February 8, 2016

Birthday Boy

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 11:41 am by autismmommytherapist

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Dear Zach,

This week my boy, you turn nine. You will be halfway done with the safe and happy childhood your father and I are striving so hard to give you, halfway “cooked” on your way to that scary and exciting place called adulthood.

How did this happen?

It seems like just yesterday my water broke almost five weeks early, sending me into a panic coupled with the fleeting hope that maybe somehow I could just keep you in there a little bit longer. My chaser thought was how was Justin going to deal with sharing me?

That one just increased the panic, so I let that go as quickly as it came.

Apparently you didn’t want to share your “birthday month” with anyone else (you were due on my fortieth, obviously not acceptable to you,) so you surprised us with your early debut in the middle of the night.

You were, and are, an incredible gift. And gifts you have in abundance, my boy.

You are gifted with a tenacity of spirit, an ability to overcome any obstacle put in your path.

You are gifted in your depth of your compassion for others, and your unshakeable belief that any bad situation can be made better.

You are gifted in the way you “get” your older brother’s autism, how sometimes you speak for him (and you are usually right.)

You are gifted in your kindness and your generosity of spirit.

You are gifted with an often hilarious take on life around you, a viewpoint I would often miss if you didn’t share your unique world view.

You are gifted in your ability to see your autism as having its challenges, but ultimately being a gift for you.

You are gifted with an incredibly loving soul, and a fierce intellect which never fails to amaze us.

You are a gift unparalled, and we love you with all of our hearts.

We love you so much, happy birthday to my littlest love!


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February 2, 2016

He Knows

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , at 2:29 pm by autismmommytherapist

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He sits, curled up like a comma in the rocking chair with me. His right cheek is planted on my right shoulder, hands wrapped tightly around my waist.

He is almost a teen-ager, but he still fits in this sacred space on my lap every night, the place where I have comforted him countless times over the years.

I whisper to him the words I say every night.

I am so proud of you.

You are so smart, so funny, and so kind.

Somehow I got the two best boys in the universe.

I love you.

You are a good boy.

There is an imperceptible shift in his body. His hands might clasp me a little tighter.

I just wish I could know that he understands the depth of my love and respect for him.

I ask him if he comprehends mommy’s words, and I get the “yes nod.”

I’m left to wonder if my predominantly non-verbal son really gets it.

Perhaps no child really gets the extent of parental love.

I tell him I love him again, and I see his small smile deepen ever so slightly.

He knows. On his terms, and on his level, he knows.

He knows without saying it in words.

And tonight it’s all I need, to know that we will have this bond even though we will never have a conversation about it.

He knows.

And tonight, that’s enough.
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January 27, 2016

When Will I Know?

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 11:27 am by autismmommytherapist

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Ah, the silence.

Today marks the first day since Friday that both kids have been in school, and I admit, I really needed them to go back. Even Justin was desperate to return, handing me his shoes yesterday morning and getting out his backpack (his school ended up with a delayed opening, and although my home district was closed and not busing that day I actually spent two and a half hours driving him for four hours of school, and it was worth it.) Despite trying to engage him in the house for three days straight ultimately he was bored, and the smile when his aide came to the car to get him was everything.

Dude loves school. And yes, I know how lucky I am.

Of course there are only so many movies we can see or games we can play (or food Momma can eat,) so by day four we were all a little stir crazy. In the winter there isn’t much to do with Justin other than take him out to a restaurant (which is a win-win for both of us, as my snow day mantra is simply “cook-clean-eat”). Unfortunately so much time off gives me time to perseverate, at which I am gifted (despite my attempts to remain in the present my abilities are relentless). I start to go down the post-21 road, unravelling the adult autism world puzzle that is still eight years away but which I know will seem to be here in about five minutes.

Okay, a slight exaggeration but I hear the teenage years go fast.

The truth is I’m not really sure what I want for him. I have friends who have worked very hard to make sure their adult son is engaged in activities most of the day at his group home, and another one who has created a very positive “life of leisure” for her two adult autistic children in their home. All three individuals are thriving in their respective placements. And honestly, I just don’t know what’s right for Justin.

My big question is, when do you know?

