A week or so ago, Janey woke up saying "You want your Bruno dog?" Translated, this means she wanted Bruno. Bruno is her cousin Zeben's dog. She last saw Bruno about 2 years ago. When he was here, she paid almost no attention to him. She wasn't scared of him---he's littler than our cats---but she wasn't interested in him at all. I never heard her say his name, and I had no idea she ever knew it. She hasn't talked about him in the past years, and we haven't talked about him more than in passing. Yet somehow, his name was stored in her mind, and something made her suddenly want him.
I've realized more and more that almost everything Janey hears, sees or experiences is stored in her memory. We might not known it, there might not be any way to readily get her to let us know she can access those memories, but it's all there.
Thinking of that, I've been thinking how important it is to keep giving Janey new experiences, new things to learn, even when it's hard doing so. I'm thinking of my trip to Maine. The sleep issues and the screaming made parts of it tough, but Janey experienced a whole, whole lot in a few days. She got to spend extended time with her grandparents, she got to climb rocks and see alpacas and go to a fair and sleep in a travel trailer. All that is in her head, somewhere. It's not lost. Some day, when I'm least expecting it, a bit of it will be spoken of by her, or she'll do something that shows me she learned from all we did.
A few more examples I saw today----Janey saw two of our cats sleeping, and said "Tommy and Ash!" She's said Tommy before, but none of us had any idea she knew Ash's name. He's the shy cat, and she has never before referred to him. Later, she was having a good loud scream. I was using my most recent strategy, which is making sure she isn't hurting herself or in the position to hurt anyone else, and then just saying "I see you are screaming. Tell Mama if I can help you" and then just waiting it out. I don't think Janey likes that strategy much, but it seems to work as well as any. However, today, she said "Want to go to the screaming bathroom?" I wrote here---link---about the Screaming Room, another screaming strategy I'd tried in the past with Janey. It involves going into the bathroom with her and staying there with her until she stops screaming. I'd given up on in a few months ago, but I'm going to give it another try, if that is what she is asking for. It was the first time I remember her asking for a specific way to help with her difficult behaviors.
One of the hardest things for me about autism is the lack of feedback from Janey. It can feel sometimes for days like I am talking to myself, like I am trying so hard to help Janey and nothing is getting through in the slightest. But that isn't true. I need to remember that. Janey is learning all the time, and I love the rare times she lets me know that.