Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Land of I Can

Isaac is more like you than not.  He needs a place where he can honestly achieve and feel the pride of knowing that he accomplished something.  Isaac needs to know that he matters.  We all do.  We all need a place where our abilities outweigh our clumsiness.  We need a place where we can try and our efforts are rewarded by success or at least progress.  We need a place where we can achieve.  We need to look around ourselves with pride and shout "I Did It!"

The first casualty of Isaac's diagnosis was his potential.  The label of autism brought with it a litany of things that Isaac would have difficulty achieving and a fleet of dreams that we as his parents watched sail out of our lives.  His early childhood was spent in therapy centers and classrooms.  I remember rushing about to get the children ready to take Isaac to his therapy appointments three and four times a week.  He was surrounded by dull cinder block walls and a mundane repetition of "B B Bubbles go Pop Pop Pop".  It was killing my spirit.  I cringe to consider what it did to his.

Isaac struggles with academia.  It is not his bent.  Language and social situations are difficult.  Traditional schooling and therapy sessions are a necessary part of Isaac's life but they will never be the central part of his accomplishments.  Honestly, they are not meant to be.

Isaac found the freedom to succeed in the woods.  He has found pride and accomplishment as he tames trails, rides in a boat, finds treasure and shares picnics.  Isaac has found his "Land of I Can" in the wilds of the outdoors.  He has found kindred quiet spirits amongst the rangers of the parks we have explored.  Those that safeguard the natural spaces have long known their healing qualities.  There is ready acceptance from those who nourish their own spirits with the diversity of the wild places.

We are freshly back from Spring Break.  We spent it in the gentle mountains of South Carolina.  Sam and I knew it would be good for us all but we were dumbfounded at how great it was for Isaac.  He made connections we hadn't heard before.  He used words to share with us.  He commented.  He smiled.  He laughed.  He proclaimed "We did it! Yea!"

Isaac dictated a poem under the stars beside the cabin at Oconee.  It was short and to the point but poetry all the same.  "Stars.  Bright.  Goodnight."

Isaac made connections about fishing.  He commented about the boat, the pole and fish.  When prodded a bit, Isaac laughed "That was fun."

Isaac even complained in very typical way.  At the end of our trip when Isaac had been without a computer or a Veggie Tale video for an entire week (He has never done that before and we were amazed that he had accomplished this feat with almost no behavioral difficulties.), we listened as Isaac paced around the cabin.  He usually repeats lines from favorite movies but these words were new.  We listened more closely and laughed outright when we heard him repeating "Hike and Drive and Hike and Drive and Hike and Drive" over and over as he made his way back and forth across the cabin floor.  We laughed and we rejoiced at the complaints of our teenage son.  He had never ever put together anything like that before.

The woods fed his language.  The wilds fed his pride and nurtured his spirit.  They lent him identity.  They peeled away his limitations.  The wilderness found his potential and became for him Isaac's very own Land of I Can.

**Special Thanks to the South Carolina State Parks!  Thank you for ushering us into the land of I Can!

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