Yesterday, I met my son, Brandon, at the beach, and then we went out to dinner. We sat on a bench watching the sun getting ready to set, and I brought a few healthy snacks to share. I asked Brandon if he would like some trail mix, and he excitedly said, “yes”. I handed him a small bag, and I heard nothing. Brandon does not say thank you unless prompted to do so. I was in a rather silly mood and when I gave him more trail mix I looked into his eyes, and I wouldn’t let go of the trail mix until he looked at me. At first when his eyes met mine he didn’t know what to do, and then he said, “Mom you are acting very weird today.” I asked him, “Is there something you are forgetting to say every time I give you a snack? He began to laugh, and then he shouted, “Oh, thank you!” We did this several more times, and each time he replied with a thank you. I heard the words, thank you, more yesterday than in all of the 36 years he has been on the planet. I then realized this had become a game, and Brandon was having fun, and happily responding.
After we watched the sunset we went out to dinner, and I helped Brandon write a letter to his apartment manager. He didn’t know how to explain to the manager what was wrong with his broken window. When we finished writing the letter, and after reading it Brandon felt relieved.
After dinner, I drove Brandon home and before he got out of the car, I leaned over to kiss him, and said, “I love you Brandon.” There was silence in the air, as usual. We were having such a successful night that I thought I would try something different. I asked Brandon, “Do you know what I would like to hear when I tell you I love you?” He looked at me, and said, “Oh Mom”, and then he looked down and said, “I know, I know.” He sat quietly for a moment, and before he got out of the car he said, “I know what to say, I love you.” Tears streamed down my face. At first Brandon looked at me wondering why I was crying, I told him these were tears of joy. He said, “Mom, I know what to say, but I can’t get the words out.” As I wiped my tears, I watched Brandon walk away.
Helping Brandon to get the words he wants to say out of his mouth has been a struggle since he was a little boy, but I am not about to give up. I continue to see Brandon mature and develop, and he continues to amaze and surprise me. I know firsthand it is never too late for our kids or adults to change, grow and succeed.
Making learning fun seems to work well not only for Brandon, but for many of my clients who have children with autism and special needs.