Last weekend Todd and I took Matthew to Medford to meet with our friends at the REACH Family Institute. That four hour drive about kills Todd and I....we are "sky trippers" as opposed to road trippers. Talk about wimps. Well, Matthew is quite the little road warrior and did amazingly well on our drive. He has discovered his lungs and, much to our ABSOLUTELY JOY, points to things in his surroundings now and labels them (at top volume....repeatedly...over and over until you acknowledge). So we hear "truck" and "sign" and "house" and "plane" and "car", etc. and are sooo grateful for the indication that his awareness of the world around him is starting to kick in. The best part (and the worst part if you are trying to carry on any semblance of a conversation) is that he is determined to communicate and will literally increase in volume each second you delay sharing his attention to the object he is pointing out. It is so dang cute! And it warms my Mother-heart. When we first started making these trips to Medford, Matthew had, maybe, 15 words and only used a select few spontaneously. This truly represents a miracle.
In our efforts to entertain Matthew, we let him pick a movie. Normally I just show educational stuff in the car--letters, numbers, signing--but we let him watching Mickey Mouse (lasted 4 minutes before he was bored), Toy Story (lasted maybe 15) and a couple of others. Finally, I put the most boring letter video you can imagine in and Matthew was riveted. The most amazing part is this--he started to say EVERY letter before the video would say it!!!! Todd and I were blown away after a, b, and c, but when he fudged for the first time on letter Q, we were jumping for joy! He ended up getting about 24 letters correct! Anyone who has known Matthew for any period of time realizes what an incredible thing this is. We are SO proud.
Now, as great as all of those things are, there is a piece of this puzzle that is falling to place that makes me want to weep with joy. Matthew is starting to really love us. He isn't saying those words yet (but I know they are coming), but he is hugging...and not just little hugs. He turns to me numerous times a day, throws out his arms, and asks for "hug? hug?" And he proceeds to give full-body, wrap-your-legs-around-the-other-person squeezes with a big ol' smile on his cute little face. Some of his hugs are now avoidance hugs--he asks for a hug to get out of doing work or to get closer to my earring that he wants to rip out, or to reach something that is too tall for him, but I vote that those creative, manipulative hugs are an indication of intelligence and resourcefulness.
Todd and I have always loved Matthew. He is our son and we are privileged to have this special spirit entrusted to us. But we now LIKE him as well. "Horrible mother!" you might be thinking in your mind. I promise you that if you were to walk a mile in our shoes over the course of the last few years, you would shed that criticism in favor of compassion. Not that we need pity or anything...just that we have had a bit of a rough year as we have been dealing with phase after blasted phase of behavioral challenges, aggression, biting, impulsivity, total oblivion to others, poop (ah, the poop issues), and other fun adventures. And though some of those things haven't disappeared and are still a daily trial, the rewards are so much richer because Matthew can, through his hugs, tell me he loves me.
I got a note from Matthew's kindergarten teacher today as well...she said this: "Just wanted to let you know that Matthew had such an awesome day! He was using SO MUCH language and putting two words together. When he came into my room he checked scheduled, went straight to circle and said “pick fish, song fish, pick fish.” I reminded him to sit down and he sat and clapped his hands (which right now is his way of raising his hand-working on it to get all the way up in the air) and he was the first to pick his song. He was also making a lot more eye contact and seemed very connected with the daily activities." Luckily, we are seeing lots of the same--rich eye contact, more connection, using multiple words together. I could not me prouder of my little dude!!!
I'm singing with you Matthew!!!!