Justin is predominantly non-verbal, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know what he likes and wants. He makes it very clear when he’s both pleased and displeased with something, and it’s apparent that he’s mostly pleased when he’s in our home, either organizing, playing on the computer, or rewinding the same segment of a video on his DVD player a million times. When he’s home it’s mostly leisure time for him except when he plays academic games with me on the computer, but since he’s in school a good portion of the year (his school has eight weeks of summer school which is a complete sanity saver) I feel he has a full and productive life, with work and play beautifully comingled. There’s a nice balance for my boy, one he really responds to, one which has made him a mostly happy kid.

And my challenge is how to create that balance, how to figure out what is the right balance down the adult road.

I know some of you who are reading this with adult autistic children are probably thinking I’m crazy to think I’ll actually have options, as the landscape for autistic adults isn’t particularly attractive at the moment. But I have to say I’m seeing some change, albeit slow change, and it gives me hope. I’m hopeful that my biggest problem will be to have to make choices for him- should he work, how often should he work, or should he just “be?”

I’m happy to say that in the twelve years since he’s been diagnosed there haven’t been too many times I haven’t known the right path for him, and with autism that’s pretty remarkable. Somehow with each fork in the road there was a little (often nagging) voice that told me what to do, and as I look back at our choices I have to say I have few regrets.

So as we start this transition process in a handful of years I’m just hoping that I’ll know what to do, that my little voice will guide me, that the options will be there and waiting for him.

Here’s to both knowing, and to hope.

For more on my family visit my blog at autismmommytherapist.wordpress.com
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January 19, 2016

Keep Hope Alive

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , at 11:26 am by autismmommytherapist

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about autism’s gifts for the Autism Speaks blog. As usual they posted the piece on their Facebook page as well, and comments followed. Most of them were positive. Many of the commenters share their own experiences, citing the gifts they thought autism had brought to their families as well.

And there was one comment that just got to me.

“I would like to have an intelligent conversation where we can drop the mask of constantly being happy about this and talk about the things this has ruined for us as well. Mind you, I love my son and would never change him even given the chance. I just want to know that not all parents with Spectrum children are walking robots forced to grin and bare it. I wanna talk about us having mental breakdowns because of the isolation, I wanna talk about the anger and hatred we feel because it genuinely sucks. Anybody can be the eternal optimist, and that’s fantastic. Where are the real parents that have issues like me?

Or am I just a shitty person because I fully understand that this isn’t all smiles, puzzle pieces, and blue light bulbs?”

I get it. I so, so, get it.

I often start my blog posts with a description of the early days with my son Justin, who is severely autistic. I write about the harsh realities of having a young child on the more involved end of the spectrum. I share with my readers about the insomnia that dogged his days. I talk honestly about his aggression when he couldn’t make himself understood. I speak about how difficult life was for him before he could communicate with his PECS book, and later with his iPad.

I write about how he suffered.

I’ve walked the walk that many of you are going through now, watching your sons and daughters struggle. I’ve struggled too (as has my husband), emotionally, physically and financially with the ramifications autism has brought to this family. There were days we were living hour to hour, wishing desperately for a magic pill that would make him happy.

And after years and years of struggle and challenges and pain, we’ve come through to the other side.

And that’s why I mostly write about having hope.

I will never tell another parent of an autistic child that things will get better. Nobody can promise you that, plus everyone’s definition of “better” is different.

But I will say this.

Carry hope with you that your child will improve. Nurture that hope, breathe life into it, make it grow. I say this because a mom of an autistic child once told me a decade ago that each day I should find at least one bright moment and cling to it, hold it close, take it out and remember it at night no matter how challenging the day was. That advice helped me get through a year-and-a-half of doing ABA therapy with my son six hours a day, five days a week. That wisdom helped push me to be a better teacher, practitioner, and parent. That moment of remembrance would comfort me when comfort was not enough to diminish my son’s meltdowns.

That moment of hope would help get me through.

If someone had told me ten years ago that my severely autistic son would eventually eat more than one thing, sleep through the night, communicate with a technological device, be potty-trained, use a few words on occasion, and most importantly, be a predominantly happy child, I would not have believed it.

But today, after years of therapy, consistency, his own maturity, and love, he is all of those things and more.

He loves his life. And we love him.

