Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Hate Regression!

If ever there was a word to detest, it is "regression".

I remember teaching Isaac to use a spoon.  I had waited for him to catch on and to emulate what Sam and I were doing with a utensil as we ate.  We had no idea about autism at the time but we were fast becoming aware that Isaac had absolutely no interest in what we were doing (eating) or how we were accomplishing the feat (using a spoon).  Instinctively, I understood that if ever Isaac was going to learn to use a spoon that I must teach him.  I was doing behavioral therapy without knowing it by first giving him hand over hand prompts to negotiate his spoon to his bowl, to scoop the semi solid spinach into it, and to transport the food into his mouth with minimal (for us) spillage.  I then moved back to holding just his wrist, then his elbow and then just pointing and reminding.  It took two months and a lot of work but finally Isaac had mastered eating with a spoon.

Finally, he had mastered this skill!  Finally, he had conquered his hurdle.  Isaac had done it!  He did it!  We did it!

And then....

One morning, I put Isaac's breakfast before him and my child looked at his spoon like it was an alien thing.  Not giving it more than a cursory glance, he began to grab at his baby oatmeal and fist it into his mouth.  I stared at my little one in shock as I watched him smear the food all over his face and hands.  Some who read this may think I was overreacting.  Babies will play.  I know...but this was different.  I saw his eyes.  He had forgotten.  All those hours of working with the child....all the practice....all the progress....gone...just gone....into a moment of regression.

Regression is a dirty word.  Humans were not meant for it.  We were meant to progress to new things and to continually look for new adventures to conquer.  And yet, here we were, my son and me.  He had certainly regressed.  He had forgotten, and we must step back if we were to reattain the skill of eating with a spoon.  We have children with the anticipation of walking forward with them as they explore new challenges.  I cannot explain to you how difficult it is to take that small hand and with your child step back.  I could not ignore Isaac's direction.  We stepped back and went to work again.  Again we worked hand over hand, again we faded the prompts, again we worked for weeks and again he achieved the skill.

I was thrilled but wary...I was beginning to  understand that something more serious might be involved with Isaac's forgetfulness.  I was frustrated that this had taken so very long.  I blamed what must have been poor parenting.  Other babies did not necessitate this much extra time and practice to learn simple skills.  I was confused at how a child could just forget a basic skill.  Down at my base, I was fearful of the shadow I saw in the distance telling me that something was different about my child.

Isaac isn't the only one who regresses.  We all do.  We find ourselves staring at the same doughnut or the same glass or the same picture over and over again.  We know better...but we forget.  We find ourselves in the same relationship making the same choices all leading to the same outcome.  We know better.  We have been here before and progressed beyond our struggle....and yet.  We regress.  The only difference between Isaac's regression and our own is the type of information we have forgotten.  We are actually more culpable for our regression than Isaac will ever be of his.  Isaac's autism steals his skills.  We know and choose to regress.  I think that makes his regression much less severe since there is no cognitive intent.

We can learn from Isaac.  There is only one way back from regression.  We must progress.  We must honestly look around and comprehend our position.  We must choose.  We must take a step and another and another.  We must choose to progress.

Where are you sweet one?  I have been regressive of late.  It's time to look around and see where you want to live.  I am taking a step forward today.  I choose to progress.  It's difficult, but worth it.  Isaac can do this.  We can do this.  We can progress ....for Isaac.

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