Maybe typical kids grow up too fast, but autism has allowed me to watch my baby grow up in slow motion. Each developmental stage seems to stretch for weeks or months longer than expected, letting Ryan's childhood linger.
In moments of frustration, I often wish the process would hurry itself up. How many more years will I have to remind Ryan to pull up his underwear first and then his pants? How much longer will he insist on spitting his food on the floor? Will he ever learn to answer yes/no questions, or to ask why? When will he make an effort to assert his independence so he can feel like a big kid? Will he ever make friends or ask for playdates?
On better days, I am grateful for the slo-mo childhood. I'm totally fine with the fact that Ryan doesn't know about talking back. I'm glad he's not yet like that four-year-old we saw today who insisted she was old enough to walk through a busy parking lot without holding hands or having her mother hold on to her jacket sleeve. I have no problem knowing Ryan has never wasted a gallon of milk in an attempt to make himself a snack. He has never tattled on another kid, requested some impossible-to-find gift, or told someone that he hated them.
Watching this slow growth makes me appreciate each tiny step as it comes. I notice the subtle changes in Ryan's artwork. Just before we had Ryan evaluated and diagnosed, his typical preschool classmates (age 2 1/2) could all draw faces with the features in the right places, while Ryan had no idea where to put the mouth. By age 4, he could position all the face elements perfectly, and even draw a reasonably-recognizable person. And now at 5, he can do some representational drawing (if pressed to do so):
|Here we see a tree growing in the grass. In the tree there is a yellow bird and a nest with three blue eggs.|
Even though Ryan's development has been relatively glacial, on good days I'd still say he's still growing up way too fast.