Doing the Happy Happy Happy Dance

“I don’t know what to do, Mom,” Jake appealed.

I gaped.

“What did you just say, Jake?” I asked.

“I said, ‘I don’t know what to do,’” Jake repeated.

At that moment, I could have stood up and done a major happy dance.


Two nights before, one of my friends had asked if I was seeing an impact from Jake and Caleb’s recent occupational therapy sessions. I related that I saw improvements with both boys during their sessions. However, I hadn’t yet been able to identify something specific at home or in our homeschool setting.

Until today.

Until that moment when Jake looked up and over at me and declared, “I don’t know what to do.”

What’s the big deal?

Well, for the past eight years of life and lessons in our family homeschool experience, often when a new concept or lesson was presented, Jake became anxious. His worries and fears would escalate. Even before my explanation of the task was at hand, Jake’s apprehension would overtake him. He was afraid that he would fail and never understand what was being asked of him. As a result, I would have to talk Jake down from his all-to-familiar ledge of insecurity. After significant time and effort in coaching and coaxing, and encouraging and exhorting, we would finally reach a point where Jake was ready to learn and ready to try.

I can’t tell you how many, many, many, many times I explained to Jake that starting something new is just part of life and the reality of school. No one is an expert the first time we learn something. I’ve also shared with Jake that when he doesn’t understand something all he needs to say to me or to himself is: “I don’t know what to do.”

We can admit that we just don’t know.

We can ask for help.

We can lean into the truth that we DO have the capacity to learn something new.

Like I said, I could have done a full-out, exuberant-and-loud, happy dance when Jake told me he didn’t know what to do.

For today, I identified that Jake’s OT sessions with Jeané Kolbe, his Occupational Therapist had directly integrated into Jake’s life in a tangible way. For the past few weeks, Jake has been trying new things in his OT sessions. He has been involved with unfamiliar tactile experiences, playing new games, and interacting socially with Jeané so that when something new and unfamiliar happened outside of his OT time, Jake could remember that if he coped in his OT session with all of that ooey-gooey, icky-sticky, uncomfortable stuff, he could cope in a real-life situation.

Jake’s OT sessions empowered him to try new things rather than succumb to defeat – before even making an attempt.

Jake surveyed his vocabulary assignment and realized that the task was new and unfamiliar. Instead of grimacing, groaning, worrying and fretting, Jake looked up and announced, “I don’t know what to do.”

Like I shared, his appeal stopped me in my tracks.

For the first time ever, and I mean that sincerely, Jake offered me an invitation to explain.

So, I did.

And guess what?

Jake listened.

Jake understood.

And then Jake completed the task without one ounce of drama or angst.

Yes, this mama cheered her boy. This mama celebrated her kid that finds it difficult to try new and unfamiliar things when he thinks he is destined for failure. Yes, this mama was jubilant when her autistic child experienced a breakthrough today. It was a happy, triumphant moment.

Jake thought I was a bit too excited, though.

“Mom,” Jake protested. “You can calm down. I am okay.”

Yes, you are, Jake. Yes, you are!

Snoopy Happy Dance

But,  I’m still gonna do a happy, happy, happy, jubilant dance!

6 thoughts on “Doing the Happy Happy Happy Dance

  1. I am holding onto this today. I have times when I am overwhelmed and get anxious too. I need to just take a breath and say I don’t know what to do! My day would be a lot calmer. Today, though, I am happy happy happy dancing with you Heather. A real breakthrough should be celebrated. And so I will. Spin, twirl, hop, leap! Oh what joy! Congrats Jake. You did it and you will again. And your mom will keep dancing.

    1. Shara, I am so glad to know you and call you friend! Thank you so much for writing to me and being such an encouragement to me, you beautiful, beautiful, beautiful girl! With love, heather

  2. Shirley Hethorn March 16, 2018 — 1:13 pm

    I laughed out loud with JOY! I am dong the happy dance inside. Even in sorrow, God gives a song!!

    1. Thank you, Shirley! You are such an encourager!

  3. This is HUGE! I’m joining you in that happy dance!

    1. Thank you, Melinda! We are rejoicing over the big and small steps Jake is making in his life.

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