Aug 30, 2013 0 Share

Change for the Better


Butterfly changing from caterpillar in cocoon through several stages.
iStockphoto

Like many people who have ASD, Cody has a strong aversion to change. He’s very routine-oriented and very geared toward structure and organization. He’s been my little creature of habit—or at least he has been until now.

Cody has made subtle changes in his life on his own off and on. For instance, for weeks on end he may want the same breakfast every day—say a pancake and sausage sandwich. Then without warning he’ll ask for cereal and orange juice and that will be his new breakfast for the next few weeks. But that’s been about as bold as it gets. Until recently, that is.

I guess I really started noticing Cody’s interest in variety progressively growing stronger when he started day habilitation services a few years ago.

As you may have read in my previous articles, we had sort of a revolving door for staff members who came and went. Each time a staff member would leave and a new one replaced them, it would be a big adjustment for Cody until he was used to them enough to let them enter his comfort zone. But after a year or so it wasn’t such a big deal anymore. But when I heard the program coordinator was leaving Cody’s current program I thought for sure this change would be a major issue.

The program coordinator and Cody had a great rapport with each other. I thought this would obliterate the affinity that Cody has developed for the program. But to my surprise it didn’t! And Cody seemed to take pleasure in meeting the new coordinator. He greeted the guy with a warm smile, shook his hand and said, “Nice to meet you!” I couldn’t believe it.

This was a change Cody not only handled with complete grace, but it was clear that his level of self-confidence had skyrocketed from where it had been for so many years. I really saw more maturity in Cody than I had ever seen before. And here I had expected an anxiety attack that would be worthy of publication in the most esteemed psychology journals, but it didn’t happen. Oh wait, yes it did. That was me having that attack. But Cody managed the transition just fine.

Over the last six months I’ve watched my son’s level of independence soar as well. He now clears the table on his own after meals, without being asked. He is doing much better about taking on hygiene tasks on his own. His dental checkups have actually been a pleasure to go to. He’s making more effort to complete his shower with fewer prompts. His social interaction has increased. He’s making friends at his day program and he’s always smiling when I pick him up. And he’s making good decisions when picking out his clothing for the day. He picks out clothing that is both weather-appropriate and coordinated in a tasteful way.  

Cody’s language skills are also improving. He’s becoming more verbal about letting us know if he doesn’t sleep well or if he doesn’t feel well. This has been a major hurdle for him. Getting this kind of information from him in the past was almost impossible.

But he’s also becoming more outspoken about things he sees as a problem or things he doesn’t like. He often barks at his nana to use her cane when he sees her without it. And the other night when Bill asked him where he got the soda from, he told Bill, “That’s none of your business!” So sometimes the attitude that comes with this new found courage has to be curtailed a bit.

Could it be that all of the situations I saw as troublesome with day programs in the past were really situations that were instrumental in boosting Cody’s skill level and self-esteem in such a profound way? I have to wonder now.

Couple those experiences with all that he’s accomplishing with the help of the staff at his latest program and it does nothing but affirm and strengthen my belief that change for the better is always possible.