Xander: An Update
You may remember Xander from his original post back in 2015. This sweet boy was born with autism and is nonverbal, which often makes him feel separated from the world around him. Many people support Xander on a daily basis to find techniques to improve his ability to communicate and express his emotions. Xander arrived at his foster home in China as an infant, and while he has been deeply loved by everyone there his entire life, it is time Xander finally has a home and family to call his own.
In January, I had the opportunity to work one on one with Xander for 4.5 weeks. Xander has grown and matured since the last time I saw him in 2015. We spent our time together working on building on the communication skills he already had, as well as ways to help him self-regulate his emotions and actions. At the beginning of the month, Xander struggled to focus on lessons longer than five minutes without constant support and guidance. When he no longer wanted to do something, he would either get up and run around, or push everything off the desk. By the end of our time together, I was able to give Xander a task for him to work independently on for 10-20 minutes and use the ASL signs "more" and "help" most often to indicate when he wanted either more materials or support. We also worked on redirecting and calming down using visual and tactile tools, like calm down glitter bottles and silly putty. Xander's rapid progress is astounding and demonstrates God ability to transform us through love.
Xander's rapid progress is astounding and demonstrates God ability to transform us through love. As previously mentioned, Xander was slow to trust me and adjust to our daily routine the first week. Halfway through week two, Xander let his incredible personality shine bright. Each morning when I came to his house to pick him up for class, he would excitedly jump up from the couch with his jacket already on, and pull me to the school house as I struggled to keep up. His sweet smile and infectious laugh came out more and more each day. After our first few days of joining the larger class, Xander couldn't wait for the afternoon to spend time with his peers.
Xander is an exceptionally sweet child, but he has not skipped over his "pre-teen" age. At twelve years old, Xander fits the mold of a young boy who knows what he does and does not want to do. I've only heard Xander say two words: "ma" and "no." Both terms are used when he didn't want to do something. Xander used "ma" to plead with you. He would bring out his best puppy dog eyes and would say "maaa," usually after I asked him to start cleaning up to go home for lunch, or if I told him to say something to me again using the correct sign. "No" was used when Xander did not want to do something and had no intentions of doing it. For example, one day a group of volunteers came to throw a party for the kids to celebrate the New Year (not Chinese New Year). We did one relay race, and I asked Xander if he wanted to do the next one. Xander looked up at me, raised his eyebrows, and firmly, in English, said, "no" and then walked away to color with the markers the group brought. For a child with a limited vocabulary, he is unquestionably using what he has to reach his full pre-teen angst!
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