As all parents of autistic children know, progress with our kids can be glacially slow. It's there, but it's like watching water drip into a bath tub. If you constantly stare at the tub, it's nearly impossible to see it accumulate. Coincidentally, watching water drip into a bath tub is one of Audrey's favorite hobbies. But that's another story entirely.
It can take me literally years before I realize that things are different than they used to be. When Audrey was a toddler, I took her out in public plenty, but there were certain places that I would never go with her. I would take her to Target or the grocery store, but not if I had any actual shopping to do. At Target, I'd let her play in the toy department and stim on the toys. At the grocery store, she liked the florist area and feeling up the produce.
She would never sit in the cart calmly and let me get any shopping done. I always waited for the weekend when I could leave her at home with my husband and do my shopping in peace. Ironically, parents of typical toddlers have somehow not figured out this system because there is never a time when I am in Target and do not have to step over a tantruming typical child. Who I give a little kick to as I step over. Oops.
A few weeks ago, I had a friend visiting from out of town and we were unable to work out a time to meet for lunch when Audrey was in school. My friend said that she wanted to see Audrey and asked why we couldn't do it on a Saturday and have her along. Why? Uhhhh. Because I'd like to enjoy my lunch? Because I want to get away from her? Oh, alright.
I packed the Leapster and made sure my iPhone was fully charged and brought her along. And you know what? She was great. We ended up having a 2 1/2 hour lunch, and she only played with the Leapster for a small part of that time. I think she's actually getting bored of the Leapster, which is yet another miracle in and of itself.
You know those kiddie place mats and crayons that they give you at restaurants? She used to never even look at them. She would actually get annoyed and shove them aside, letting me know that she was not to be diverted from making me lose my will to live. Now she even knows how to do those word search puzzles on them. Who taught her that? Yeah, not me.
Towards the end of the lunch, another family came into the seating area where we sat. One of the kids was a teenager with Down Syndrome, and he was wearing some kind of an Olympic style medal around his neck. Audrey pointed at him and loudly proclaimed "He's got a medal! He has to go!" Apparently, there wasn't room enough in that restaurant for two special needs champions.