Joshua did two things for the first time yesterday that made my heart soar : Firstly, my friend and her 11 year old son stayed overnight and after breakfast and sitting around chatting for hours, they packed up their belongings to leave. They had arrived by bicycle and so our young guest was being sprayed with sun tan lotion before they cycled back in the hot sun. Joshua watched this process carefully, as he was outside to wave them off. The boy was complaining and making a fuss about the application of his sun cream, so Joshua leaned in to catch his eye and gave him a thumbs up! I like to think that he was showing empathy and trying to reassure his friend that everything would be OK and that it would soon be over. But of course, with Joshua’s sense of humour, he may have been teasing him and taking the mickey – the thumbs up might have been meant to say ” ha ha, look at you!” I am not sure which, but it showed some rare interaction with a child, which he does not do a lot of, he mostly responds to other adults, so that made me very happy, whatever his motivation was.
Secondly, we drove to the railway station to collect my niece and her boyfriend who were coming to visit us for the day. Joshua sat in the front of the car and I opened the windows and put the stereo on loud for him. We were listening to a live Bruce Springsteen album and the song ” Atlantic City” came on : Joshua sprang to life in every chorus, shouting “eeeeeuuuwwww!” throughout the chorus and rocking and beaming. He would listen carefully to the verse then repeatedly begin joining in at every chorus. He has always had his favourite songs – Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Rising’, Blondie’s ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, U2’s ‘ One Love’ – but he has never participated like this before. When the song came to an end he would say ” thank you” and point at the stereo to ask for it again, so we played it on repeat, all the way to the station and all the way back, it kept getting the same response and evident excitement.
These two developments yesterday, show that Joshua is still learning and still changing. Just because he is 18 years old and an adult now, does not mean that his personality and skills are fixed for life. The more input Joshua has – mixing with a variety of people and listening to a range of music as an example – the more that he absorbs, processes and responds to. That is why he needs to be challenged and stimulated at school, respite and his new daycare from next year, rather than always offering him the same, familiar and safe activities, they should be interspersed with trying new things too. Who knows what more lies just beneath the surface, still to be untapped?