My very hungry caterpillars

He built a small house, called a cocoon, around himself. He stayed inside for more than two weeks. Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out and…”

My son has a new favourite book. You have probably guessed by the start of this blog that it is the famous book by Eric Carle called ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. Isaac isn’t able to read yet and isn’t interested in me reading the book to him either, but he sure loves looking at the pictures…especially all the food pictures.

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He loves to grab my hand and put it on the pictures and have me tell him what they all are. The fact he even recognises these pictures as food is remarkable progress. Just two weeks ago he showed interest in a food catalogue with full colour photographs of meals. And we got excited then. Now he can recognise food from just a drawing! The possibilities for communication are now very clear. Like the very hungry caterpillar in his favourite book he is clearly going to be motivated by food. So together with his new speech and language therapist we have come up with this:

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Little photographs of his favourite snacks laminated and tacked onto the place he would usually find them. No longer can he just go and help himself but, like the caterpillar who had to work hard to nibble his way through the cocoon to break free, he is going to have to work hard to give us a visual before receiving his snack reward.

There are so many parallels between both my children and the very hungry caterpillar. I feel like they have both been hidden in a cocoon for almost 5 years. As we approach their fifth birthday they are both starting to nibble free from cocoons that have held them back. Isaac has learnt to point, recognise his favourite logo, climb and slide down a slide all on his own, hold our hand when walking for brief times, turn when his name is called, and even get his socks and shoes when we say we are ‘going car’. The list of words and phrases he understands is growing daily and although there is still no speech he is trying hard to communicate in other ways. He is sharing more and more moments with his sister too. And she is really helping him by naming what he is pointing at for him.

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He has settled well at school and got his first certificate recently for understanding the music that means it is circle time and responding by leaving what he was doing and going to circle time all on his own. When your child has such global developmental delay and classic autism you don’t ever take events like these for granted. Every moment and milestone achieved is an oportunity to celebrate. Every certificate is worth framing:

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Every self-propelled movement of a bike is worth photographing:

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Even if the bike did have to be specially adapted to suit his needs and the pedals removed. He still climbed onto it on his own and pushed it with his feet along the garden. Nibble by nibble he is getting through that cocoon and pushing his way out…

Meanwhile Naomi is learning to relax a little more and smile more.

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She is walking further and talking more everyday. She is finding enjoyment in helping out at home and playing in the garden. She has mastered doing 20 piece jigsaw puzzles on her own, memorized over 30 books, eating a few more different things and enjoying spending time with her family.  She knows her colours, numbers, shapes, can now walk up and down stairs independently and is growing in confidence. Everyday that cocoon is getting nibbled and nibbled away so she can break her way out.

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It doesn’t matter that both my babies have autism. It doesn’t matter that they both have different areas of developmental delay. Or that Isaac has neurofibromatosis type 1. For the last five years I have been feeding them so much. The hungry caterpillar ate chocolate cake, ice-cream, pickle, cheese, salami, lollipop, cherry pie, sausage, cupcake, and watermelon all in one day (too much like Isaac!). My children have had therapy, time, prayer, patience, support, education, love and lots of professionals helping them and it is working. They are no longer little caterpillars anymore (not that they are big and fat mind you, just growing and learning so much). They have stayed inside for a long time now. It felt like Isaac was trapped in his own world for years.

But their time has come now. The hole in that cocoon is now big enough. They have pushed their way out. And look what they have transformed into:

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Beautiful butterflies! Shame they still eat like the very hungry caterpillar though…

He was a beautiful butterfly!”