HELP EMMA'S DREAM'S COME TRUE
Jumping Over the Puddle
The last three or four weeks have been rough. The whirlwind that summer is here in Maine, and some fun and antics with our neighbors here in the condo complex: people moving out and moving in, and other things that happen sometimes as a part of life. Emma hasn’t exactly dealt well. We had a few monster of all meltdowns, sleeping troubles and general bad attitudes that I chose to let drive me crazy.
In the end however, it was just a good case of Jumping over the puddle. What’s that you ask? Do you remember, when you were little and out stomping around in the rain, or after a rainstorm and you find a great big puddle to jump over? You back up to get a good running start, and you leap over the puddle and soar through the air…. So fun!
This happens with kids on the spectrum. They "back up" and then take a leap forward. The only problem is I don't always see that that is what is happening…. until she soars over the puddle.
That’s just what happened this past weekend at the Fall Regional Taekwondo tournament in Cape Cod, MA… thus the sobbing mother beside ring # 2! Emma has been doing a great job with these tournaments, with a fair amount of support from me, but this tournament was different. From the beginning, Emma wanted to be on her own. She wanted to walk by herself to see the vendor tables. She wanted to hang out with her Taekwondo school mate… alone. This is good. Previously she has been my Velcro child. Something was up…. I was beginning to smell a puddle ahead.
Well, what happened when she competed was nothing short of amazing. The students lined up and are lead to their ring by one of the judges. When they got to the ring, a young, smiley judge bent down and started talking to the girls in the ring.. rapid firing questions: “What your name? How old are you? Are you going to make some friends today?” Well. To my delight, Emma jumped right in, looked the women right in the eyes, and answered her questions, one after another, like any other kid!!! She competed with flare, and then, when receiving her trophies, she shook hands and MADE EYE CONTACT with each of the 4 judges in her ring. Fantastic! So connected, so there, so natural, so comfortable. So typical… so like every other girl in her ring!!
No one there knew we have had eye contact goals for her for the past ummmm, 7 years. No one knew how hard she and we have worked. No one knew what we have been through to get to these moments. I lost it. Tears of joy streamed down my face. A woman asked me if I was ok, and I just said I was so, so proud of my girl.
I knew in that instant she was jumping over the puddle… and boy, was she jumping high and far.
Many thanks to all who have and continue to support Emma and her dreams.... I wish each of you could have been there to see her soar... you are the wind beneath her ( and our) wings, and we will always be deeply grateful.
Way to go Emma, Way to go!
Well, a little over week has gone by since I last wrote. It's been an exciting one, and I wanted to share with you what has been going on! Well, we launched a Facebook Page, and in just a week, we have over 200 people who are fans of Emma's Dreams. It is so exciting, and so incredibly touching and helpful to know all those poeple are out here rooting for our girl!
I have to say, this past week has been a great one for Emma. She has done some amazing things that are so exciting to us. Emma has had a real break through with her eye contact. Eye contact, for those who may not know, is one's ability to connect with others by looking into their eyes when speaking and or requesting something. With most children with Autism, their ability to make eye contact is greatly impaired. This has definitely been a great challenge for Emma. She has always, in some circumstances, been able to give a small glance in the direction of a very familiar person. Occasionally she could do a little more. But when we really looked at what she was doing, we realized she hardly ever made eye contact. She was solidly in stage 1 of the 5 stage Son-Rise Developmental Model ™. So her goals have been for the past three months to make any eye contct at all when requesting or greeting people.
So last week, Emma invited her next worker to come on shift and myself to join her and her current worker in her playroom. They had made a "movie" using pictures on the wall. We were the audience and we sat quietly while Emma told the "Holloween Tale". Half way through I was crying tears of joy: Emma was performing the movie, and making sustained eye contact as she was speaking with ALL THREE OF US, checking back and forth just as any of us would do if we were speaking to three people. It was so natural and so amazing, and such a huge leap forward for Emma! She did this consistently for at least 4-5 minutes! The rest of the week was peppered with comments like," I couldn't believe it.. Emma turned all the way around and looked at me to tell me she needed to use the bathroom.... and she kept looking at me the whole time she was talking"! This is such a big milestone for her, because eye contact is the window to connection with others.
Thank you to everyone who is supporting Emma wth your donations, time, thoughts and prayers!
Ellen is a counselor, educator and Biomedical and Son-Rise mom extraordinaire. She has many years of experience in public, private, "typical " and special needs educational settings, as well as extensive training as an Option Process® Mentor Counselor through The Option Institute in Sheffield, Massachusetts, sister organization of the Autism Treatment Center of America
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