And sometimes a little hope can go a long, long, way.
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January 11, 2016

The Year in Review

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 2:14 pm by autismmommytherapist

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I know, it’s the middle of January and I’m just now doing my 2015 year-in-review post. Given that I was just a wee-bit-busy during Christmas break and last week was spent digging out from eleven consecutive days of kids (OMG the ERRANDS!) I’m just now getting the chance to reflect on the past year, its challenges, its accomplishments, its theme.

Yes, Jeff and I usually give each passing year a theme. Many of them have not been printable. Fortunately, 2015’s is- “suck it up and move on.”

This past year I watched my severely autistic eldest son shed seventeen pounds by removing most carbs and teaching him to like salad (!). I also witnessed his OCD ramp up to new heights which often make both he and us miserable, as his father and I desperately search for items he’s hidden around the house (the worst part is with my failing memory I don’t even know things are missing.)

You win some, you lose some.

2015 also brought us the joy of watching my youngest, who is mildly autistic, learn to navigate the world of a two-wheeler with confidence and pride. His comment “this is the best day of my life” made his Pop-Pop, who generously paid for the camp, tear up. Trust me, there weren’t a lot of dry eyes at camp that day.

More ups than downs for kid #2.

And it brought changes for me as well, less tangible but no less important. This past year I practiced letting go, and I have to tell you all it (mostly) worked. I let go of conflict with people I don’t give a damn about. I let go of worrying about Justin’s future after school ends because we’re not quite in the planning stages yet, and I need to be more in the present. I let go of a lot of my “autism-induced anxiety,” learning to take a deep breath and channel some of the way I feel when I do yoga (and trust me, being the least flexible person in the world if I can do it, you can too.)

I basically “frozened” 2015.

The year culminated with eleven consecutive days of vacation with the kids, (yes, I counted) and I have to share with all of you that although Jeff and I did the “happy dance’ on the 4th (yes, it’s adorable, no it’s not on YouTube) for the first time even I was kind of sad to see those yellow buses roll on up to the curb (not devastated people, just slightly sad.) It was a wonderful feeling to not be at the end of my rope, to have had two mostly happy kids home for a week-and-a-half.

Not that I’m looking to do it again any time soon. Martyr I’m not.

It was, overall, a good year, and I’d be fine for a repeat in 2016. I’d like to throw in a childless vacation for me and Jeff (woohoo, bring it grandma) and more time in DC with my girls, but other than that I’m good for a do-over.

And trust me, in this house, that’s a first.

Here’s wishing you and yours a belated welcome to 2016. May it bring you peace, love, happiness, and of course, lots of love and chocolate.

Happy New Year!

For more on my family visit my blog at autismmommytherapist.wordpress.com
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January 4, 2016

Our Christmas Miracle

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , at 12:19 pm by autismmommytherapist

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This past Saturday night my family and I went dinner at a friend’s house with our kids. We stayed for three hours, and my severely autistic son made it almost two hours before he donned his coat to be taken home. We ate too much, drank, laughed and learned from each other.

It was our version of the Christmas miracle.

If anyone had told me even a year ago that Jeff and I would take our two autistic kids over to a friend’s house where she has two autistic kids of her own, I would have laughed in that individual’s face with glee. For the past six years we have struggled to keep Justin at family gatherings outside of our home, despite the fact that he is comfortable with his family, and despite the fact that we’ve brought every snack, toy, and DVD we could comfortably fit into my husband’s SUV. Sometimes we didn’t even make it through the appetizers before my boy was bringing me his shoes, and then the struggle would ensue to make it past the entrée. If you’re wondering why we didn’t just bring two cars and have one parent take him home the answer is that most of our family members live at least an hour or two away, plus I didn’t want to set a precedent where Justin could go to a celebration and be expected to stay only seventeen consecutive minutes.

Plus, if I’m entirely honest, I actually like all of our family members and enjoy a good party. Leaving before dessert for me is exceptionally cruel.

So we’ve worked on this issue over the years. The wonderful BCBA at Justin’s school came up with a shelving system that we trek to every family gathering, a compartmentalized plastic contraption that houses activities for Justin paired with the immediate reinforcement of his favorite popcorn. It’s helped considerably, and we generally get through dinner before “the handing of the shoes,” which I’ve learned to be happy with.

I’ll admit I usually get dessert to go.

