Leo is going on a plane today.
That is huge news, and speaks to how wonderfully he is doing in general. Air travel is something we'd written off after a departure lounge meltdown fourteen months ago, and while his aggressive behavior escalated from the summer through the winter of 2008. On January 1, 2009, we put him on a very low dose of Risperdol, and it was a switch-flip. Almost as though all his senses all been previously misaligned, and he could now focus on things other than trying to process each moment.
Since the beginning of 2009, Leo has been increasingly been so content, so confident, so affectionate. He is engaged with his environment, and his family. We are locked in a vicious positive-reinforcement cycle: he behaves well, we shower him with praise and affection, he likes that and wants more, he repeats and expands on the positive behaviors.
Some mornings we now have to wake up our former dawn-responder alarm clock. He usually gives me a sleepy, "Mommy, get in the bed," and if I do lie down, he enfolds me in a bear hug. It's delicious.
His good mood had meant minimized aggression both to himself and to others. During provoking situations, he will start to lunge as he used to, but now pulls himself back or hesitates before he makes contact. That is fantastic self-control. I'm impressed and proud.
He has lots of spontaneous and new language, and this past week especially it has been bubbling up furiously:
- "Dora is on TV, Monsters [Inc.] is a video!"
- "Stand up, Mommy"
- "I'm hungry!"
- "MOVE!" [proper imperative form].
- "I need to run to the potty" (spontaneous potty run!)
- "Turn on TV," then "Turn it OFF" (when done).
- "Move your arm" [to me, proper spontaneous pronoun]
- "Want to lie down in the bed wif Mommy."
- "Lie down, tickle my belly"
- "Jump with me" (on trampoline)
- "Wear your crocs" (when he wanted Seymour's shoes).
- "Cut my apple."
- "Don't spin around" (a current stim is spinning during transitions between activities.)
He has also been doing really well with color and shape matching activities, pre-sight reading word-matching, dot-to-dot, and maze activities. Therapist V, his home ABA therapist/respite provider (who also works at a local autism school), has been instrumental in helping Leo identify new activities' goals in cases where I could not figure out how communicate them. Once he understands them, Leo has been mastering these visually-based tasks very quickly. Like many other kids with autism, he is smart as hell, but cannot always express that intelligence through traditional learning routes.
This is a boy who is ready to fly.
The girls and I are already at our destination at my mom's beach town home, and will be picking up Leo and Seymour in couple of hours. Leo has been talking about airplanes and airports for a couple of months, so I hope he enjoys having his wish fulfilled.
I can't wait to see how our attempt at a full-family vacation goes, because we miss taking our kids to stay with relatives and seeing the cousins -- all the cousins -- frolic and bicker and play. We're keeping this experimental Leo leg of the trip brief and controlled -- one-way, short flight, less than 48 hours at my mom's place, then driving home. If Leo can't tolerate being away from home, we can leave.
But I'm feeling optimistic. We're staying next to a park, can walk to a beach, I've brought Leo's favorite videos, toys, and stacks of xeroxed activities, and stocked up on his preferred foods. There is a trail behind my mom's house; if Leo gets antsy, we can go for a hike. He will still need vigilant supervision, but my mom and my little brother and Seymour will be here, and my girls are mostly self-reliant and hanging out with their teenage cousin Nicole -- Leo's need for a 1:1 adult companion shouldn't exhaust any of us, even if he is less than content here.
Have a happy flight, sweet boy.
(Mali & I planted these dahlia & gladiolus bulbs in March, and have been entreating them to bloom for weeks. This picture was taken the day before we left on our vacation; the flowers are of course about to explode. At least we got to see some of them bloom.)