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My Puzzle Princess

October 21, 2011

She’s always been stuck in the middle.  I sometimes wonder if she will one day resent that. She’s the one I rely on. She’s the ever-present companion for her big brother and her little sister.  I remember when she was a toddler,  playing in the sand by the lake with her big brother. It was the thing I had always wanted for him- a constant friend- a sibling.  He had always had trouble making friends. He never seemed interested in approaching the other kids. With Joyce by his side, he felt like one of the gang. He had a wingman (wing-girl).  She happily followed him around and would say hello to the other kids.  Sounds small, but for a kid with autism, it’s huge.  When he got invited to his first birthday party in kindergarten, she didn’t come with him. My husband happened to be home that day, so she stayed with him. Troy seemed completely lost. It was so heartbreaking to watch.  I called my husband and asked him to pick us up a little early. It wasn’t going well.  He arrived and Joyce jumped out of the car. Suddenly, Troy’s teammate was back! Suddenly, the party seemed fun.  We stayed a bit longer, watching our children play. Perhaps they were separate from the rest of the pack, but they were their own pack.  Team G.

When her younger sister was born, Joyce was her constant companion as well. With Troy off at school, Joyce followed Mary to all of her appointments and watched her sleep in her infant swing. When we started learning sign language, Joyce became our ASL professional.  She learned it faster than anyone. When we started going to Mary’s playgroup at the School for the Deaf, the teachers, some of them deaf, were amazed at how well Joyce was signing.  When therapists would come to the house, Joyce would join in the therapy session, blowing bubbles for her sister to watch or touch.  She and her brother help her get into her walker and they protectively follow Mary around at playgrounds.

Joyce is finally coming into her own. She started preschool this year.  At the same time she started her autism therapies, including occupational therapy.  We discovered that she is amazing at puzzles.  We actually never knew this (and her skill is even more remarkable considering this) because she’s never done puzzles before about a month ago. We had banned puzzles in our house because Troy could not do them and would become incredibly frustrated with them.  Meltdowns would eventually follow the start of any puzzle. We decided we had to pick our battles and puzzles didn’t make the list. Well, now that my little princess loves them, we have lots of puzzles. Now, her big brother is learning puzzles too, slowly for now, but it’s a start.

Joyce is absolutely a princess. It’s her “thing.”  She collects Disney Princesses and very often dresses like them.  She wears tiaras everywhere she goes. She can absolutely pull it off, too. She’s gorgeous. She tells me she’s going to be a doctor. I believe her. She’s sure had enough experience watching them with her sister.

I hope my “little middle” never feels little. She is probably the most indespensible “therapist” we’ve ever had. She’s involved her big brother in so much socially and she’s been the constant assistant and coach for her baby sister. Who would have thought a four-year old could accomplish so much. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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