Yesterday Hannah and I went to the library for story hour. The story time starts out with several stations of toys and activities for the kids to do as they choose. Then after the activity time comes the actual reading of the stories. Yesterday there were 17 kids plus their accompanying parents at the story time! ACK! That was a lot of people and A LOT of noise. Hannah did ok though. She mostly stayed around the margins of the group and did her own thing. She played and did activities and was next to other kids, but didn't give them much interest. Still, she shared the space without seeming too anxious and didn't automatically vacate whatever area she was in when another kid showed up to share the activity. A few times she went off to play behind the bookshelves alone where it was quieter and less crowded. I think that was a good thing. Hopefully she was self-regulating. That's what it seemed like anyway. During the stories her eyes were glued to the librarian and she shouted out the answer to every question asked. All the other kids were fussing and fidgeting and talking, but not Hannah. She only had eyes for the story. After story time officially ended, the room cleared out, but 4 parents (and their kids) stayed behind to talk. I chatted with them since Hannah wasn't quite ready to go yet. Once the room quieted down Hannah became much more animated and lo and behold she started to actually play with one of the little girls! I was practically in tears watching them. This little girl was 4 and quite shy herself so she gave Hannah plenty of space. She was interested in letters and numbers and "intellectual things" in a preschool sort of way which is also the kind of stuff Hannah likes to do. The two of them stood shoulder to shoulder at an easel discussing how to spell their names and how old they were. Hannah taught Sophia how to write the letters in her name and the two of them just stood there and wrote and drew on that board for a half hour! I could hear them giggling and see them both smiling. It was AMAZING!!!!! Hannah looked so happy and comfortable in her own skin. That's a sight we rarely see around other kids. I was thrilled. I ended up getting the contact number of Sophia's mom so that hopefully we can set up some play dates for the girls. I want to capitalize on any interest Hannah shows for another kid and this little girl seems just perfect for Hannah, just the kind of friend she needs! :)
On Monday Hannah had a really rough day. REALLY ROUGH. Hour long meltdown. Lots of hitting and yelling. Defiance out the wahzoo. Still, somehow we made it to therapy to meet with the autism whisperer. While there Hannah played with the speech therapist while I was able to talk with the woman and get some really helpful ideas about how to deal with Hannah's meltdowns and how to age appropriately teach her the consequences of those meltdowns. She behaved beautifully during my session with the whisperer, but when it was time for us to leave and everyone was gone she had another huge meltdown. She took off like a rocket away from me and I had to sprint after her down a long hallway that lead to the elementary school housed in the building. I ran past parents in the lobby waiting for their kids to get out of therapy, the receptionist, and a whole lunchroom full of teachers, aides, and students eating lunch from the elementary school. The funny thing is that in any other place I would have been getting all manner of disapproving looks and possibly mean comments as I chased Hannah down and tried to wrestle her out of the elementary school and back to our coats, but here I got nothing but acceptance. I heard comments like, "She's just making sure you get your exercise for today." "She must really love it here since she doesn't want to leave." and even a "Been there. Last week I ran down that same hallway." That just goes to show you what a difference awareness makes. Not awareness that autism and other disabilities exist, but the awareness about what it's like to live with it and manage it. I might have been in tears and possibly mortified by this public meltdown if it had been any other place, but here I didn't feel the need to explain or apologize or make excuses. I just nodded and kept on at my job of corralling my daughter. No one thought I was being rude. They just accepted. It was wonderful.
Now for my autism blogger of the day The Incipient Turvy. M is an adult living with Asperger's. He was not diagnosed until adulthood and has been spending the last several years sorting things out. He's candid about his experiences and occasionally posts transcripts of therapy sessions he's had. It's a great read and I encourage you to check him out and tell him I sent you!