Merry Christmas from Sam and James

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Back in April this year, Sam and I travelled by bus along the aptly named Wild Coast of South Africa, heading from Cape Town towards Durban. In one of the very early blog entries from the trip  I recorded our interaction with a young couple on the bus.

Ed and Lana, about to be Australian citizens from Israel and Belgium respectively, lived in inner Sydney not far from our home. They were so understanding of Sam’s behaviour and make such an effort to engage and involve him that I was yet again deeply touched. On the bus to Coffee Bay Ed asked the group where we would go in time and place if we had a time machine. Nominations included Ancient Rome, the Renaissance, the building of the pyramids and Nelson Mandela’s release.

‘Where would you go back in time to Sam?’

‘1992, in California.’

‘Why?’

‘To see Bill Gates releasing Windows 3.1.’

Ed and Lana thought that was awesome.

Sam, Benison and I caught up with Ed and Lana last week and went out for dinner near our house in Annandale. It was great to see them again, and also illuminating to see how they perceived the changes in Sam.

When we met them on the footpath of a shopping strip, Sam was very excited to see them again. ‘I am seeing Ed and Lana again!’  

Lana was taken aback. ‘Sam, you are so tall!’

Sam grinned broadly. ‘Yes, I am.’

The five of us strolled up the street looking for a place to eat and chatting about Africa. When we sat down at a pizzeria, I directed Sam to go up to the counter where orders were placed and order the food and drinks for the five of us.  Arrabbiata pasta, pesto pasta, garden salad, margarita pizza, a Sprite and water for the table. Righto, off he went to the counter and successfully completed the transaction.

Benison was still getting used to this. Ed and Lana looked on with raised eyebrows. This was a very different boy to the one they’d met on Wild Coast.  Back at the table the conversation flowed. We reminisced about Africa and, as seasoned travellers, Sam and I gave Ed our recommendations for his next trip to Africa; prolonged reciprocal conversation.  Ed and Lana observed this all with interest.

Psychologist and developer of Relationship Development Intervention, Dr Steve Gutstein, has recently shifted his focus from relationship development in autism, to also include an emphasis on the development of a sense of self. He discusses it here.

It is this sense of self and also self-belief that we’ve noticed in Sam since our return. It isn’t only his speech that has developed, although this change has been commented on by everyone who knows our boy. He believes in himself enough to go to the counter, make the order and know he has done it correctly. As we finished our meal, he announced he wanted to go home. It was dark now and our house was half a kilometre away, across a main road that required crossing at the lights at a busy intersection. He had never done this before.

Sam believed he could do it, and I believed he could do it. ‘Yes, you can go, just be careful at the lights.’

Benison turned to me. ‘Are you sure?’

‘He’ll be fine.’

Ed looked at as both as Sam took off. ‘Amazing.’

So the trip, with all its trials and tribulations seems to have been worth it.  And we got to see magnificent Africa along the way. If you haven’t been there, book your ticket!

Sam, Benison and I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a safe and adventurous 2016.

PS The photo doesn’t do it justice but it’s a reproduction of the personalised Christmas cards we sent our this year, designed by my very clever sister and all round fabulous person, Linda.  Check out her business, Boodle Designs here.