This past Saturday I planned out the evening with the precision of a general executing a battle plan. Our friends have a wonderful tv room where we ensconced the boys with a sitter, plying them with popcorn and snacks and meticulously chosen DVDs. They both made it beautifully in the room for almost two hours, and true to form once my son had finished eating his jambalaya, he made his way into the house ready to depart. In retrospect next time I’d hold off on dinner a little later (trust me, there were more carbs in that room than in a real movie theater, they were not deprived,) but I was thrilled he lasted as long as he did. We had our sitter take him home where he was perfectly happy, and our youngest stayed behind in the cool movie room with his kindle, where he was perfectly happy too.

As were his parents, I assure you.

I know that most parents of an eight-year-old and a twelve-year-old don’t think twice about taking them to someone’s house for dinner, but for us it’s a major milestone, one I can’t wait to recreate another time. I have to share with you that many outings with Justin still conjure up a serious level of anxiety for me (over the years it has lessened, but is still my unwanted companion,)but except for checking on them once or twice I have to say for the first time at someone else’s house I completely relaxed and enjoyed myself. My friend has two adult children on the autism spectrum, and to say she’s seen everything would be the understatement of the decade. I knew no matter what happened there would be no judgment, just complete understanding and probably a multitude of ideas to enable us to prolong our stay. Those hours were precious to me and my husband, an island of respite in the increasingly complicated world that includes two autistic kids.

We felt relaxed, understood, wanted.

We felt like adults.

I’m stealing from Disney now- it was magical.

And I can’t wait to do it again.


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December 31, 2015

Autism’s Gifts

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , at 12:06 pm by autismmommytherapist

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He snuggles in closer, smelling of baby shampoo with a hint of something sweet mixed in. His head still fits perfectly on my shoulder, warm and precious as we read the “Polar Express” for the millionth wonderful time. As I begin to turn the page that will lead the protagonist to the train he puts his hand on mine and says, “Mom, religion doesn’t matter to Santa Claus. Everyone who’s good should get a gift.”

Amen to that.

I have no doubt the magic of Santa will prevail in the McCafferty household, and my boys are both confident they’ve behaved this year and Santa will reward their efforts. I know this from Zachary’s coveted words, and equally definitive, from the priceless nod of my non-verbal son Justin’s head when asked if he’s getting presents this year. The fact that both my autistic boys can communicate is a gift in and of itself, one I never take for granted.

And yet, if I’m honest, there are so many more gifts autism has brought us.

Ten years ago if someone had mentioned “autism’s gifts” to me I would have rolled my eyes and probably detailed our daily existence to that individual, an itinerary of Justin’s day replete with insomnia, reflux, aggression, a complete inability to communicate, and many other trying issues that his disorder had bestowed upon all of us at the time. I would definitely have looked heavenward once again seven years ago as we watched our second son Zachary regress, losing his words, his love of life, and quite honestly, the very light from his eyes. Gifts were not forefront in my mind when thinking about the impact autism has had on our family.

Fear and exhaustion were frankly much more present.

But it turns out years later, so many of the issues that plagued us have resolved themselves through hard work, maturity, and love, and the gifts are here, waiting to be seen like the toys on Rudolph’s island of misfits, hoping to be discovered. I’ve watched both my children begin their lives’ journeys miserable, tired, and seemingly lost in their own worlds where my husband and I could not traverse. Eleven years after that first diagnosis I’ve seen two confident, loving and happy boys emerge from what seemed like a prison so long ago, an impenetrable fortress I could not break through to relieve their discomfort.

Of course, the fact that they both now revel in their lives is the biggest gift of all.

There are so many other gifts however, all priceless in nature, many of which I would have overlooked had autism not been present in our lives.

Autism has made us closer as a family, has created a teamwork mentality I’m not sure we would have embraced otherwise.

Having two autistic children has given me the gift of educating all we meet about the disorder, to pave the way for understanding and hopefully make another family’s experience out in the world a bit easier.

Autism has given me the gift of the community as a second family, with whom I feel an instantaneous camaraderie and closeness I treasure.

I’ve been given the gift of learning to revel in even the smallest increments of the boys’ collective progress.

Finally, autism has given me the gift of forcing me to be utterly present when with my sons, making certain I never miss their ebullient smiles, precious eye contact, or generous hugs.

