So there we were, in the garden of the King's Arms Tavern, ordering lunch.
I am very proud of my boys (did you notice?). They say 'please' and 'thank you.' They can order their own food, and they eat what they order. They stay mostly in their seats, and when they do get up, they aren't disturbing other folks, they are looking at the birds and the plants in the garden. Joey tells the waitress how good his lunch is. Andy shows off his crayons.
It is one of those moments when, at the time, the idea of Joey being "disabled" is left aside, not even considered. That he is autistic is always present, but not really thought about, either. Joey is being Joey, Andy is being Andy, and we are having a lovely lunch together under the grapevines of the garden trellis. It is only now, two days gone, that it occurs to me:
Joey is one of the hardest working people I know, and look at how far his work has taken him! Like other children, he learns to read and write and do math and that sort of thing. History and social studies is a weak point for him, hence the trips to Williamsburg and other living history exhibits and museums. But he has also had to learn how to speak. He has had to learn how to self-regulate in sensory-rich environments. He has had to learn to interact appropriately with strangers. Things that other kids pick up on as they grow up and experience the world, Joey has had to be taught, has had to learn just as other kids learn reading, math, or science- with lessons, with experiments, with carefully constructed experiences and situations and controlled responses. He's had to practice skills that other kids seem to "just know" (which means they were taught at a younger age, or could use and synthesize models of behavior they observed on their own).
And the results of all that work? A lovely lunch in the garden of the King's Arms Tavern.
Most people I would say this to would reply, "well, sure" and give it no more thought. Or they would look at me funny, because don't all kids have to learn this stuff? Shouldn't good behavior be normal? What's so special about eating lunch? And how do you explain to these people the work that went into Joey learning to eat that lunch? The work and support that was invested in helping Joey be able to walk over to that restaurant, sit in the garden, and be able to focus on his food, bite it, eat it? How do you explain what a huge accomplishment this was?
Well, I've found you don't. You folks- well, the folks I know and who kindly comment on this blog- understand what this meant to us- to Joey, to Andy, to me. But for other people, who "just don't get it"? I've found the best thing to just let them know what a gorgeous day we had, and leave it at that. Leave out the hiccups, the small moments of impending trouble that were thwarted and salvaged, and just say, "What an amazing lunch we had. I really love taking my guys on trips." After all, this is perfect truth- and all the information they need or can handle.
But to you guys... look at how far my little buddies have come! I am so proud of them.