Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Meeting Strangers

Last weekend we enjoyed the company of Katrina Kramlich, a lovely and experienced Son-Rise child facilitator who came to our home to play with Joaquin in his romper room. The experience was absolutely wonderful, especially because the universe conspired to fit everything in such a perfect way, that Eliza (our first volunteer), had a chance to get her feet wet playing with Joaquin and I the week before, and then watch Katrina in action right before today, Eliza’s first day going in the room with Joaquin by herself.

The Outreach (Katrina’s visit) had Joaquin playing 2.5 hours in the morning and 2.5 hours in the afternoon during both, Friday and Saturday. This was the first time ever that he was alone in the room with a stranger, and perhaps the first time ever that he spent this much time with somebody different from us or our parents. And although every one of the four sessions it took us several minutes, songs, and bribes to get him to go into the room, and he didn’t open up to Katrina like a blooming flower, he did interact with her, learned from her, responded fantastically to her techniques to discourage crying as a way of communication, and remained perfectly calm in the room even though he couldn’t see or hear me or Joey.

So today was supposed to be Eliza’s first day in the room without me. I was so excited about it… Katrina left me with new goals for our program, new tips and direction, and the confidence that we’re doing a great job, and Joaquin is doing fantastically and will very likely conquer his challenges. I was sure that his experience with Katrina should have prepared him to accept Eliza today, and I had such a great time in the romper room yesterday!… I was a lot of fun; made his little eyes laugh and sparkle with the introduction of new spontaneous ideas that turned into fun interactions… I wanted so bad to go again in the afternoon, but he protested and said NO to the romper room and spent the rest of the day drawing outside with chalk (pretty cool-looking stuff, by the way). And this morning he refused to go in the room again. And that crushed me, and made me feel angry at Joaquin.

So I dialogued with myself. Asked myself all the why questions and explored all the fears, memories, judgements and believes behind my being upset at Joaquin for not wanting to play in the romper room today. And I was able to flip the judgements I was making about him based on my interpretation of his behavior to the serene acceptance that for whatever reason he wanted a break from the room this morning. And since I can’t know what’s going on behind those cute little brown/olive eyes, I realized that being completely powerless to what would happen this afternoon with Eliza, I was just not going to even attempt to make any plans or keep my earlier expectations about it. I remembered all the times that in the past Joaquin has asked not to go in the room, I have been okay with it, played with him wherever he preferred to be, and then after a few minutes of true fun he’s actually told me to go in the room with him.

Eliza came. Joaquin greeted her with tears and a “NO ELIZA!”, and she was so great at remaining friendly and positive, and being engaging with the few words they exchanged after such “warm” welcome. Although I had dropped all my expectations and was prepared for the possibility of Joaquin choosing not to go in the room with her, I loved to see the fire in her eyes as she told me how ready and excited she was to go in today. It must have been miracle, but within minutes, Joaquin was in the room, and I was closing the door behind me running to my bedroom to observe Eliza’s first Son-Rise session with my baby.

What started like a day in which I felt completely tested on everything I’ve learned about Option and Son-Rise, ended up with A+ grades for Eliza, Joaquin, and I. For over an hour, Eliza and I talked in my kitchen about the session, I gave her feedback, and we laughed at Joaquin’s attempts to test his boundaries — something he started doing with Katrina, and completely ramped up today by indulging on a crazy rampage of chalk on his trampoline. It felt great. It was awesome. It was like talking with a friend over coffee and cake.

I am so lucky to have found such a great volunteer for our program… I am so lucky to have found Son-Rise on that same black day… I am so lucky that everything is fitting like pieces of a puzzle, and every day I feel more and more confident, capable, and way less scared of the blind spots on this road.

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  1. On , David wrote:

    Maria, you are such a good mother… so patient and supportive with your precious little boy!

  2. On , KSR wrote:

    Wow! such great things converging…people, progress, perspective………..Yey for all!

  3. On , Maria wrote:

    Thank you both!…
    David — It’s all coming from Son-Rise. I would’ve never thought I could be this patient, dedicated, and fun to a child. It’s so amazing :)

  4. On , Ria wrote:

    Yesterday we were in the garden and I had such a fun idea: running marble down the slide, into a glass bowl. I know Pelle would love the sound of the marbles tickling in the bowl. So I encouraged him to play the game, along with me. He did a few marbles, and than threw away the bowl. I was so disappointed! And sad. He was very sweet, saying that he wanted to make my mouth go up again (me having a smile),and he would never ever do it again, but I just could not get over it. We had a good time playing in his bedroom, afterwards, but I needed some time to adjust. Allowing myself to really feel the way I felt. And then I went on with new energy and openness.
    But I just need some time to digest my emotions, too. Like you. And then it will be all right.

  5. On , Maria wrote:

    That is so sweet that he expressed he wanted to see you smile again!
    I hear you… I guess that’s what they mean by you can’t help others before you have already taken care of yourself. It starts by being kind and allowing ourselves to feel what we do without judgement. I took out the vacuum cleaner and cleaned the romper room while trying to “dialogue” about my reaction. It didn’t take long before I realized that I was judging Joaquin, making assumptions, and extrapolating future events out of a simple incident. Thank you for sharing your story :)