Anyone who has met our Joel knows that he is just a peach. He is full of love, affection, contentment, and joy, but rarely do you get to converse with Joel. His autism has nearly silenced him. He likes to be quiet. He is content that way, and rarely he will feel the need to speak. Usually it is in “fight or flight” mode. “Hey NO!” you hear him yell as the doctor is leaning in to give him a shot, but that is it. On any other day, he speaks because we make him. We push, some days harder than others, because we know that it is in there- hiding- and we want to bring it out.
We have been working on building character in our children. When we started our new homeschooling curriculum this past August, we wanted a way to encourage and motivate our children to want and hunger for more Godly character in their lives. So we began what has now become “Purple Boxes”.
We made a list of the 49 different character qualities that our curriculum covers. We listed them in alphabetical order with empty boxes next to each. We brought out the sheets (one for each kid)nearly every night at dinner for what we called “character challenge”. The “rules” were simple. You were able to nominate anyone else in the house for a character trait, and then you were to explain why you nominated them. You could not speak of yourself, only others. Then mom or dad would color in a box next to that trait on your sheet – at the time we started doing it with a purple highlighter. Hence, “purple boxes”.
Some traits are easier to nominate than others. It is easy to recognize when someone is showing gratitude, but challenging to give notice to someone showing deference or virtue. (We will attach a new link to our blog with the list and another list with definitions mentioned in this article). Over the months it has been wonderful to see how each child excelled in different places. Their siblings would get so excited when they got another purple box and that character trait was running out of space. They began to want for their siblings to “run off the page” with purple boxes.
So for the past 8 months we have done “Purple Boxes” nearly every night. We stopped for a short while around New Years and kids formed a coup and voted the return of purple boxes!!!
During this time, like most of the day, Joel is quiet. He does not initiate conversation unless we are eating spaghetti and he wants more. We know that he listens to us and that he understands, so we keep plugging along. He is always included and is commonly nominated for joyfulness or contentment or obedience.
Last night was different. After 8 months Joel INITIATED a nomination!!!!!!!!!!! At first we weren’t sure what he was trying to communicate. He was frustrated and put his hands over his eyes. “Joel” mom asked, “Do you want more spaghetti?” Silence. This is Joel’s “no”- silence. He repeats or echoes you if it is a “yes”. “Ok, Joel, do you want to tell us something?” He pointed to Daddy. “Do you want to tell Daddy something?” “Daddy” Joel said. Ok- now we are getting somewhere. “Do you want to tell Daddy something about Jamie?” “Mayme” he said. (we were currently in the process of nominations for Jamie on Purple Boxes) “OH, you want to tell Daddy something about Jamie today. Do you want to tell him about her work?” silence –meanwhile I am raking my brain for the things Jamie did all day that Joel may have witnessed.Then it dawned on me that Jamie had received extra coloring pages for good work today. “Oh, do you want to tell Daddy about Jamie coloring?” “color” he replied. “Yes! Jamie did get extra coloring pages today for doing good work on her ABC’s. Do you want to nominate her for her good work?” “good job” he says. Jamie is BEAMING with joy for such a gift from Joel!
Then, there is more. The table started to rejoice for Joel and he didn’t want it. He covered his eyes again. “Joel do you want to say more?” “more” he said. “Do you want to say more to Jamie?” “mayme” he said. “OK, do you want to tell about Jamie practicing?” silence “DO you want to tell about Jamie playing?” “play” he uttered. “Ok, you would like to tell about Jamie playing. Did she play nicely with you?” “me, ya” he said with a nod. “So would you like to nominate Jamie for kindness for playing with you?” “Ya, good job” he stated matter of factly.
The table ROARED and ERUPTED with applause!!!!!!!!!!!! Joel we want to nominate you for Initiative, sincerity, and kindness. Good Job Joel!!!!! Thank you for telling us!
Wow- we were all stunned, utter shock was still in the eyes of the whole table! ….8 months, day in and day out, 8 months, and last night he spoke, he initiated, he nominated, he gave his sister a HUGE gift.
Autism is a bewilderment most days. You would just love to work you way into their thoughts. What is he thinking? Press on parents! Continue to encourage your children and fight for what you KNOW is inside their hearts even if they don’t show it. 8 months- that is nearly 240 days…..
Be encouraged parents. Be faithful in leading your children. It may take 240 times before you get a response, hopefully less, but OH will it be worth it!!!
We will NEVER forget last night. Never.
It is our prayer that you are encouraged by this testimony of Joel. That you continue on- day in and day. For one day, you will reap a harvest, and it will be a sweet reward!
Press on parents! Press on!