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In Their Own Words – Counting to 100

This “In Their Own Words” is written by Cheairs Frank Graves, a Charlottesville, Va. mother of two. Her son has autism.

“Counted to 100 by himself in front of the entire class during circle time!” That is what his school note said.  I looked at the note in disbelief―my little Margaret-Ann jumping up and down next to me- voice getting louder and louder that she needs a snack. I read the note again. I swell with pride and disbelief. “Mommy, mommy, I am hungry.” Snapped back to the present I take my daughter’s hand and we head to the kitchen to get something to eat.  I get my daughter her favorite snack― goldfish with apple juice and I smile.

If someone had ever told when my son was first diagnosed with autism at the age of two that he would one day stand in front of his kindergarten classroom and count to 100― I would have thought they were crazy.  My two year old could not make the first utterance of any words, could not play with any toy appropriately, and would not respond to his name when I called to him. What on earth would make me think that he would one day be able to count to that magical number of 100?

Well, let me tell you my son has been working!  And when I am feeling hopeless about the progress he is making -he shows me the fight and determination that he has in him to move forward.  I think a little part of him is grinning inside just saying, “Mommy just you wait-when I am ready I am going to show what I can do.” I think he is saying, “Mommy you need to be patient-you need to wait.  I can do so many things it just takes me longer, but just when you least expect it I am going to show you my stuff.”  Well, show me his stuff is exactly what he did on that sunny Monday at school.

I can just see him as his teacher asks him if he wants to count today. I can see him bright eyed say, “Yes, Catherine!” and jump to the front of the circle and  begin to count…..1,2,3,4,5  I can see the determination in his face as he pauses and thinks of the next number.  I can see his classmates looking wide eyed in pure amazement as he counts higher and higher. I can see his teachers holding their breath and feel their hearts pounding with unsure excitement not knowing how high he will count.  I can see everyone’s anticipation―getting ready to clap because he has made it to 50.  Then I can feel the whirl of energy as he continues 51, 52, 53, 54.  I can see his fellow kindergartners giving him the thumbs up as he reaches 71, 72, 73, 74, 75.  Then I can feel the confidence in his words the determination that my little guy is going to count all the way to 100. I can hear his little monotone voice grow strong with every number 91, 92, 93,94, 95, 96, 97―pure concentration 98,99―He is going to do it!!! With a huge smile and a look of unimaginable pride 100!!!!  I can feel the claps and cheers for my son in my bones. I can feel the love that surrounds him from his teachers and classmates in my heart. I can see the huge smile of pride on his face!

Now I was not there on this most special Monday morning at Hollymead Elementary School, but as my friend Catherine who is one of the teacher’s in the class recounts the event to me on the phone that night I can see it all―the amazing triumphant of it all!  I get off the phone and as I sit in bed with my husband and tell him the whole story.  He does not have to say anything. The tears that fill his eyes say it all.

And now my son sound asleep upstairs. I can hear the words coming from his sweet head-“Mommy you need to be patient you need to wait. Just give me a little time” I put my head on my pillow and I close my eyes. “Ok, Dawson I hear you.  I am trying. Patients and waiting―I got it. I am working on it I am working hard just like you……oh, how I love you my sweet boy―my sweet counting to 100 little boy!”

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

  1. Cindy Paumen
    October 20, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I know how you must be feeling–my grandson, who is 3, barely talks and as we were walking down the steps the other day counted to 10 with each step he took!! By the time we were at the last step I was crying. I am so proud of my little man!!!

  2. angela
    October 20, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Thanks for sharing this story. I know the feeling of needing to be patient and waiting on your children to show progress. I am so happy for your son and just wait he will surprise you somemore and I know you already that.

  3. Diane Tufts
    October 20, 2010 at 10:14 am

    That’s so great. Thanks so much for sharing that. I used to keep a daily journal when my oldest was little – mostly to convince myself that we were making some progress, because things moved so slowly that I often couldn’t see it. On really difficult days, I’d sometimes go back and read to remind myself of how far we’d come. My son was taking anxiety medication at 4 years old because after trying everything else, a very conservative therapist thought it was warranted just to give him enough help to get started in being able to be with other kids in a classroom. Now my son is almost 15 and medication-free, participates regularly in classroom discussions, and willingly attends after school clubs and activities four days a week. There are still rough days and plenty of challenges along the way, but you remind me of where we were and how far we’ve come. Thank you for that. I’m truly happy for you ad your special child.

  4. Donna
    October 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Yeah Dawson!! And thank you Dawson’s Mom for sharing, because I know we all go through those same moments of fear, doubt and wondering what our child’s future will be. They will show us, and do it. Just learning it a bit differently, their way, in their own time.

  5. Noreen
    October 20, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    So happy for you and your son! Each week you will find something to rejoice in and you will find that your are starting to “take each and every accomplishment and praise it to the hilt” never realize what we take for granted with our NT kids. I feel I’ve learned the most from my Autistic child. He educates me each and every day with new “creative” ideas and ways to engage. He’s a challenge but the rewards, Oh the Rewards! To see a child who would have most likely be mute if he did not get his therapies and see him interacting or trying his best to, is so wonderful and gives you that sense of thankfulness of all the people who helped him along the way and renews your spirit and sense of goodwill. My favorite saying with him is “Inch by Inch, it’s a cinch” We have to take small steps (sort of reminds me of the tortoise and the hare) He’ll get there in his own time and he’s a winner ;)

  6. Casey
    October 28, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Wow, great work you guys.

  7. Diane
    December 12, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Wow…. I know you are so proud of Dawson. Thanks for sharing such a special moment. Continue to have faith and be patient, he really is so very special and full of surprises. Exciting to think of what he might do next?

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