Onni's story

Ten years of zest for life

I do not have children of my own, and consequently, neither grandchildren. Therefore, March 2021 was very special, because that is when my husband’s youngest daughter had a son, Onni. Because I like children, he has a special place, also because we can meet relatively often. My husband’s other grandchildren are already adults and live far away.

Following Onni’s development has been a joy; we have played so many games together and spent so much time together. I don’t remember exactly when his difference, situational difficulty in speaking, first began. From the beginning, he has had five adults with whom he spoke and in whose company he naturally was himself: his own parents, his mother’s parents (mummi/ grandmother and ukki/ grandfather) and me.

I had to think about what I wanted him to call me. I didn’t want to be ‘mummi’; he already has four grandparents. My first name was enough. Onni had difficulties calling me by my first name when he was small. He was wonderfully creative already then; he called me his grandfather’s friend. I was very taken by this.

He was around 3 years old when he came to us for a sleepover. I wrapped a towel around him after his evening wash. I lifted him to bed to dry and said ‘I love you’. He thought for a moment and answered ‘You are a tasty bun and I eat tasty buns’. To this day, I smile when I remember this situation.

I have so many memories, but I will focus on those in which he solved his anxiety of social situations in his own way. Onni didn’t speak aloud to anyone when other people were around. He whispered in ears and used body language. However, he has gone into a crowd of people when with a safe adult if he has been interested in an event. He knows what he wants.

We have visited the Ateneum art gallery, the Natural History Museum, Kaisaniemi botanical gardens and Korkeasaari zoo. When on Kaisaniemenkatu (street), other people walked by us, he moved to my left side and then returned to where he had been. This was the first time that he didn’t hold my hand in Helsinki. He was 8 years old.

In June 2019, for the first time, he wanted to be left alone at the table to wait while I went to the toilet when we were at the restaurant at Korkeasaari zoo. These types of small situation have gathered over the years. I think they represent great progress, and they happen when he is ready, at his own pace.

He has been doing a lot with his grandfather and learned through these encounters, for example, to plan before doing something. An example of this type of project is a cottage made of cardboard that he fits inside. When a gadget broke, he claimed that his grandfather could fix it.

Onni is now in fourth grade and he has wonderful and supportive parents. Friends are important and he has friends, although he doesn’t speak to them. In second grade, his classmates voted him the friendliest pupil in the class. He takes others into account and thinks about what he does. He is also very funny. Once, I looked for my slippers for a long time, until I found them hidden in my wardrobe.

We have learned that development happens, although sometimes quite slowly. Rushing things is not worthwhile, nor is making a big fuss about achieving something an adult wants. Onni is a smart, intelligent, clever boy. In answer to the question ‘How are you?’, he usually answers with a smile ‘Good’.