Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wayne and the Waffle


This isn't the first time I've lifted something my son Wayne has posted on Facebook about his autistic child and namesake, Wayne Jr. I'm proud of both of them, dad and son, so I thought I'd share.

Here's what Wayne Sr. said:



I had the opportunity this year to have two of my children graduate. The first graduation was pretty much what you would expect. My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, graduated from high school. Liz is a fantastic student, is loved by all her teachers, and is respected by her peers. She graduated as a member of National Honor Society, and I was very proud to see her walk across the stage and get her diploma.

The second graduation was not what you might expect. My son Wayne Jr. graduated from preschool. This was my first child to go through this rituaal, and I didn't know what to expect, especially since Wayne was one of two children with autism in a class of 15 students.

The class was a wonderful setting for Wayne. I had worried that he would be ridiculed by the children in the class because of his disability, but in fact, the opposite was true. The kids loved him. They were able to see him for the sweet boy that he is, and they figured out ways to deal with the tics that come with autism.

The parents of the class made a big deal out of the day. They made caps for the children to wear, there were diplomas made up, and the children had been practicing a song that they would perform for the parents.

All parents are apprehensive about their children being on stage. As we sit there watching, I think we are convinced that if we put enough body English on our thoughts, we can WILL them to success. As the class walked up on stage, I spotted Wayne in his blue shirt and gold tie, and I saw that he had a Lego toy in his hand. I felt myself wilt. Mine was the only child that was carrying a toy. I wanted to leap up and explain: HE HAS AUTISM!!! Instead, I thought to myself, "Please let him do well," and I hoped people wouldn't notice the thing Wayne was carrying. I knew why he was carrying it. His routine was very out of sorts; school that day was different from what it normally was, and it was frightening to him. A familiar toy soothed him.

The music started, and I got to see my sweet autistic son march with all the other normal children and sing, "We Are the Dinosaurs." He did all the motions, and he roared, and when they were done, he clapped his hands and cheered with his classmates. All my fears about him failing were totally unjustified.

This is my first time as the father of a special needs child, and I suppose the temptation is there to overprotect him and try to shield him from the possibility of embarrassment. I'm so glad I didn't, because he made me proud.

That happened last spring. The thing that got me thinking about it again was a conversation Shea and I had this past week. We don't talk much about Wayne's future, because we really don't know what to expect. We don't know if he will become a functioning member of society, or if he will be able to live in a group home, or if he will live with Shea and me 'til we are too old to take care of him. We just don't know. And the not knowing is frightening, to some extent.

Wayne gave us a treat this week that kind of helped show Shea and me that he is really a sharp little boy, and he has the ability to learn to care for himself. The act itself seemed simple, but it showed us a level of self-sufficiency. One morning, Wayne got up and was hungry. So, he went over to the fridge, opened the freezer door, and got out an Eggo Waffle. Then he opened the cabinet, took out the toaster, plugged it in, put the waffle in, and pressed the lever down. When the waffle was done, he unplugged the toaster and took the waffle and wandered out of the room.

That act showed that Wayne has the ability to comprehend a task that has multiple steps, and it gave Shea and me a great deal of comfort and hope.


I think that my little autistic boy is going to provide me many opportunities to be a very proud father.
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11 comments:

Monique said...

Thanks for sharing. I love it when they surprise you!

G.G. Vandagriff said...

Liz, what a sweet story! That is a trial I can identify with to some extent. My youngest is bi-polar and hearing impaired. When he was in pre-school, at his graduation all they had to do on the stage was to say their name. When it got to him, he panicked and said "I don't remember." Because of his hearing impairment, he always lived in a world of his own. Then in his Freshan year at the Y, he stole a gun from his father and by the grace of God was prevented from shooting himself and others with it on two different occasions. He finally was persuaded to come home by one of his friends. That next year was very bad. He was home working and going to counseling. He had a strong impression he was to serve a mission, but we didn't know if he'd qualify. He met with the bishop and his therapist every week. Finally, they deterined he was ready to go. It was impossibly difficult, but he hung in there. Halfway through, I got my new meds that healed me. We sent them right to Greg. Even without them, he had been an outstanding missionary, but with them he really shone. Since his mission, he has transferred to UVU from the Y, because he wants to major in business and his dropping out of the Y gave him all F's and prohibited that. He is a shining star at his job, where he has been made director of sales and flies all over doing presentations on the company. I know not every family has a happy ending, and that by some freak thing with his body chemistry he could plunge again, but it is so wonderful to see him doing well.

Liz said...

Thanks, Monique and GG, for your comments. And GG, how brave of you to share your son's story. Bless his heart, I can just see that little graduation ceremony. How wonderful it must be to see him doing so well.

Legoboyzmom said...

Liz,

This brought back so many memories of similar graduation ceremonies with my son. Usually he would sing the songs, though a few times there were embarrassing moments. But he was just so cute that nobody seemed to mind when he'd refuse to speak or sing.

We, too, have an older daughter and she knows the day will come when, in all likelihood, she will have to take over the care and custody of her younger brother. This certainly diminishes her pool of likely marriage partners, but we are certain there will be a young man out there who will love Jason like a brother, while giving his heart to Allison.

In the meantime, we continue to watch Jason advance year by year. A few years ago, I had real doubts about whether he would be able to go to college, but he seems to be turning a corner this year as a sophomore in high school. So tell your son not to give up hope.

Thanks for sharing the posting!

Tanya

Rene Allen said...

Sometimes we are so focused on the problems, we forget the successes. How wonderful to hear from a father who took the time to see the success and was proud.

Lynn Parsons said...

As a former special education teacher, and current educational diagnostician, I can tell you there are no limits for these children. Also, resources for adulthood are improving all the time. For more information, you can go to my blog at http://lynndparsons.edublogs.org/ and click on the "transition to adulthood" link on the left. My prayers are with your family!

Lynn

Liz said...

Thanks, Tanya, Rene & Lynn for taking time to comment. Sweet words that did my heart good.

Anonymous said...

This is just a wonderful story, Liz. I can't express how much it has touched me. What a wonderful family you have.
Barbara B

Liz Adair said...

Thanks, Barbara, for your comment. I thought it was a sweet story, too. And he did a good job of telling it, didn't he?

Julie Wright said...

That is a great post about your family and their lives. Such a sweet and amazing story.

Liz Adair said...

Thanks, Julie,

It's such a dark blow when the diagnosis of Autism confirms your worst fears. I'm glad that Wayne posts these sunny glimpses so we can see the light that sweet autistic boy brings into the world.

I appreciate your taking the time to comment.