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.
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?
We all learn!
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.
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