A few days ago, Miss J and I were sitting on the couch watching television together. M was off playing in his room. When Miss J and I both heard a rustling in the kitchen, we abruptly looked up, unsure of what the noise was.
From our place on the couch, we peered into the kitchen. It was M who was making the racket. Neither Miss J or I spoke or moved. We silently watched M.
M first opened an upper cabinet.
He took out a stack of plastic cups and removed one from the stack.
He placed the stack back in the cabinet and shut (rather, sort of slammed) the door.
He placed the cup on the counter and opened the refrigerator.
M proceeded to take out a nearly-full gallon sized container of milk.
He twisted off the cap, poured milk into the cup, slightly over-pouring and spilling onto the counter.
M haphazardly dabbed the spill with a towel.
He loosely replaced the cap and put the milk container into the refrigerator.
After drinking the milk, he put (threw) the cup into the sink and went back to his room to play.
Instead of offering up a step-by-step explanation of what M did, I could easily write, "Max poured himself a cup of milk today." I could have, but it would not have done justice to what Miss J and I had just witnessed.
M had poured himself a cup of milk. Miss J and I watched, jaws to the floor, dumbfounded.
Some people may not immediately understand how significant this is.Parents and teachers and therapists of kids with special needs will immediately recognize how amazing this is.
A task as simple as pouring oneself a cup of milk requires the firing of thousands of neurons. Like watching a beautiful dance, the brain and arms and legs and wrists and fingers must all work in sync together for the entire process to seamlessly come together.
The body must maintain balance as an arm reaches up high in order to pull open a cabinet door. Two hands must work together to pull down a teetering stack of cups. One arm must perform the task of opening a refrigerator door while the other arm performs a separate task of grasping a jug of milk. Tiny muscles of the hands must grip the cap of the milk and twist it off. Eyes and muscles and hands must be coordinated to pour milk into the cup.
The process requires cognition. Motor planning. Control. Strength. Balance.
These are the very things that M has been practicing since infancy. Since his first therapy session at the age of four months.
Years ago, when we were given the bleak prediction that M might not walk or talk, we would hold up cards with pictures on them, hoping that perhaps M might point to a picture of what he wanted (pointing being another important developmental milestone.). Mr. A and I were overjoyed when at the age of two M could finally make the sign for "I want." At three, M could tell us "Ma." ...his word for milk. Years passed and slowly M was adding steps to completing the sequence. At age seven, he can now say, "I want milk, please. Help me, Mama."
At nearly seven and a half years old, M was able, for the first time, to complete each step in the sequence independently. Without asking for help. Without wanting me nearby. Without even having a need to tell me what he was doing. Like any other thirsty boy his age, he got up and got himself a drink. His movements may have been slower and a bit messier than those of a typical child...but he did it.
He did it. This was extraordinary. And the irony is that M's extraordinary accomplishment of pouring a cup of milk by himself made him so plainly ordinary. In our lives, when ordinary comes along, we catch it like a golden ring and hang on tight.