Yesterday was my son’s 8th birthday. As I attempt to do on every birthday, I made some mental notes of the things he did and said that were once part of the classification “Will he ever…”

When a family finds out that their child has autism, there is a period once acceptance has found a home where the pendulum swings sharply the other way, and we try to prepare ourselves for things that our child may simply never do. These were some of my thoughts when we received our diagnosis more than 5 years ago:

Will he ever say yes or no?

Will he ever ride a tricycle?

Will he ever make any friends?

Will he ever get married?

Will he ever be able to do his homework?

Will he ever stop biting himself and banging his head on the ground?

Will he ever be fully potty trained?

Will he ever be happy? Will we ever know?

It was a mentally exhausting and torturous time, but got better when the mental anguish was finally replaced by action. It has been more than 5 years of extremely hard work, and we’re still working. ABA therapy was a revelation, and ticked off the “saying yes/no” column faster than I could believe. I still remember my mother and me forcibly pushing my son’s feet on his tricycle…left, right, left, right…so that those essential brain hemisphere connections could be forged. There were endless playdates with willing and loving friends who had kids the same age, so that he could learn the basics of human communication. Seven different schools.

Here is what he did yesterday:

He completed his homework, doing the highest level of spelling in his class and breezing through the math so he could get to the fourth grade math which was his reward.

He went for a bike ride, no training wheels, while I ran after him. He stopped at every intersection as he knows he must, to wait for me.

He listened to me play Adele’s “Someone Like You” on the piano, after which I said that the song was pretty loud and he replied, “But it’s great, though”. Though?!!

He used a fork…for nearly 10 whole seconds.

He screamed in frustration because his brother got more “things” than him. (I don’t know what “things” he is referring to.)

He made his own snakes and ladders board that counted by fives up to 1035.

He broke down in tears when we tried to limit his screen time.

He remembered one of his classmates’ names. (I have since forgotten it.)

He bounced off the couch like a pinball for about 10 minutes.

He went go-cart racing with his dad. He drove his own go-cart.

He went to the toilet. He turned on the faucet to wash his hands but never actually got them wet.

He replied, when I asked him if he had had a good birthday, “Yes”.

Our story is remarkable…and we know it’s lucky. But I couldn’t be prouder of him. I can’t wait for the show in Chicago, to play in honor of him and millions of other kids who work so incredibly hard every single day. He will be in the audience, doing something…different.

But it’s great, though.