The first special treat of the day was seeing Janey see her brother William. William is a junior in college, and Tony went to pick him up and bring him home from Christmas while Janey was asleep last night. First thing in the morning, we took her into his room. It took her a minute to register she was really seeing him, but once she did, she was thrilled. She hugged him, over and over and over, backing up after each hug to look at him with a huge smile and total delight.
Soon, it was time to dress Janey up for the next treat of the day. A friend very, very kindly gave us tickets to see an autism-friendly performance of The Urban Nutcracker, an updated version of the classic ballet. I didn't tell Janey about it until it was time to get dressed. The part she might have been most excited to hear was that my friend Maryellen was going with us---one of her favorite people in the world. I dressed Janey up in a dress with a sparkly skirt, and tried to manage her hair---it's at a hugely awkward inbetween stage while we wait for it to grow out. She looked pretty anyway!
Janey was extremely cheerful as we drove to the city and parked to walk to the show. She seems to love the city, the lights and excitement and bustle. We need to take her there more. We got to the show near starting time, and Janey happily sat down to wait. When the curtain opened, it was to a dancing, stomping, drumming number. She was overcome! She almost exploded with happiness and excitement. She also did something I haven't seen her do out of happiness before---bite her arm. She didn't bite it hard enough to hurt, but more it seemed almost as a way to keep from screaming with excitement. I've read recently that sometimes things like arm biting are comforting to kids with autism, and this was one time it seemed that way, a bit.
|My happy, sweet girl|
Autism friendly performances (at least the two we've been to!) are a great idea. It's wonderful to be able to relax and know that I don't have to worry about Janey's behavior. She needs frequent breaks, even when she's watching something she loved, and we got up and took her out several times. When she came back, she was happy to watch for a while, including at one point for about 20 minutes. There was a scene with "real" snow" falling on the stage, and Janey said "It's snowing!" I loved watching her face as she watched the show.
The most special part was during the intermission, when a little boy came up to Janey and said "Hi, Janey!" It turned out he's in a classroom next to hers at school. Her reaction was incredible! She was THRILLED to see him. They held hands for a long, long time, smiling at each other with huge smiles and laughing. They even had a little conversation, something that sounded like it was taught by ABA---he said "How are you?" and she said "I am fine!" Then later he said "What's your name?" although he obviously knew her name! She didn't answer that, but seemed to love to be asked. I was in tears watching them interact. It was by far the most I've ever seen Janey interact with a child her age. It felt like that rarely seen thing---a Christmas miracle.
After the show, we had a quick meal, along with Maryellen. The whole time (and indeed the whole day), Janey was happy. At one point, Maryellen and I said with amazement how we would not have dreamt that a day like this would have been possible a year ago.
We went after that to pick up Freddy from the bus, also coming home from college. Janey was very happy to see him too. On the way home, she said to him "Want to play your game?" by which she meant, we figured out, a game where Freddy chases her and says "I'm gonna get you!" I was really struck by Janey calling it a game, knowing that it's something associated with Freddy that they do for fun together. We've never called it a game, and it's cool she understands what that word means enough to use it there.
|Freddy, Janey and William|
The rest of the day was terrific, too---having all the kids at home, joking around, and Janey in the midst of it, happy and laughing. It was a day I want to remember always, and reflect back on when days aren't as bright. It's my Christmas present, one of the best ones I've ever gotten.