Monday, January 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bantam17

Remember the family photo shoot last fall? Well, I'm going to share some of our selections in a series of posts describing the members of our family.

And since today happens to be Bantam17's birthday, I'll start with him!

First, some background on this remarkable young man. As our firstborn, we weren't sure what to think when, by age 3.5, it became clear that he had a significant speech delay. We had him evaluated by a specialist, who diagnosed him with Pervasive Developmental Disorder--Not Otherwise Specified, High Functioning. It's a diagnosis that was popular at the time, but it's too general to be helpful. We recently had him re-evaluated and we're told that, based on the fact that he had a speech delay, High-Functioning Autism is probably the more accurate label for him than Asperger's...but as this article explains, the three labels are interrelated.

From an early age, he showed unusually creative play skills, compared to the other kids in his developmental preschool class. He'd combine objects from different sets to set up a scenario, like a restaurant or a store, using some of the items in unusual ways to create a needed item like a cash register. As he got older, he created all kinds of playthings with boxes or old containers, duct tape and markers. And of course, he loved sets like Duplos and Legos—an interest that continues to this day, as you can see from his blog.

When he began to read, new worlds were opened to him—worlds in outerspace, Middle Earth and elsewhere…and the world of words. He loves learning new ones and trying them out in conversation. (“Want to venture off with me?” he asked a younger brother once.) He’s always been an excellent speller, and writing has always been a strength as well. Math is more of a struggle for him, but we are so thankful for his facility with language.

For someone with autism, Bantam17 is unusually high-functioning socially. He has always been able to draw kids of all ages into his play schemes, whether it was “restaurant” back in preschool, or “knights’ training camp” with neighborhood kids in the back yard, or AirSoft re-enactments with his high-school buddies. God has been so good to provide a few of those--one especially--and adult friends as well, who are genuinely interested in him. And he’s always been loving and responsive with his family, which is such a blessing.

After five years in public school, Bantam17 has been home this year, and it’s been nice having him around more. He’s so helpful with Chicklet5 and Bantam2.9, especially. Those three are the earliest risers, so on most mornings, he eats breakfast with them and cleans up after them, freeing me to get organized for my day. He also spends Friday nights and Saturday mornings babysitting them, while I take the three theater kids to rehearsals without having to worry whether Father Rooster is home or not. Bantam17 enjoys preparing for these weekends by going to the library and selecting an age-appropriate movie, which he watches with them. They all enjoy this time together.

Living in close proximity in the basement with Bantam12 and Bantam8, there are bound to be disagreements, but that’s been better since Bantama17 started taking Concerta this fall. And what always unites them is…Legos! He and Blondechick15 are learning to understand one another better since he’s been home too.

What are his future plans? You can read about them in this post on his blog. You'll see there are lots of possibilities!

So Happy Birthday to a young man who’s had many obstacles to overcome, but whose heart is true and upright and loving. You bless us all by being part of our family, and we are so proud of the young man you are becoming. Hold tight to God, as I know you will. Don’t be discouraged. God has a plan for you. Do your part, and trust Him with the rest.

We love you!


Dana said...

Happy Birthday to him and what a nice tribute to your son!

Brea said...

Happy Birthday to a seemingly wonderful son ... what a great post about him!

~Brea, the tinymama

Islandsparrow said...

Happy Birthday to your boy!

Jenny in Ca said...

Lovely post, mamma hen! Tell him happy birthday for me.