It was an awkward silence. My mind raced to find something appropriate to say. I need to be supportive and upbeat without belittling the enormity of their situation. But what could I say? I have no personal experience from which to draw. The awkward pause continued.
The conversation had started with this young couple with all the standard pleasantries. Where are you from? What brings you to town? What kind of work do you do? Then it inevitably turned to talk of the family and their little girl. Through the course of the discussion it became apparent. I’m no doctor and I haven’t been trained as a therapist, but it was glaringly obvious from their descriptions and my experience in the autism community.
Their precious little daughter was…neuro-typical.
Everybody talks about how quickly children grow up. But their child was surely destined to zoom into hyper-speed in short order. I thought of all the developmental milestones that would whiz by them without their even knowing they existed. They would be like other parents I have known, totally oblivious to the incomprehensible miracles happening in their child day by day.
“Did you see what he just did?” I said excitedly to one dad. “He was holding his sippy cup in his right hand and he crossed the midline with his left to pick up his toy!” The dad shrugged his shoulders and turned back to the game.
“That was impressive,” I remarked to a mom. “She completely understood and carried through with the 3 step instruction you just gave her.” The mom looked back at me blankly.
Parents of typically developing kids just have no idea what they are missing. They haven’t a clue how amazing it is for little eyes to take in the busy scene in a store, pick out an interesting object, desire to share their find with another person, and point that person in the right direction with an extended finger. They have no concept of the wonderful complexity of motor planning required for a climb up onto the back of the sofa. They have no idea of all the intricate processes that kick into gear to receive a spoken word, evaluate what was said, formulate an appropriate response, translate that desire into intelligible language, and vocalize it in a socially acceptable format.
For some children the milestones just click by at an ever increasing rate. And some parents don’t even know what they’re missing. I feel sorry for parents who miss their child’s astounding and yet daily achievements.