When your child has autism, the successful completion of even the smallest task is cause for a celebration. There are no small accomplishments in autism world.
It’s with tremendous pride that today I can shout from the rooftops that my son, at age 8 1/2, has learned how to properly put his seat belt on!!!
To a typical parent, that is probably one of the silliest sentences they have ever read.
To an autism parent? It is HUGE.
That one seemingly small action is the direct result of not hours, but YEARS of visual learning, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and motor planning coming together. An autism parent understands and appreciates all that it took for everything to come together for my boy to perform that one task. You see, we know that one task is broken down into so many tiny parts and they all need to be done in perfect sequence for that “one” action to be completed successfully. Years of therapy have taught my son how to reach across one side of his body and pull the seatbelt down long enough to reach the buckle. He had to know the correct way to slide one part of the strap under one part of the seat, untwisted, and then he had to know to take both straps and slide them under the other side of the seat to click the buckle together.
Then he needed to pull the lap part of the belt tightly so that it was safe and secure.
For the record, I know adults who still don’t put their seat belts on correctly. My son can now teach them a thing or two!
He started asking me a couple of months ago if he could try putting his own seatbelt on. Now, if you know anything about me at all, you know I am a safety freak. Too many years spent treating trauma victims in the ER turned have me into Sergeant Seatbelt. I don’t care if you are two days old or one hundred and two years old- if you don’t wear your seatbelt, I won’t move the car. So when my little boy asked if he could try to put his own seatbelt on, I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified. But I let him try. Today, I knew he really had this task conquered when I noticed the strap was twisted – and so did he!!!! Without me having to say a word, my little guy said “oh wait- hold on a minute” and unbuckled, untwisted, and re-secured his seatbelt. I watched silently as he pulled it snugly across his lap, looked up at me and said “let’s go, mom” with a huge smile on his face.
There are no small accomplishments in autism world. They are all huge because we know how hard our kids have to work to be able to do what most others take for granted. This was indeed cause for a celebration, autism style… we hummed the Star Wars theme song the whole way home!