Years ago, when all seemed especially bleak in the landscape of both my sons’ lives, an autism friend told me this. No matter how difficult the moment, the hour, or the entire day, at the end of the night find one moment of joy, and cling to it. I took that advice and built on it, after time finding many moments to be grateful for, enabling me to see that eventually for this family the gifts of autism outweigh the struggles. My advice to you is to find that instant in time, embrace it, foster it. Help it grow into multiple moments of happiness, and peace.

After a decade of strife my sons are safe, productive, happy. They are a gift to the world.
And they will always be a gift to me.
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December 21, 2015

New Year’s Evolution

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , at 11:02 am by autismmommytherapist

Author’s Note:  I wrote this piece years ago, but it continues to embody the holiday spirit for me, and I hope it does for you as well.  Every year I read this piece and hope the ending is still true for our family, and so far I can say with gratitude it is.  Enjoy and thank you for reading!

We made a gingerbread house today, my youngest and me. Not the fancy version mind you, with its cinnamon-spiced cookie walls and sticky-sweet icing for snow, but the felt version, as I have yet to figure out how to create an edible construct that’s gluten and casein-free. The form doesn’t seem to matter to Zach however, as he seems content just to forge this linen building with craft glue and discretely adhered masking tape. He is simply happy to sit at our designated table with his mommy, and design his own.

I am thrilled to be here with him as well, as this is the first “Christmas house” we have built together, and the added bonus is it conjures up the requisite images of festive architecture from my childhood past, pleasant in their remembrance. As I sit with him and attempt to gain better purchase on the tiny chair I am well aware of the enormity of this gift, the ability to carry on a tradition with my child, one who is eager and willing to perform it with me, one who miraculously was able to request its creation.

It’s the last month of the year, and as always, just like the commencement of the school year, it’s a time of reflection for me. I consider where we’ve been and where we now reside as I help Zachary fabricate his house, watch him carefully separate out the pieces of his one-dimensional art form with such care, and manipulate the tiny forms with such ease. He desires to begin at the top of his home and work his way down, and as I’ve never been one to insist on coloring in the lines we alter our blueprint a little, an act we’ve committed time and time again in our tiny family of four.

He begins with the roof, which he tells me firmly we require because “it will keep everyone warm and cozy”. As I contemplate how he’s incorporated the latter adjective into his lexicon of words I am simultaneously reminded of the outpouring of care and compassion we’ve received over the years, the small and grand acts of largesse, and the kind words both spoken and written to encourage our clan in times of conflict. These acts have blanketed us, permitted this family to retain the heat, the fire necessary to forge through the most searingly difficult times. We could not have built our own home without them.

Once the roof is safely adhered Zach moves onto the windows, neatly punching through the cloth panes of glass to afford us a glimpse of the other side, allowing us to widen our view. I recall how watching my youngest son’s language expand, and my oldest son’s increasing desire for social interaction, have both enabled me to envision a different world for my children this year. We now inhabit a home in which the future may hold more than just fleeting glimpses of a “normal” childhood, one in which both of them may actually one day possess a true friend. I am so grateful for that expanded vista, for the possibilities inherent in those translucent frames.

Finally, Zach addresses the foundation, shoring up the edges with his tiny fingers immersed in solvent, asking me if his careful ministrations are correct. I smile and tell him his house is lovely, as in its own way, is our own. Our foundation has also been conceived in patience, moored in consistency, cemented in love. It’s not seamless, and there will always be cracks. But it will continue to stand.

It will always stand.

And my wish for all of you in every year to come, is that your own house, no matter how it’s constructed or what form it takes, will continue to stand, wind and weather-battered, as magnificently strong as ours.

I’d like to take just a quick moment to extend my immense gratitude to all of my readers this year. I am so appreciative of the time taken both to read my missives and to comment on them, and your continued loyalty. Thank you to everyone, and to close, here are the McCafferty photos that won a space on our Christmas card this year:

 

 

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Exuberant because he’s about to compete in a horse show…

 

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The end of a Cub Scout camping trip with me which he said was the “best day of his life,” which I will have to remind him about in a few years when he’s a teenageer…

 

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If you look really closely you can see how happy I am that my family can not only go on a vacation but actually all have fun!

 

Happy New Year to all!

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December 14, 2015

You Will Learn

Posted in AMT's Faves, My Take on Autism tagged , , at 11:54 am by autismmommytherapist

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I’m not big on anniversaries other than my wedding day. I don’t often remember people’s death dates, or my deceased loved ones’ birthdays, or other significant milestones. I prefer to keep my loved ones alive through sharing stories about them with my kids, wrapping myself in a treasured afghan, or trying to duplicate a cookie recipe.

