Little Miss Sunshine
For any who don't know this already, our daughter is autistic. Or may be autistic. It at least seems very likely that she has something called sensory integration disorder. At four years old, she responds to her name, certain music, and not much else. She does not understand spoken language. She communicates in a limited way through picture cards, as well as by taking your hand and leading you to what she wants - the windmill cookies, the back door, the chair where she wants you to sit so she can climb on you...
Between her extremely irregular sleep patterns, her lack of communication, her frustrating habit of emptying anything she can get her hands on, whether it's the silverware drawer, the cereal box, the water bottle, the clothespin bin, the asparagus bed... It can be quite challenging at times.
However, as Lori mentioned recently, she has been an absolute joy to spend time with lately. It doesn't matter if I'm feeling sad or grumpy or depressed or frustrated. Ten seconds with my little ray of sunshine is all it takes to put a smile back on my face.
She wakes up happy. When you pick her up, she squirms happily. When you put your face close to hers, she giggles almost uncontrollably. She purposefully runs from room to room, in her distinctive canter, babbling away to herself. She writhes with anticipation when the school bus comes, and wriggles with delight when we get her off the bus at the end of the day. She loves physical contact with her mommy and daddy, she makes great eye contact, and she finds her own way to get her point across.
These days, she also smiles more than any kid I've ever met.
We've long been interested in homeschooling, but I have to give credit where it's due. The progress she's made with her teachers and therapists at school has been remarkable. And this isn't some fancy expensive therapy program - it's a free service through our rural public school system! They have a wonderful team over there, and they know a little magic that we don't.
We've been thrilled with the things they've done to help her make some sense of the world. And even though she can't talk, I think it's clear that she's thrilled too.
I think it's also clear that even without language skills, she knows at least a hundred ways to say "I love you."