Mar 1, 2013

My Son Has Autism

My nine year old son has Autism.

I love him to pieces.

He looks like you and I.  He can read and write, and converse perfectly well.  He's got good coordination, and unlike his poor sister, almost NEVER hurts himself.

He's funny and smart and has a good sense of humour, but even though I don't notice it so much anymore, I guess he's still pretty different from the other kids.

When he was a little guy, he used to put his toys in long lines.  He'd never play with them, he'd just line them up.  I thought he was being ARtistic...

See that? He's telling me he wrote one big long sentence, and it says that he's "THREE YEARS OLD."

He also did this with his garbage trucks and cars.  Jack didn't care about toys when he was little, so if there actually WAS a toy that caught his interest, everyone went nuts to buy it for him, and he had LOTS.

Sure, there was other stuff.  Like, apparently if you ask a little neurotypical kid if they want a cookie, they say "yes," but if you ask a little buddy on the Autism Spectrum, they say yes by echoing your question back at you.

This is called "echolalia."

But I didn't know any of this back then.  He was my first kid!  Sure, he had a bad temper.  Sure, he was really fussy and had to be on the go all the time, except when he was watching Baby Einstein.  Sure, he'd have MASSIVE melt-downs, but he was a TODDLER after all, and we all know the "TERRIBLE TWO'S" don't end when a kid turns three!

JUST before his third birthday, girlie came into the world.

Hoo-boy did she ever stress out her brother!  She was a baby who'd crawl up to those carefully-placed lines on the floor and pick up pieces to play with or chew on.

Or, maybe she'd crawl up to the TV, and use the TV stand to stand herself up, and that was TERRIBLE, because if she hit a button on the TV, she might create THE ANSWER, and THE ANSWER IS BAD! VERY, VERY BAD!

THE ANSWER is that staticky noise, with the snowy zig-zag screen a tv makes when it's flipped off its cable connection.

Oh, and then there were other silly things, like, I was never allowed to do a different hairdo any longer.  No ponytails!  No curly hair!  Just keep it STRAIGHT!!!

I remember that little kid climbing me like a wall one day to try to rip the elastic off my ponytail.  Was he ever distressed!

Heaven help me if we ever had to make an IMPROMPTU stop at a store.  THAT wasn't on the daily schedule!!!!


(and p.s. don't even THINK of taking a DIFFERENT route to the store if you actually get that kid into the car).

Same goes for surprise walks, or little trips ANYWHERE out of the house that are out of the norm.

He wore the same green tracksuit nearly all summer after his sister was born.

And if he liked something?  Wow, he REALLY liked it.  Like, one time he watched a Baby Einstein movie in Spanish, and he discovered he loved the Spanish word for Autumn SO MUCH, we had to draw that word over and over again for him.

Sometimes we had to do BIG Otoño's.  Sometimes we had to do tiny ones.  Sometimes we had to do them in rainbow colours.  Sometimes we did them in fancy letters.  You get the idea.

The boy wouldn't draw them. Oh no!  If he tried, they wouldn't look perfect and that would result in a


Then my Mom told me that we should take him to the Doctor. 'Cuz she suspected stuff.   My Mom was super smart.  She knew every obscure medical ailment known.

So, we went, and came back with a "diagnosis:"

I was sad.
I was scared.
I felt very lonely.
I wondered if it was all my fault.  Did I eat something bad while pregnant???

I felt like the kid I knew five minutes before the diagnosis was GONE.

How silly.

Well, it wasn't silly that I felt sad, and scared, and lonely.  I'm only human after all.

I had to read stuff.  I had to learn.  I read up on vitamins and Omega 3 and I had to get him into nursery school in the fall so he could 'learn from his peers.'

We were living in the Big City then.  My inlaws were there, but that was it.  No other family.  No friends.  Just me pushing the kids in the double stroller, alone all day while The Man was at work, trying to figure out how to keep my little guy ANXIETY-FREE.

And sometimes, when you're a parent, and you carry a lot of heaviness in your heart, and you live with a lot of stress, you carry a lot of heaviness in other places too.

But you know what?

Time passes!

We all learn!

We adapt!

Things change!

A lot of things get better!

We were able to move back to my home town.  I live across the STREET from my SISTER! My dad and brother are less than ten minutes away.

My little buddy is so interesting, and smart.  He KNOWS Classical music.  And he KNOWS The British Invasion.  He knows some other wacky stuff too, and seriously?  How does he know THAT?!?

And he's an INCREDIBLE artist!!!

