Today is a milestone day. A milestone day is a day that you never forget. Milestone days are memorable because of the achievement of an important goal or the passage to a new and exciting stage in one’s life. Some of my past milestone days marked my graduating from high school and college, my marriage, buying a home, and the birth of my beautiful boy.
I suppose that as parents, it’s natural for us begin anticipating and celebrating milestone days in terms of our kids’ achievements. As the parent of a child with autism, I find that this process of anticipation and celebration is focused on milestones that may be less memorable for parents of typically developing children. Today, MJ picked up his jacket, put it on and zipped it. Now I’m ready to party.
Although this milestone was highly anticipated and we had been working at it consistently, it was very difficult to actually envision MJ zip his jacket independently. His IEP has reflected our desire to achieve this goal for quite some time–with classroom teachers showing him how to put on his jacket and school occupational therapists helping him to manipulate a zipper. MJ’s progress toward meeting this goal had been slow until we decided to make it a priority at home as well.
About five months ago, we asked our home therapists to use some of their limited time with MJ to work on donning a jacket. We decided to allocate more resources toward meeting this goal, and it has now paid off. Last week, our home therapists reported that MJ was just about zipping his coat on his own, and this morning I did something that I find very challenging: I stood away from him and resisted the natural urge to help him out. Not only did he put on his jacket independently, he also made it look easy.
This milestone was a long time in coming and there are others that will require even more patience and dedication from everyone involved. I do know that MJ may never experience many of the milestone days that I had envisioned for him. Still, I’m thrilled about this one and I’m grateful to those who helped MJ.
And I’m particularly proud of my son.