I've known Dakota for a little over a year now, and the Dakota I know today, on his fourth birthday, is a different little boy from the Dakota I met last year. Then, he was mostly silent, mostly disengaged. Not only did he live in a world all his own, but he had very little room inside for anyone else. If you touched him or even talked to him, you couldn't be sure what kind of response you'd get. Sometimes you felt you'd be better off to take one giant step backwards.
Dakota now lets his sunny personality shine through the haze a little more all the time. In the past year he's become talkative, almost gregarious. He's learned the power of words, even if the words don't always come out in a way that's easy to interpret. Yes, sometimes he becomes frustrated if you don't know what he's saying. It must be hard to be the only one who knows what you're trying to say, but it's a wonderful, heartwarming thing to see when he does make the connection.
He still plays by himself more than with us, but that's not a bad thing, is it? And I know he knows how to play with others, because he plays with me. When he sees me, he gets an impish grin on his face and heads for the corner of the big back yard, where he knows I'm going to pretend to sneak up on him. He giggles when he sees me and jumps into my arms when I get close enough. Even if that doesn't sound like much to you, it sounds like a miracle to me.
We had a little get-together tonight to celebrate his birthday, and he was utterly charming. He was totally engrossed in eating chocolate cake, until the presents were brought out. He showed an interest in everything we gave him, and that's a quality you don't always see in much older and supposedly more mature people. He got two hats and was wearing both of them when he saw the shirt I gave him. He immediately took off both hats so that he could put the shirt on.