Even though he still doesn't really know how to play with toys, and he has very MATURE interests, sometimes he's still just a goofy little kid.

And best of all:

Life is a lot better.  I have time to care about ME again.

Sure, we still have a TON of challenges that other people don't have.  Sure, we encounter LOTS of people who just don't GET IT.  Yes, we still deal with anxiety, and all those SOCIAL cues The Boy misses, and I have to fight with the school, and yeah, he still has (smaller) melt-downs,


I feel so lucky.

I love my family.

And that's LIFE.  Don't you think?

* I wrote this for all you moms and dads out there who are at that lonely, hard place right now, so maybe you'd feel a little better after reading this.

Learn.  Learn all you can.  You are your children's CHAMPION.

** Oh!  And, you should check out my son's art.

You can click


  1. That was really... really darling.


  2. Awesome :) - I can so relate - its never easy but it does get better

  3. Wow, that was a departure from your usual posts... But I liked it. And you're right, he IS an amazing artist!

    1. well, it's not all poopoo humour all the time. Just most of the time :)

  4. you made me ruin my mascara.i often wonder why the most amazing people have the hardest times, i guess God knows who can handle it and come out on the other side stronger.God bless your little family! :)

  5. I love this post. And the picture of your family at the end is especially great.

    thanks for the support - from one mom to another :)


  6. This is wonderful. I have a good friend with two teenage boys. One is autistic, and the other was recently diagnosed with Asperger's. Knowing her as I do, I see the challenges that she faces every day. I love how much love there is here, shining thorugh the hard times.

    1. Yes, I hope that is always the case. Thanks for your comment Brandeewine, I appreciate it.

  7. *cries* Great blog entry by a great mother. Warm fuzzies here now ... good on you proud Mom! And wow, his art is AMAZINGLY AMAZING!

    1. thanks, I appreciate that! I do SUPER LURV his art!

  8. Hey Karen! Not sure if I ever mentioned, but I read your blog regularly. Keep these posts coming. I'm gonna need inspiration if I'm gonna survive this whole parenting thing!

    1. thanks Abi, that's lovely to hear! You'll survive, we all do. That's why they created cocktails!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am sure it will be a huge help to many parents. I admire your strength and your positive, loving attitude!

    1. Thanks! I will think of this the next time I'm freaking out on my kids in public :)

  10. What a brilliant post, Karen, you summed up the story so far wonderfully. I love your cartoons.
    And I know all about the challenges, and gritting your teeth to get through it, and worrying and crying, until lo and behold, you have got to a point where life is actually easier, without even really knowing how it happened.
    That final cartoon (with The Man, The Man!) is lovely. xxxxx

    1. Curtise, you always so eloquently sum up what I try to say. Glad you appreciated the first appearance of The Man!

  11. I love love love love this. Thanks huge. We're at the weird part right son is 3 1/2 and doesn't have an official diagnosis other than developmental delay, speech/language delay, sensory processing disorder and "yes some of these things are on the autism spectrum but he makes great eye contact and doesn't have bad meltdowns and likes playing with his toys." Which is confusing and lonely. So wonderful to see such a creative awesome expression of getting to the other side. LOVES!

    1. Yes Kristi, sometimes things are particularly hard for the kids who slip through the diagnosis cracks--the ones who just can't be "placed" as precisely.

  12. I love everything about this post. You are such an honest and inspirational woman, Karen.

    PS - I love the pic at the end. The Man is quite dashing!

    1. thanks Vesta! What a nice thing to say. I'm very touched.

  13. I love this so much!!! I'm gonna share this with my friends, whose four year year old has just been diagnosed as being ON THE SPECTRUM. You know I have long been a fan of Jack art - Imma OWN a piece of Jack art one day!

    You rock, Karen.

    Sarah xxx

    1. yeah, hopefully the tiny TYRANT will relinquish some of his art one day Sarah! Maybe I could smuggle you out one somehow...

      Just tell your friend that it may seem completely overwhelming now, but we get used to anything.

  14. This was so lovely beutiful you are so talented did i mention i just loved this wise and wonderful :)

    1. thank you. From someone (you of course) who has a true gift for telling stories, and is a marvelous writer, this is very flattering.

  15. Your family is awesome and your boy is an amazingly talented artist! I can't believe it! Your humour in talking about this is the best but clearly it's a challenge. In the end, love rules.

    1. yes, love does rule. And it damn well should!

  16. Thank you so much. I felt as if I was reading my life. My little one is only five and life has gotten a little better. I am so glad I got to read this.

  17. Really well done! Helps to hear from another perspective. Thanks :)


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