Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's all about me

I'm a little obsessed with potty training.

Ryan is the oldest of my friends' kids who is still in diapers (or pull-ups, whatever, they're still diapers). I am perhaps too keenly aware when I see a tiny little two-year-old running around the playground in big-kid underwear. The pediatrician says that being in diapers up to age five is normal, and in autism chat rooms moms are often seeking advice on training their seven- or ten-year-olds. Intellectually I understand that, but I've come to see this particular milestone as a conspicuous sign of his developmental delay - something that everyone can see that highlights that he is different.

There are plenty of areas in which he is behind. He can rattle off the dialogue from every book we own, or from any of a dozen episodes of Sesame Street, but he has trouble formulating an answer if you ask him what his name is. His sentences rarely include verbs; we're working on getting him to use the phrase "I want..." He still struggles to get dressed and undressed, and has to be prompted on the order of operations every we tell him to take off his shirt. At age 3 3/4, he's only just hitting the defiant "terrible twos" stage (Miss Susan assures me this is a sign of progress).

So with all these delays we're working on, there is no good reason I should believe he is supposed to be ready to leave diapers behind. I imagine moms of neurotypical two-year-olds looking at him, not knowing what his issues are, looking down on me for my inability to housebreak him as quickly as they did. That's absurd, of course: I'm sure I'm the only one sitting on the park bench thinking about that. But while his speech delay and social awkwardness are only obvious after you pay attention to him for a while and know what you're looking for, the pull-up sticking out from the top of his pants is like a little blue flag, announcing, "Look at the freak! This one's not like your three-year-old!"

So we work on potty training, like we work on everything else. And I try to hide my own anxiety, like I do about everything else. And I know that someday he will catch up to the other kids. And I try to remind myself how much progress he has already made. And how much progress I have made. And how much farther both of us need to go.

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