My son is a show-stealer

Ready to go in, in his smart looking performance shirt. He made sure he told me how to iron it, as per instructions given at school.Back four or five years ago I never thought I'd be an audience member watching my boy participate in a school musical item in a regional massed choir performance. But last night it happened. There I was, alternating laughing and crying and feeling pretty proud of him. And me too.

The rehearsals for this event started a few weeks ago and from the beginning it has been positive. Bright Eyes seems to have taken to singing in a big way and has been wandering around singing his favourite songs and practicing his harmony parts.

Unfortunately he's had a chronic 'tic' type cough for a couple of months which is driving me crazy. It seems to get worse when he gets worked up. I hoped it would get better on the night, but all I could do was wait and see. Perhaps if he had something else to think about the cough might magically disappear?

Last week all the children had a full day rehearsal which involved a whole lot of sitting and listening and sorting out props and self-organisation. He managed it all and even enjoyed it. 

In case we had a last minute backout, I made sure I took him to Maccas for dinner beforehand. We had quite good conversations in the car and when we got to the auditorium he took me around to the front door by the hand. Then he disappeared off with other children and found his way in.

I took a seat and saw him have a little trouble with his seat. He had been put down in the lower rows by the teacher, next to some 'sensible' older girls who would keep an eye on him, but he clearly wanted to try to sit up in the higher rows with the kids more his age. He elbowed his way up, lost his props, found them, and then was moved back down. All of this happened amid a whole lot of noise. The place was worse than a nightclub. But he clearly managed it and ended up organised and calm in the place he was supposed to be.

When the singing began, he stood up, he looked, he listened, he smiled, he used his props and he did the actions. He sat through two hours worth of other people's performances and then it was time for his school's songs.

I crossed my fingers.

He stood on the end of the group. He was engaged and very much into it. BUT then it became clear that the cough was very much still there. In fact, because he was excited, it was worse, and in every 'breath' break the children took, he would cough. Thankfully each cough was in rhythm with the song, but after about four of them people started to notice, and a few started to laugh. The back of my neck prickled with a tiny bit of embarrassment. I was hoping the obvious humour in the room wouldn't put off the other children, but it seemed to make them sing better.

It certainly inspired Bright Eyes. He heard the laughing and he started to go with some actions. All on his own. No other kids were involved. He held up his fingers for the 1-2-3 and 4-3-2 lyric in the song and then he got inspired to play some air guitar. I decided to forget about embarrassment and go with it. There was my kid, two hours past his bedtime, standing on a stage, performing, ad libbing and loving it.

That's a whole lot of children, noise, organisation and chaos to negotiate for a child with ASD. I am very proud of him. At the end everyone cheered, and I'm sure quite a lot of that cheering was for the weird little kid on the end who was having such a great time. He gave the audience a thumbs up and then a double thumbs up and when it was all over he was so excited and so happy.

"I was a big thrill," he said in the car at top volume. "That was the best ever."

"I'm so proud of you," I said. "You did so well."

"I know. Can I have a ceremony in the morning?" he asked. And so when he came down this morning we made a big fuss and talked the whole thing up a lot. 

The best part for me was the wonderful support from the parents in our school who know us and who know him, and who have seen him at his worst and now his best. I appreciated their hugs and their cheers and their congratulations for him, and for me. 

This child is doing well. It is a miracle, but it's also the result of a lot of hard work and therapy and doctors' expertise and parenting. But then, who said the two are mutually exclusive?