We had company for supper here on Sunday - Bill's Dad (Pappy), a good friend of ours, Joe (aka "Precious) and Pastor Carrie.
Bill got a tank of gas (propane) for the grill, fired it up and cooked burgers, hot dogs and also, some polish sausages for a slightly different taste treat. Meanwhile, Mandy made a very nice pasta salad, with pepperoni, black olives and cheese chunks using the tricolor rotini pasta along with a container of broccoli-cauliflower-bacon salad. I fixed a big bowl of macaroni salad, baked beans and made a chocolate cake iced with brown sugar frosting.
After Pap and Joe had gone home, Mandy, Pastor Carrie and I were seated around the dining room table and we got to talking about how things have changed in just the short period of time Pastor Carrie has been here.
It will be a year in mid-July since she arrived on the scene to take over the duties as the minister to our congregation and I'm seeing as well as feeling she has a good "take charge" attitude but not overly forceful -just enough to actually motivate folks.
But most of our conversation centered on Kurtis and the changes she -and we -have seen come about in him since she first encountered him -and Maya.
One of her earliest encounters with Kurtis came about at a time when he was definitely not having a good day. It was the Monday last September when he had his tonsils and adenoids removed over at Dubois Hospital and when, much to Mandy's surprise, Pastor Carrie arrived there early in the morning, sat with Mandy while the surgery was taking place and then, helped Mandy and the nurses to cope with him after the fact -holding him down while the nurses tried to re-insert his iv's, tried to help get him somewhat restrained then too so he couldn't continue to try to pull the ivs out either. And in general, since she spent the bulk of that day with Mandy and Kurtis, she just provided the moral support, a bit of comfort and peace for Mandy as they all struggled with a very upset, frostrated and frightened little two-year-old boy!
Since that episode (and the subsequent hospitalization that week when he refused to drink anything) Pastor Carrie has spent a lot of time around and with Kurtis -at the hospital that week and with several visits here at our house, joining us for supper and entertaining both the kids very much after the meal.
As a result, Kurtis has become very friendly with her -making up to her early on. He knows her -recognizes her and yesterday morning, when Mandy was having a bit of difficulty at first to get him to wake up so she could get him ready to go to church, she asked him if he wanted to go see Pastor Carrie and that did the trick. He jumped right up and eagerly alloeed Mandy to get him dressed and ready to go.
When Pastor Carrie first met Kurtis he had no vocabulary -nothing at all! No way to communicate with any of us as to his wants or needs. It wasn't until around January/February that he finally started to pick up using a word here and there, using sign language to let us know he wanted "MORE Milk" and sometimes, by leading us to things he wanted.
The vocabulary was slow to arrive with him and no, he hasn't made progress with it as quckly as Maya had as he is still often very hard to understand. You really have to be around him pretty much all the time in order to know what it is he is trying to say in some cases -like "helicopter" -which he recognizes, loves and his pronunciation is sort of like "a-dopter" -which since we now know that is his word for that kind of aircraft is easy for us to recognize now.
But, considering a mere 9-10 months ago, he couldn't say anything, had no means of making his wants and needs known to us, to see him now and his responses is most certainly a miracle.
Since he can say a goodly number of words, identify various people, things, etc., he has become much easier to live with now. Much calmer. Okay, that doesn't mean he doesn't still get really angry and upset at times, pitch a royal hissy fit or a mega meltdown, but those things are fading somewhat -getting a little toned down if/when they do occur now.
He can identify his Dad's pickup truck by the sound it makes when he is coming down the road as well as his Uncle Clate's truck too. And in each case, he will run to the loveseat in front of the bay window, climb up there and watch which ever person it is as they park their vehicle out front and all the while, he is calling either "Daddy! Daddy!" or "Un Quate" which is how he pronounces Uncle Clate's name.
It's amazing to watch how he and Maya often interact these days too. Yes, she is still "Miss Bossy-pants" with him and sometimes, she isn't overly friendly -likes to push him, trip him and even hit him at times but still and all, he is always watching her and picks up a lot from doing that too. (Yeah, some of what he picks up from her we have to try to undo her teachings at times but then again, that's pretty much the norm for siblings in a fairly close age range, isn't it?
Last night, as we women sat and chatted, the kids were romping around, playing relatively nicely as a matter of fact, together. Maya even sat with him and "read" him a book -pointing out various things to him and in some instances, he pointed out stuff to her and called them by their proper names too.
When it came time for Pastor Carrie to leave, Maya was asked if she was going to give Pastor Carrie a "goodbye hug" and she initially refused. Okay, it's not the end of the world for her to get contrary like that so we ignored it. But, when Mandy asked Kurtis if he wanted to give Pastor Carrie a hug bye-bye, he stood and thought for about 5-10 seconds and then, ran right over to her and gave her a great big, really bonafide squeeze of a hug!
And, as he did that and Maya watched, saw us applauding Kurt's actions, she then came forward and said she wanted to give Pastor Carrie a hug too! Yep! Monkey see, monkey do, ya know -except around here sometimes the monkeys trade places too!
This morning, Kurt's speech therapist was here -worked with him for about an hour or so and he responded very well to her. She even had some games which she had Maya playing them with Kurtis in an effort to help both of them absorb the concept of sharing and playing fair, etc. For a good portion of the session, the kids did play nicely, followed direction and such but then, as so often happens, the good things come to an end. Today that came about when Miss Maya decided to allow her bossy side to take over and she first hit Kurtis with his book, then she hit Sam -Kurt's TSS aide -with a book and when Roxanne, the speech therapist picked her up to put her in time out, she kicked at her. From then on and through out much of the day, her behavior has been in the bucket -not very nice at all and then, all of a sudden, she will get really sweet and nice -allowing the worm to turn, ya know -and be very loving and helpful to Kurtis.
The thing is here all kids act like that at the ages these two are right now and especially when the other child involved is a sibling. So how do you separate what behavior is the "normal" for a three-year-old or a five-year-old and what behavior is the autism surfacing?
Sometimes, it is really difficult to determine the difference there.
We know the autism certainly is still present -and yes, accounted for but more and more we also see more of the skill sets showing up in both the kids that are also present in NT children as well. Some -maybe even many -of the autism traits will most likely stay with these kids but perhaps will only be evident in a kind of "toned down" fashion or something like that. But as long as we're seeing that both of these children are learning, absorbing things that will ultimately help them to function better as they grow up, then I think they will both do quite well down the road from now.