“I just called to remind you about the medication, because it’ll be out in five days.”
That was Nigel calling me, not the other way around. It was not I reminding him about his meds, but him reminding me. And not waiting until they were completely gone, either. Looking ahead, noticing that he’d be out in a few days, and doing something about it. Planning. Yes, really. I was so pleasantly surprised, so stunned, that there was a definite delay in my response as I took in the magnitude of what he had just done. He noticed, he thought ahead, he called me.
Those of you (probably most of you) who had read my previous blog posts (here’s one) about my son’s lack of executive function know how much this area of his development has plagued me. Not having executive function impairs his organizational skills (not only his notebook and living space, but also his thoughts and ideas), his ability to plan out assignments, projects, packing (for a trip), and chores (such room cleaning), his ability to self-regulate (including behavior and emotions), and various other areas. Executive function is a big indicator of whether our kids will have the ability to be semi-independent as adults. Last year, during his first year of high school, I got so worried about making sure that his executive function would develop that I planned to move out of state so he could attend a special school for students with autism. I figured that if it hadn’t started yet, it wouldn’t happen on its own, even with all of my untrained, inadequate attempts. But I wasn’t able to sell my house, so we didn’t move. And he’s comfortable at his current school, so I’m not going to uproot him, even if I could sell my house. In fact, he’s really happy at his school. And after all we’ve been through, that’s worth everything. But Nigel has only two years left of high school, so it’s crucial for his executive function to start happening.
And it is. That one phone call from him has opened a ton of doors, mostly because it reminded me of his potential. Years ago, before he started talking, Nigel somehow taught himself to read at the age of three and a half. We figured, with all the books we’d read to him, that he’d studied his wooden letter blocks enough to recognize the letters from the words in his books. So he started spelling with his blocks to communicate. I remember the first time I realized this. I had walked into the living room and saw him sitting in front of four blocks, as if waiting. When I looked closely at them, lined up in front of him, my spine tingled. He had spelled “WOLF.” I asked him if he wanted to watch Peter and the Wolf, one of his Disney videos. He didn’t answer, because he could not, but he immediately got up and sat on the couch, expectantly looking at the TV. And I thought, My son is a genius. He can’t talk, but he figured out a way to communicate. And he didn’t start talking for another two years. Expressive verbal communication was very difficult for Nigel to develop, but, over time and with a lot of therapy, he did. Likewise, executive function has been very difficult for Nigel to develop. But he is. All of my untrained, inadequate attempts while homeschooling him. All of the repetitive trials by his special education teachers. His own maturation. It’s all been accumulating, all gradually coming together. I see it happening, like little words spelled out with wooden blocks, and my head is swimming with possibilities.
I praised him for remembering to call, for thinking ahead. I didn’t go overboard, because you can’t make a big deal out of these things in front of him, you know; you have to act like he’s been doing this all along. I assured him that I had picked up the refills for his two medications and that first thing in the morning I would be FedExing them to him at his dad’s house, 700 miles away. We’d done this in previous summers during his visits there. I had remembered and everything was ready to go.
But this year, I wasn’t the only one who remembered. My teenage son is developing executive function. And maybe I’m biased, but I still think he’s a genius.