Missa Fred and Miss Tiffany) back to me and says in a simi-whisper,
“Dad, what’s next?” When I tell her, she runs back to the mic and announces the name.
Talk about surprised. We’ve had so much trouble getting homework done each night. It takes us at least an hour to get through English, spelling, reading, and math. She’d much rather be painting. We have her work on display throughout our house, which has turned into her own gallery.
I’m glad P.H. has given us a chance to play together. She has taken to the stage like a duck to water. She loves to go to her dance class each Wednesday evening. It’s only 3 blocks away so we walk the dog and when we wait outside she laughs and races with her dance school friends. She introduces them to her dog, Peggy Sue, and lets them pet her.
On Saturday mornings she goes to gymnastics. Talk about a good fit. This kid can already stand on her head and she loves all of the running, jumping, balancing, flipping and everything else. Big gym and lots of kids running around divided into age groups. She blends right in.
Oh, on Monday’s she and the Mrs. go to religion class and she works on learning the concept of a higher being. So far she knows the sign of the cross and the holy trinity. Not the celery, onions and bell peppers trinity that I use in the kitchen, but the real one. Every day we do a home based therapy called Relationship Development Intervention or RDI, and On Tuesdays she goes to Advanced Behavioral Analysis therapy, also known as ABA.
Well, we have to teach her socialization and cognitive skills that other kids just learn naturally.
Why does she need it?
She is on the spectrum. The autism spectrum. You look so surprised. I know, the long list of things she does, the large social settings she’s in, and it seems like an oxymoron. None of those things would be possible without her finding, art, dance, and music.
We work everyday with Caroline to make her more tolerant of the world as it is, because it will never change to meet her needs. She will have to learn to deal with it in her own way or she will be ostracized, overlooked and generally discarded as a nuisance. If she copes, she will succeed. We try to teach her to be more aware of people around her and her effect on them.
The best thing that has shown her that is the gracious act of applause. The fact that someother person was aware of something she did was made audibly clear by that person banging there hands together and smiling at her gives her great joy. This blew Caroline away and I still remember the first time it happened and she looked at me with surprise and joy in her eyes. Yes, she shared her emotions through facial expressions because of music. I told her that they were clapping for her because she sang and danced so well. She was hooked.
For years I was remorseful because I thought I had passed on a faulty chromosome to my precious girl but now I was certain I had infected her beyond reproach. Caroline had her first taste of applause and that mistress is never satiated. I fear, I mean feel, that she will travel this same path that I am on.
…it’s a great ride little girl.
Oh, one more thing. I once read a parent’s description of raising a child with ASD as compared to preparing for years to move to Italy when in mid flight, you are informed that you will be living in Finland. All of your preparation for your new life is scrapped and you begin learning on the fly. Well, through music, we have found a passport that allows us to travel to Italy and we take that trip as often as possible. Hopefully we will move there permanently…there is always hope …at least now there is.
People get ready, there’s a train a comin’.
(photo by: Valery Milovic)