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Exactly two years ago, we dropped our son off for his first day of center-based autism therapy. I took a picture of my little four-year-old wearing a backpack that was nearly as big as he. My boy looked so small on that day, which feels both like yesterday and another lifetime. As difficult as some of our days can be, we lived entirely in survival mode two years ago. I remember my desperation in finding help for C – and for our whole family.
Tonight I took my son to soccer practice and watched him smile widely as he ran across the field. He followed directions, answered questions, interacted with his peers, and thoroughly enjoyed himself.
At bedtime, he got himself dressed, peacefully navigated a disagreement with his sister, talked to a loved one on the phone, and went to bed nicely.
We often collect data on our special children, analyze their goals in meetings, and discuss their progress with doctors. Those things are important and necessary.
But there are aspects of our children that cannot be analyzed with data. Progress isn’t always measured on paper. Sometimes it is a new interest, a response to a social situation, or a new food. Sometimes progress is a smile or a conversation.
Sometimes progress is the giant grin on your child’s face when he is independently participating in something he loves, and the feeling you get as you remember how far your child has come.
Our children work hard every day to learn how to handle social situations, acquire life skills, cope with anxiety, and achieve educational goals. But it’s the people who walk alongside them for whom I am eternally grateful. Sometimes I wonder if they realize the profound impact they make in children’s lives. In our family’s life.
Progress isn’t always measured on paper. Sometimes it is measured in moments, years, and families.