Wow, it's late November already. Time to start thinking about the Holidays. And the end of the year. There were times during the past year when it seemed like time stopped and would never move normally again, the worst times, the terrifying times, but looking back now on the year as a whole, it seems to have passed by in a rushing blur. It's been just over 9 months now since we first learned about Lu's autism. Enough time to gestate a baby. Enough time to start a new life. Enough time to get used to all of this. It's almost funny how normal it all seems now, all of the appointments and therapies, all of the journaling and keeping track of different behaviors and symptoms, all of the wonderful new people in Tallulah's life and ours. I realize that often the moments when I'm most moved to write about what's happening are the moments when I'm upset and need to vent, but the truth is that things, overall, really are going pretty well. Better than I could have hoped for 9 months ago. I need to keep my eye firmly focused on that when the daily exhaustion and frustration or difficulty threaten to overwhelm me. When I think back to all of the first fears of 9 months ago I can see just how far we really have come.
Last February Lu was very nearly non-verbal. She did not make eye contact. She did not know her own name. She did not ever follow verbal directions, nor could she give verbal directions or make requests other than more, milk and zeebee (for her zebra toy). She communicated by thrusting our hands towards things she wanted. She wouldn't even point. She tantrumed, she screamed, she spun, she roared, she ate all kinds of things that were not food but ate almost no actual foods. She barely slept. She lined up her toys but did not play. She took no notice of other children. She took almost no notice of adults other than Mom and Dad. She was in rapid decline, losing language and interest in words, gaining new bizarre behaviors day by day.
But now, not even a full year later, pretty much everything on that list has changed, at least somewhat. To meet Lu now most people would never know that she used to have a problem with eye contact. Her attention is now easily directed by getting down next to her, pointing and saying "What's that?" or "Who's that?". When she hears a new name she almost always does a decent approximation, looks the person in the eye and can even be prompted to say 'Hello'. She can now confidently make one word requests for her favorite things and can be prompted to say "I want Bullseye!" or "I want Jesse!" or whatever the favorite toy of the moment is. She has been taking more notice of Myffy lately, and not only to try to thump her anymore. She does still knock her over sometimes, or gets really mad when Myffy wears something Lu used to wear or plays with something Lu considers hers, but there is definite improvement. Every now and then they even do what could easily be called play (like in these cute pictures with Stew)!
She's doing better in school all the time now and has several kids who seem interested in trying to be her friend. And I think she's starting to take a little more notice of them. We're still working on food and sleep and potty training, but even those have great days, as well as bad. (Here's a picture of Lu with her teacher Mrs. Good about to get a hip-hip-hooray for being the weather girls and posting the 'sunny' sign on the board.)
So I guess what I'm really wanting to say is that looking back, over the year as a whole, things are going pretty amazingly right now. My fears of Lu going further and further into a deep, dark place where we won't be able to reach her have receded, and I now feel confident that with a lot of hard work and a lot of help from wonderful people, Lu will be able to have a full, rich and exciting life. Which is what I've always wanted for my kids. And that makes 2010 one really hard and fantastic year.