Did you know that April is Autism Awareness month?
Around 2001 the word autism crept into our daily vocabulary. It was at this point that my days of being an average housewife came to an end – officially. Up until then we were told to believe these things were just delayed. At a young age there is a broad spectrum of developmentally appropriate, and this makes it hard to diagnose the little ones. Our son had a speech delay, loved his routine and still didn't interact much with the other kids. In addition to that he would only play with Thomas the Tank Engine toys at that age. Michael would sit in my lap fascinated while I read to him for a solid hour by the age of 2. By the age of 3, our son could not have a conversation with us but he could count and read past 100 and was beginning to put words together with the refrigerator magnets. It's called scatter skills - academically he was off the charts and socially he was tanking.
Reality was a hard blow and the devastation was similar to losing a loved one. As the housewife, the weight of the care and decisions fell largely on my shoulders. I admit that I am still a little gun shy of playdates. With an autism diagnosis, our dreams for our child had to shift. Our expectations were more questionable. We knew our son was smart… and loving… but would he ever make friends? Would he be able to live an independent life someday?
These things still remain to be seen.
The biggest lesson I've learned from autism is to have faith. Control is not always a possibility. I have learned to do the best I can with each day and know that this is my limit.
Our son Michael is now 11 years old. Rarely will you see a more loving boy of his age. He has no filter. Whatever he sees or feels is expressed. Most of the time this is a good thing. How many 5th grade boys still like holding their mother's hand in public?
Michael doesn’t get invited to birthday parties and sleepovers, although he would like to. It doesn't occur to him to invite kids over to play but he enjoys having them here. Having Asperger’s Syndrome puts him in the high functioning autism category. Michael participates in a typical classroom but this presents challenges for his teachers and classmates when he has a “moment.” This year the bullying has begun. Those that love to bully find an easy target in Michael. The rest of the moments he just blends. He is completely unaware that he is different or that being different could be a problem. That’s a blessing and a curse.
With autism affecting 1 in every 110 children (1 in every 70 boys) chances are that you know someone who has a child with autism. From a parental standpoint, 80-90% of those parents will end up divorced. We might make it look easy to you but don’t be fooled. To have a successful day requires thoughtful planning and preparation and a little bit of luck getting through things beyond our control.
In honor of Autism Awareness month, take a moment to offer those parents some encouragement, friendship and prayers. Send them a card. They need your support even if it is just a kind word or two. Parents of children with autism tend to get isolated if they aren't careful which makes your friendship even more important.
If you are a parent like me, get connected. You'll be amazed at how helpful it is to network with the other parents. If you are wondering about your own child, maybe this information will help.
For those of you in the Tulsa area you can find support and volunteering opportunities here or email Mrs. Priss (firstname.lastname@example.org).
~*~ Mrs. Priss ~*~