Merry Christmas from the Burts family! We hope you and your families had a great 2009. We have had a busy year, but a good year as well.
SB is now 4 ½, and continues to make astonishing progress in school and in therapy. At the start of school in September, his teachers decided that he was ready to “graduate” out of the autism preschool class and move into the developmental delay class. This was great news! I believe with my whole heart that the Fairfax County Preschool Autism Class (PAC) has been the most instrumental part of SB’s progress, and I will be forever grateful that it was available to him, but we were thrilled to learn that it was time to move on. In his new preschool class, he spends a lot of time learning to interact and play with peers, which is very challenging to kids with autism. He continues to amaze us with his memory skills, and he is starting to read and write. I no longer worry about his language or cognitive development, and am confident that the “academics” of kindergarten will be a breeze for him. He will most likely be placed in a mainstream kindergarten class with an aide or some other sort of assistance, but his placement won’t be decided until May of 2010. At home, we have started incorporating play dates in his therapy sessions to try to help him learn how to play with peers. Although learning new things often takes him a little longer than the average kid, he eventually picks up most things he is taught. I’m confident that with a little help, he can learn the intricacies of social interactions. We keep him busy with other activities as well. He is in his third year of swimming lessons, and he even goes to a Book Club once a month!
I think I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief when AB turned 2 in April and let myself stop worrying. He is very verbal, very social, and is not showing any signs of autism. He is certainly showing signs of brattiness and defiance, but I think these are normal traits of being 2! We are toilet training as I write this, and I look forward to being finished with that and saying good-bye to diapers. It has only been in the last month or so that SB and AB have finally discovered each other, and realized that they like playing together – at least sometimes! It has been really fun for us to watch them enjoy each other.
The kids had a few fun adventures this year. We spent our third annual Memorial Day at the beach in North Carolina with Charlie’s family. In April we went to Chicago to visit my family – AB’s first time on a plane! We took our first real family vacation in July to Philadelphia. We visited the Please Touch children’s museum and the Sesame Place amusement park. In November we took the boys to see a live performance of the Wiggles in WDC. They watch the Wiggles on TV so much that seeing them live was like seeing the Beatles live – but preschool style!
My biggest accomplishment of 2009 was completing a half-marathon in August. It almost killed me, but I finished. I ran with a friend who is encouraging me to do more, so it probably won’t be my last. But no promises! I am in my 9th year as a clarinetist with the U.S. Air Force Band, and my 13th year in the Air Force. I can retire in less than 8 years, but am trying not to count the days just yet.
Charlie had 2 major events this year. The first was his 40th birthday! But more impressively, he also completed his 2nd marathon, and was very happy with the amount of time he shaved off since his first marathon. He is in his 17th year as a band director. Where does the time go?
My last 2 holiday letters have been quite dramatic, possibly annoying, maybe profound, but hopefully touching. I told Charlie recently that I was struggling to come up with some sort of profound or meaningful lesson to share for this year’s letter. And he said, “Isn’t that a good thing?” I guess he’s right. Although this year was certainly not what I would call an “easy” year, it was definitely less challenging than the previous 3. I can only hope that my family will continue to thrive, and that I will learn and grow from all of my experiences, good and bad.
We hope your holidays are fantastic, and that 2010 brings you much peace and joy! Merry Christmas!