I want to say something about this guy. It’s been a long time since I’ve written much about him and sometimes I feel bad about that. I used to be so good about documenting his life, challenges and the progress he made. But life happened and here I am in catch up mode.

He’s turning 14 in a few weeks and that seems unbelievable on its own. Like all teens, he continues to grow – physically and mentally. He now has a 5’6” frame and is built like a linebacker. Oh how I wish he could play football. If any kid was built for it – it’s Stone. He would absolutely thrive on the physical contact. He’s always loved it – and still does. When I playfully bump his leg or arm with my fist he says “Daddy hit me!” He wants more of it – not less (don’t worry, I don’t comply).

But what I want to talk about is how this guy continues to inspire me on a daily basis – and I’m not kidding. I won’t lie, there are times when his challenges and limitations test my patience and I want to scream at the world how unfair Autism can be for those who have to live with it. It’s still difficult for Stone to understand and process questions that seem so basic to most of us. He usually doesn’t give a correct answer when you ask “where did you go today?” or “what is your teacher’s name?” The “W” questions are confounding – but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He often guesses at what he thinks is supposed to be the right answer and sometimes when we ask the question slowly and repeatedly he eventually gets it.

But he never gets mad. He never gets upset. He never cries. He just keeps trying and sometimes when he realizes he’s not going to figure it out he just laughs – and tries to make us laugh too. Because what’s most important to Stone isn’t whether he gets things right or wrong – it’s how other people around him feel. He is obsessed with making sure we’re OK (indeed, he’ll ask “are you OK?” repetitively to the point we sometimes have to tell him to stop saying it).

Progress comes in different steps and at different speeds for all of us but what encourages and inspires me most about Stone is how determined he is to continue to grow, learn and to keep TRYING – no matter how hard it may be for him.

It wasn’t long ago when a haircut was still excruciating for him – to the point where he would cry and flinch through it. But as he’s grown as a teen he was determined to make it through a haircut without crying. In September he made it through without any tears for the first time – although he still flinched and constantly said “all done, all done” until it was complete. Huge progress for sure but nothing like this past weekend when I took him in. This time he sat completely still and quiet – the point I forgot he was even getting a haircut. And when he was done he was not only relieved – but proud of himself. When he does something he knows we want him to do he likes to say “good job. I’m proud of you.” And we repeat it back to him. Because we ARE proud of him – in so many ways.

He is a rare gem. A drama-free teenager who is willing to go where we want to take him. So unconcerned with external perceptions that he still wants to hold hands when we walk together in public. And I do hold his hand. It’s our connection and it’s like no other I’ve experienced in life – nor did I know could exist.

There is so much more I want him to experience in life and I hope that the development will continue enough that he can do all of these things. But in the meantime I appreciate him for all that he is every day – and all that he’s trying to be in his own special way.

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