But this month is a huge anniversary, one that needs to be recognized, and shared. You see, this month ten years ago my son received his autism diagnosis months after his initial one of PDD. For the first time ever it was official, written on his pediatric charts, used when charting his future educational course. It was the first time we ever used the word “autistic” to describe him to others, said the word out loud, tried it on for size.

His diagnosis coincided with a whirlwind of decisions me and my husband had to make. Although our school district was willing to take Justin the following September at the tender age of two-and-a-half, after viewing their program we realized our son would need more, and that he’d never receive it in Virginia. We were also struggling with having only eight hours monthly of Early Intervention services that did not include ABA. We were quickly realizing if we wanted to do our best by our son we needed to relocate to New Jersey, both for their school and Early Intervention services and proximity to our families. I spent hours researching where to live, being forced to go by word-of-mouth recommendations rather than observation as none of the school districts would let me visit prior to moving. We were thrown so many loops, but we asked questions, went online, and soaked up as much information as we could.

We learned.

Ten years later, I am able to look back at so much of what I’ve learned as an official autism mom for a decade, wisdom I’d like to pass on to any of you just starting your autism journey.

You will learn that no matter how close you are to people, some of them won’t get your life. You will learn to let them go.

You will learn to value your child’s progress in incremental steps, not boundless leaps.

You will learn that you can meet your child’s needs, and will exceed your own expectations.

You will learn that a part of you will always long for your child to have the experiences of college, friends, independent living, and a partner to love them. You will learn that your child can be just as happy without those things.

You will learn about autism more than you ever wanted to know. You will learn to love educating the world about your child.

You will learn that you’ll always worry about what will happen to them after you die. You will learn to live with it.

You will learn it is imperative you take care of yourself. Your child deserves a healthy parent, and you deserve to be whole too.

You will learn that your love for your child knows no bounds. This knowledge will inspire you to do the best you can even when you’re exhausted and afraid. It will carry you through.

You will learn, and your child will teach you if you leave yourself open.

You will learn.
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December 7, 2015

We Have That

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , at 3:58 pm by autismmommytherapist

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Eleven years ago this fall I sat in a cramped, fluorescent-lit examination room with my husband and then seventeen-month-old son. We were there following a several month wait for what we assumed would be an autism diagnosis. A few months prior our pediatrician had shoved a few ill-copied articles with the word “autism” in the title, practically pushed us out the door, and told us to consult a developmental pediatrician. I had been alone at the appointment as it was just a routine sick visit related to my son’s reflux, and it had been the first time our pediatrician had shown any concern regarding our son’s development. I remember clutching those articles to my chest, placing Justin in his stroller and stumbling out the door, hot tears wending their way down my cheeks as other moms stared at me.

It was a day no amount of chocolate could mollify.

Our visit to the developmental pediatrician was in sharp contrast to that day, as she couldn’t have been kinder as she assessed our boy. She made a point to single out all the skills he could do, and emphasized how obviously attached he was to both me and my husband. She gave Justin a diagnosis of PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) that morning and told me to follow up in six months. I remember the diagnosis came along completely coupled with relief that we had an answer to his differences.

I say almost because that diagnosis also brought with it fear that he’d regress, that we’d lose that special closeness we’d created for a year-and-a-half all those long sleepless nights. I was too afraid to ask during our visit if we’d be in danger of losing that unique connection, managed to relegate that fear to the darkest recesses of my mind.

And I wish I could go back in time and tell that scared mom that her fears would be unfounded, for I can’t even count the ways my son shows his love.

There is the ceremonial “blowing of the kiss” from his bus window.

The times he stops what he’s doing and just plants one on me for no apparent reason.

The way he comes up behind me and hugs me to show his joy.

The way he curls up on my lap each night like a comma, snuggling his cheek into my shoulder just as he did when he was a toddler.

Eleven years later our son’s still predominantly non-verbal, still falls on the severe end of the spectrum. He will never marry or drive a car. He will never live independently. I will forever worry about what will happen to him after I die.

But right now, we have this. An unbreakable connection forged in fire, one perhaps more profound because of his autism, his unique world view.

We have that.

We will always have that.

And I will always be grateful.

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