It was thirty-one seconds. Just the blink of an eye.
The video sent to me by his teacher seemed ordinary enough. A tween inching precariously to the edge of a mat, then taking the plunge and jumping.
It seemed like an ordinary few seconds of film.
Except it wasn’t. It was sheer determination. It was accomplishment.
It was progress.
Today, after 10 years of myself, his teachers, and a bevy of physical therapists working with him, my severely autistic son jumped off a mat independently and nailed his landing. I held my breath as I watched him gain confidence with each attempt, saw his pure focus, his desire to try again without needing a prompt. I admit my eyes welled as I saw him land his jump independently for the first time, the hint of a satisfied smile flickering across his face.
I think of my friends’ 11-year-olds, some in soccer, some landing the lead in their school plays, some taking on leadership roles. My son’s accomplishment is no lesser, nor greater, than these. I think for the thousandth time how grateful I am that I once taught, that I learned early on the joy of taking a child from where they were to where their potential permitted them to be, the value in making progress on one’s own terms and no one else’s.
I admit, I watch the video again.
I long to hug him and whisper praise in his ear, and know I will show him the video when he gets home so I can do this in context. He cannot share his pride in words, but I know it exists simply from that brief smile that crossed his handsome countenance. I am so proud of his courage, his burgeoning independence, his tenacity of spirit.