Pamela surprised me today several times in very promising ways:
1. Pamela is loosening up on the "sacred hour" which has been an institution around here since before we started RDI. She used to be quite adamant about watching television between noon and one, kicking David out for the duration. She only allowed exceptions for travel and for expected appointments away from home. I have noticed her loosening up on the sacred hour for the past two weeks. Today, David called me and said, "Mom! Look at the time." It was 12:25 and Pamela was soaking up rays on the back porch.
A few minutes later, Pamela happily checks to see if we have GF/CF chicken broth so she can make alphabet soup when we get back from shopping.
2. We drove to Walmart and picked up a couple of things. My mind was on all the things I had to get done today and it was Pamela who pointed out some girls' underwear with Sponge Bob, Dora, the Little Mermaid, etc. Although it was a short interaction, I felt she was truly sharing joint attention with me. Later, we looked at the books and she pointed out different picture books to me.
3. Then, a mini-miracle happened. We were heading over to the self-checkout and bumped into a kindly lady I know from church. Pamela has been staying home from church, and I am hoping she will choose to go with us one of these days. She had not seen this lady in ages, so I introduced her as J.B.'s mom (J.B. rented a house to us for 18 months and Pamela knows his name and who he is, so this was my way of scaffolding interest). The lady said, "Hi, Pamela, I’m N."
Pamela smiled and said, "Where are you from?"
N. needed me to repeat Pamela's question and said in a very engaging way, "Why, I'm from Manning, just like you." She patted Pamela on the arm.
Then, Pamela said, "I was born in Alaska."
"Alaska? It's so cold in Alaska."
"Yes. Where's David?"
I told N. that David was at home. Then she said, "Was David bad?"
Pamela shook her head and said, "No. David's not bad." Pamela likes to cheer people up after an argument (which we did not have with David today), so she gave me a hug.
Then, N. said, "Why Pamela, I just love hugs!"
And, Pamela hugged her. Pamela asked to go sit on the bench and I agreed. N. told her goodbye and Pamela waved to her!
4. And, if that wasn't enough, Pamela had brought a thick stack of old photographs in the car. While I was driving, she would make comments. Usually, she talks about the state, time zone, and/or Chinese astrological sign for the year the picture was taken. Today, she made very declarative comments with very little of the static.
She looked at a picture of a bunch of us midshipmen jumping into the pool with full dress uniform. Pamela said, "Swimming pool." So, I said, "Did you see what we were wearing?" She laughed and said, "Yes, clothes!" (I am one of the people in the blur . . . after the final parade before graduation, we all jump in a pool to celebrate because we no longer need those uniforms . . . crazy tradition, huh?)
Pamela was very fascinated by a picture of Hawaiians standing on boats at the Polynesian Culture Center in Hawaii. She said, "Boats." I told her that her dad took Grandma and Grandpa there when he lived in Hawaii. (This was before he and I met!)
She showed me another picture from the same place. I told her that Lisa met her husband Johnny at the center when he worked there. Last summer, we met Johnny and their beautiful daughter Leilani for the first time. (Lisa and I met in high school in Newfoundland.)
She showed me a picture of Steve boogie-boarding in Hawaii. She asked me, "Where's that?" because she truly did not know. I told her that her dad was at a beach in Maui, Hawaii. She did mention Hawaii Standard Time, but then asked for the city. I told her, "I don't know!"
She asked where this picture of Steve and I near a flooded swing-set. I asked, "Where do you think?" She said, "Sand Point." I said, "No." Then, she realized it was another island with tundra, "Adak, where you were born!" Again, she did not know the location of this shot.
She looked at this baby picture of herself and said, "Eating food." I said, "Yeah, you made a mess!" (Wasn't she a cutie?????? I can tell this was taken in December because four red advent candles are in the forefront!)
Then, she looked at this picture of Steve's parents' house in Louisiana. I know she remembers the house, but there was snow on the ground. She asked, "Where's the house?" I said, "In Louisiana. In 1989 Grandma and Grandpa had a crazy snowstorm." She smiled and said, "Uh-oh!" I laughed and said, "Yeah, God sent a big surprise."
Pamela saw this picture of her aunt and herself near a pool. Pamela said, "That's Florida." I said, "Yes, that was Aunt Essie's house. She’s in heaven." (I took this picture when Pamela was fifteen months old. When we got home, we took her to that fateful vaccination (MMR and DPT on the same day). What a mistake! She was already having health problems with never ending diaper rashes and ear infections. Her illnesses and autism ramped up after this!)
She showed me this picture from Disneyland and said, "Rocket!" I replied, "That's when we took you to Disneyland!" (We visited my sister in San Diego and hit Disneyland on the way back. We had just started the process of getting Pamela evaluated. We did our best to fake enjoying the trip for Pamela's sake. How could she notice our heartbreak?)
She showed this picture from Germany, "It's a church!" I replied, "That's when we saw Oma and Opa in Germany." (Pamela was four on this trip. She was afraid of Mom's canary and hid behind the couch a lot. She did well on the trip except the jetway terrified her and the people smoking after dinner triggered an allergic reaction in her. David was a baby, and his great Oma just loved him because he would play with the ball of yarn sitting in the basket!)
Then, she held this picture of David and her in the plastic pool. She pointed, "David's in the pool." I said, "Oh, yes, you were playing." Then she said, "Ariel." I said, "David was so cute." She pointed to his shirt and said, "Baloo!" (Pamela attended special education classes in the local public school. Steve and I were on active duty in the Navy.)
She saw this picture of her on a slide and said, "Florida!" I said, "Yes, that's when we moved to Connecticut!" (We visited my sister in Florida on our way to Connecticut. Both kids enjoyed playing with their cousins, who are about the same age as my kids.)
She looked at a picture of her and David on farm and asked, "Where's that?" I replied, "Allentown, near Philadelphia." Then she said, "Five more states" because she realized it was during our move to Connecticut in 1995 after Steve and I left the Navy and began homeschooling.
Then, she saw a picture of David at a playground. She said, "David's sliding!" I said, "That looks like fun!" She said, "Just like gravity!" (Pennsylvania had several wonderful playgrounds, and we had a pool, swingset, and climbing trees--a kid's paradise. They spent many happy hours playing in our backyard.)
She commented on this shot of the kids doing a homeschool Christmas program. Pamela said, "David's signing 'Silent Night!'" I said, "He did such a great job!" (We attended a fantastic co-op in Pennsylvania. The kids loved going to classes and all of the field trips and other activities. It was a blast!)
She showed me this mystery road and asked, "Where's the road?" I told her I didn't know but said the date was August 2001. Then, she told me, "That’s Alaska!"
I felt like this conversation was much closer to the joint attention we are seeking because many of her comments were declarative. When she did ask, she truly did not know or was confused. When I did answer with the name of the state, Pamela did not fall into her typical patterns (state, time zone, Chinese astrological year). She did not ask me to tell her what she already knew in a static conversation. She made different comments based upon the pictures themselves.