When my husband and I first suspected out 4th child had autism, he was just turning 2 years old.
In many ways, we were VERY fortunate to have other children that allowed us to recognize that something was “different” about our youngest boy. In this, we were able to have him assessed and treatment starting at a very young age.
Early intervention is key. However, that did not change the shock and daunting realization that our child had autism.
Petey was a regressive autism case. We thought we had a child prodigy on our hands; he spoke early, walked early, played ball with the dog at 9 months old, watched full movies (Shrek, I will never forget) at 12 months old.
It was incredible.
Then at 15 months, he stopped progressing, his twin brother caught up with him and by 20 months, he completely shut down.
We lost our child.
He did not hug us, did not kiss us, no longer spoke. While he always did cry and had trouble sleeping, the screaming and crying got worse and I felt lost as a parent, helpless and did not know what to do.
After watching a few YouTube videos, we took him into a developmental specialist and sure enough, he was on the spectrum.
Later that night and the following week, I sunk into a depression, especially doing research and learning that he may never talk, may never be able to socialize, may never be out of diapers.
NO NO NO! I remember sitting in the back of my closet late one night, crying and scared, not knowing what to do. My husband came in and held my hand, looked me right in my eyes and said, “We invited him here, he didn’t ask to be here, its our job to give him the best life we can. Worse things can happen, now let’s throw him a party!”
…and that is exactly what we did, tried to make everyday a “party” for him.
Now when I say party, that is not literal. We engaged in what he was doing, if he pushed piles of toys around the room (he would dump all his toys in a pile and push them from corner to corner to corner) we did it with him.
If he was fixated on a movie, we would watch it with him, pausing at times to point out a nose, a flower, whatever it took took “ENGAGE” in his world, his “party”. We read every book, watched every video, even attended therapy classes and certifications to understand what was going on in his beautiful head.
While the shock and pain of accepting that our son had autism slowly dissipated, so did the fear of wondering whether or not I could do this; be a parent who could fully support a child who may never speak or even be out of diapers. That was no longer an issue for in discovering that we could bring a smile, that we could bring out connection, bring out JOY, we had hope.
It was no longer about a child that may never go to college or be independent, all we really wanted for him was to have joy and connect in some way to our world.
In doing that, we were given a gift, the realization that our child was truly special because he brought out the very best we could be, everyday.
Our beautiful special boy made me a better person and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be in his life.