Friday, February 1, 2013

The Beach




    Mikey had made it through the first year at his new school, and his teacher had planned a "kindergarten graduation" or moving-up ceremony ,as it were. All of  the parents were invited, and the children made special decorations, and helped prepare for the graduation party. It really was a very sweet celebration, and all of the boys did a wonderful job. Most, if not all of the boys would continue onto the summer program at the school, which was a six week program designed to ensure that the boys retained what they had learned and did not regress over the summer.
   I was not thrilled with the idea of him being in summer school. Normally, we would take all of the boys to the beach each day, and that is how we basically spent our summers. With Mikey in school, we would only be taking three of the boys to the beach, and I felt bad about that. We always traveled as a pack, and we would be missing him. I didn't really think it was fair for him to be at school while his brothers were playing in the sand and swimming. However, I was encouraged by school personnel to have him attend, because it was what was best for him.
    We spent that summer getting Mikey off to school in the morning, then taking the rest of our crew to the beach. By 1:00, we would have to either head home for the day, or let Mike or myself go home, wait for the bus, and bring Mikey back to the beach to meet his brothers. It was a bit crazy, but we did it.
   It was very important for us to have Mikey at the beach for a variety of reasons.First and foremost, he loved it. He loved to walk on the beach, jump over the waves, and swim in the pool. It also provided a
wonderful time for our family to be together. My parents were with us everyday, and Mikey loved to go swimming with my dad.Each morning, we would walk along the shore toward the giant rocks that marked the end of our particular beach.This had been the same beach where I spent my summers as a child, and I loved having my own kids there as well.
   Mikey had developed some different habits courtesy of autism. As I had mentioned earlier, he would clasp his hands together tightly,and hold them so  close to his face. He also jumped up and down frequently, and loved to spin. As we were walking along the beach one day, my dad said " look at Mikey,he isn't doing anything with his hands..isn't that something?" He was right. We began to notice that whenever we walked along the water's edge, Mikey would not play with his hands, or "stim." My dad, who lived and breathed for the beach and the ocean, thought this was amazing. "See, this is where he needs to be...the beach is good for him."  I am not sure why the self-stimulatory behaviors stopped, but I can venture a guess.
  I think perhaps the motion and noise of the waves, the birds flying above, the sea air, and watching the boats all provided enough sensory stimulation for Mikey, so he didn't need to engage in his regular stimulatory behaviors. School may have been helping him, but  the beach soothed him. He was in his happy place, and so were we.
   We spent our entire summer walking that beach each day, and marveling at how all of the different behaviors stopped when we were on the shoreline.....and each day as we walked, my dad would look at me and say " don't you worry, he's going to be just fine."

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