The last three years for Janey has been eventful. As most of you know, they featured hospital time, both time in a psychiatric hospital (with six horrible days of "boarding" in a children's hospital before that), and time in a regular hospital, for a very complicated burst appendix. Those stays are the big things that stand out about the last three years, but there's a lot more to think about.
|I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it's the only image I found that worked at all!|
The joy of her life, and the area where she in many ways is far beyond most, is music. She has hugely sophisticated taste in music. She knows what she likes and doesn't like, and lets us know. Although she won't perform on demand, she very often surprises us by singing a song we don't think she's heard for years. I do think she knows every song she's ever heard by heart, tunes and lyrics. Music is her joy in life. She learns far more easily when music can be part of the lesson. She loves to dance. It would be impossible to describe Janey as a person without mentioning music.
There are parts of life with Janey that are intensely frustrating, for us and we are quite sure for her. Toilet training---not there. Closer than three years ago, but inconsistent and far from reliable. Communication, especially in terms of what is upsetting her, is still very hard for her. She still often self-injures, by biting her arm or scratching her chest. She occasionally lashes out at us or others---not as often as in the past, but when she's very upset, it's a concern.
The ABA evaluation, even in their required formal language, captured a lot of what makes Janey Janey. Even the statistics---there would often be a task she did with 100% accuracy on one date and then with something like 20% accuracy on a later date. The notes say that much depends on her mood and her level of arousal. Janey in her best mood is so different than Janey in her worst mood that it's hard sometimes to believe she's the same person. Nevertheless, she's made progress, and sometimes we even see school progress carried over to home. She will ask for help when she needs it, she sometimes tells us when something hurts ("does your toe hurt?), she responds with "yes" and "no" more readily than she used to.
I think almost the more important three year re-evaluation is that of Tony's and my attitude. I don't think any parent could go through the scares we did with Janey without an intensification of how much we treasure her. We are so glad she's here with us. We worry less than we used to about progress. We accept that much of how Janey is is how she will remain, and that is fine. On the less positive side, in some ways, we are tired. We still so very much wish there was more respite available. It's the week of both our birthdays, and that is always a reminder that autism, or Janey's brand of autism, never, ever gives you a break. She comes first. We don't have a life outside of caring for her during any non-school hour. We love her so much, but she consumes us. We can accept that, but I think we could be better parents to her with more help. There are parts of life with Janey that would challenge the patience of a saint. And then, there are parts of life with her that would delight and enchant anyone.
It's been a true privilege to share Janey's life with all of us, and to be able to be a part of your lives. I will continue to do that for as long as I can, hopefully for the rest of my life. It's the way that, with the restraints life with Janey has placed on me, I can try to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. I think of all the others living this life often, and I hope all of your re-evaluations contain some elements of joy.