07/08/2014 10:42 am ET Updated Sep 07, 2014

For Special Needs Parents, Every Milestone Is Major

Ellen Seidman

"Child will ride independently in bumper cars," said no child development book ever. It's another one of those things that parents of typically developing kids wouldn't think twice about, a child zooming around in a bumper car. But when Max did it for the first time last year, it was a big deal. And it was just as much of a thrill watching him do it again when we were on vacation last week and browsing through the photos last night.

That's the thing about milestones and the "inchstones": You don't stop savoring them. I stood on the side of the ride and watched in awe as Max adeptly maneuvered around, swerving to avoid car pile-ups and giggling when a little girl rode into him. Otherwise, he looked very serious, like driving the bumper car was his job.

At random times when Max walks, says a word, feeds himself, picks up an object, uses his pointer finger, reads a word, writes his name, climbs the stairs, goes to the bathroom or uses his iPad speech app, I'll suddenly be filled with gratitude that he is able to do what he does. I take none of it for granted. Years ago, I was talking with a friend about Max's speech and she said, jokingly, "Oh, if he ever talks, you'll wish he didn't!" And I bristled and said, "No, I wouldn't. If he talks like you and I do, I would never get tired of hearing it." Max talks in his own way. And I never get tired of hearing it, especially "Ohmmy" and "I ugh ooh" ("I love you").

The happiness that filled me as I watched Max riding the bumper cars felt like no other. It's bliss that comes from knowing just how far he has come and the promise of things still to come. A bumper car ride says this: Max can manipulate the steering. He is confident enough to go alone. He is no longer intimidated by the din of the rides area like he used to be. He takes pride in his ability to ride.

This boy is going places. And I am there on the sidelines, watching in awe.

This post originally appeared on Love That Max. More from Ellen Seidman:
When programs won't accommodate kids with special needs
Max takes a walk I will never forget
• Why my kids' looks shouldn't matter