"Last week my wife’s family was over for Passover dinner. And one of my nephews had just had a birthday last week. My brother-in-law said “Whose birthday is next? Whose birthday is April 22nd?” Matthew’s hand shot up. And it was a very deliberate act; not just random, like some of his responses are to things. He knew what they were talking about, he knew what was being referenced, he knew what the date was and what it represented to him.
We never knew that! We never even thought to know that. And here it was. He did know it.
You have to accept what your child is. Matthew’s not going to throw baseballs with me or play catch every day. That’s not going to happen. But those few times when I can get him outside and say, “Matthew, let’s go out and throw the football around, ten times.” And he does it with me ten times. That’s a win. I love those moments.
Last night for his birthday, Matthew – for the first time – sat down and opened his presents. He had an interest in opening his presents. He didn’t really acknowledge them much; but he sat down and he opened them. My wife and I just looked at each other (cheer)… and those are the moments you have to accept as your wins. It could be the smallest little thing.
Whether it’s a puzzle he learned upside down, or he can now tell you what eight minus six is, those are what you focus on, those are what you accept. You don’t look for the things that aren’t going to happen because he’s not a typical child.
And if you can accept that, that’s when you start to really see people and families grow when they have a child on the spectrum, because they are really able to enjoy those moments when they do come – and not focus on the things that they’ve lost. When you can do that, life is just going to be a series of wonders for you that other people would take for granted at this point because their child has been doing those things a hundred times, today alone, let alone the past several years. The first time Matthew does it or the second time or the third time he does it, those are all wins. And those are what you jump onto and those are what you embrace and those are what you love."
—Michael, Matthew’s father
MEET JAIMIE MARCH
The bond I feel to the kids, the staff, and the school is challenging to put into words. Every moment of connection is something that I treasure, because these kids relate in ways that are genuine.
I love this picture of me with Kevin because it shows that autism can equal affection.
Kids like Kevin have taught me about perseverance. About continuing to work for what you want even when the world doesn’t seem to “hear” you. Imagine not being able to ask for, or access what we want. Not being able to say “I’m thirsty” or “I forgot to eat breakfast this morning” — How frustrating!
These kids have taught me gratitude for the easy way I learned to brush my teeth and write my name. For being able to get by in the world with only a few stumbles as opposed to mountains to climb every day. They have taught me to look at things in a new way.
— Jaimie March, Executive Director
May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, Wilmington, Mass.