Merry Christmas from the Burts family! We hope that 2008 has been a good year for your families.
SB is 3½ and continues to make incredible progress in his preschool program for children with autism and his ABA therapy. Last spring we were disappointed to learn that SB would be assigned to a different school with a different teacher in the fall. He was in a great situation with a great teacher, and we were afraid we wouldn’t be so lucky again. Changes to routine are very difficult for children with autism, so we were also worried that his transition would be bumpy. Thankfully, SB’s new school and new teacher are also wonderful, and he transitioned much more smoothly than either of us could have imagined. His language skills are improving every day. When he gets off of the bus each day, I always ask him what he did in school that day, and for over a year I didn’t get any reply. But I kept asking. So I was thrilled when he finally started answering me with things like, “I played on the playground” or “I had music today” or “I ate a fish sandwich.” We are currently in the middle of toilet training, which has been quite a challenge! He knows lots of songs, loves to sing, and is pretty darn good at getting the correct pitches. We still have a lot of things to work on, but he is moving in the right direction. He is usually sweet and cheerful and is getting more fun all the time.
I have worried more about AB’s development than any mother should, constantly asking myself if every little behavior is normal or not. I’m surprised I haven’t gone completely crazy! (Maybe I have and just don’t know it.) Thankfully, AB is very social and can do all of the things that a 19-month-old should do – talk, wave, point, clap, understand words and how to use toys. He is usually a happy little guy, but we are already starting to see some “terrible two” tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. Although annoying, I smile to myself when I realize that these behaviors are normal. Through all of my worries, “normal” is what I have been hoping for. Both boys love books, Thomas the Train, and roughhousing play. Now their interaction is mostly limited to stealing toys from each other, but someday I hope they will be good friends.
Charlie is still the Band Director at Carl Sandburg Middle School, which has the largest middle school band program in Fairfax County with nearly 400 students. He has rejoined the Virginia Wind Symphony after taking some time off, and that took him to the Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) convention in November to perform. He is now training for his second marathon in March of 2009.
I continue to perform with the US Air Force Band in Washington, DC. This January I will be marching in the inaugural parade. I’m not sure who decided an outdoor parade in WDC in January was a good idea! It will probably be cold and raining or snowing. But it will be special to be a part of such a historical event. Watch for me on TV! Charlie and I had 2 overnight trips this year away from our children, which was great fun. We spent 1 night in Philadelphia seeing one of Charlie’s favorite bands, The Police. For our 10th anniversary I took Charlie to Put-In-Bay, Ohio, a small, quirky town on an island in Lake Erie.
As I mentioned in my 2007 Christmas letter, being a Mom (especially being SB’s Mom!) has taught me to be patient and to wait and pray when things in my life get out of my control. I think the challenging thing that I learned in 2008 was to accept SB for who he is. When he was first diagnosed with autism, I couldn’t wait to “fix” him. I felt that he was somehow “broken,” and that every waking moment of his day he needed to be in therapy or school or I needed to be working with him myself, because he needed fixing. I think I have relaxed quite a bit, and realized that he is who he is. It is not my job to change him, but to accept him for the sweet, smart, and interesting person that he is while still helping him to be the best that he can be. Before I became a parent, I never realized how hard that might be at times. When I discovered this, I realized that this lesson applies to AB as well. I cannot make either of my children something that they are not. I need to accept them and love them as they are.
Merry Christmas and good wishes for 2009!