When our son, Tom, was seven years old he began taking instrumental music lessons.†† Because he has a good ear (like many people with autism, he has perfect pitch), he could learn to play both clarinet and piano without too much trouble.† Because he has no stage fright (another autistic gift), he was able to play at recitals with no problem.
But he simply could not learn to read music.† Period.
Year after year, we and his teachers worked with him on reading the staff, dynamics and note value.† Year after year - bupkus.
This year, Tom is 14 - and it's only this year that he has actually demonstrated a solid ability to sight read music.
That's 7 years of 1:1 tutoring to learn a skill that most people can learn in just a few months.
Had Tom been unable to play musical instruments at all, or if he had disliked the experience, we would surely have given up.† But we didn't - and the outcome is that, after seven long years, the skill finally emerged.
Music is just one of many, many skills that have taken a very long time to learn.† And while music is a pleasure - and, to some, an extra - many of those slow-to-emerge skills have been much more critical to daily life.
It took years to toilet train.† It took years to learn handwriting skills.† We're still working on keyboard skills.† Bike riding is an ongoing challenge.† It took over a year to go from two-handed to one-handed bowling.† Math is a challenge, and number sense continues to be a slow, ponderous slog.† I could continue, but I think you get the idea.
What I've learned over the years is that our son isn't incapable, but it's easy to mistake his delays for inability.† Others may learn faster, but Tom does learn.
In a fast-moving, competitive world it's not easy to stay the course.† We're constantly frustrated, and occasionally tempted to throw up our hands and say "forget it, he just won't learn this stuff."††† It's impossible to avoid comparing our child's progress to others' progress and feel that we're getting nowhere.† But experience has taught us that discouragement will pass - and if we stick with the process, we're likely to see significant progress.
Sometimes it takes what seems like forever to see even a glimmer of change.† But then, all of a sudden, as if a developmental fairy had come along and tapped him on the head with her wand, Tom will wake up with a new skill.† And we realize that all those days, weeks, months and years of practice have paid off.
They say patience is a virtue.† When you're parenting a child with autism, it's also a necessity!