This April we’re celebrating Autism Awareness Month! Will you Light It Up Blue with me? Will you take part in some random Autism Kindness Acts? Maybe a night off for some autism parents you know? (I know I’m not the only autism momma out there that doesn’t want to ask!) Right now I’m thinking of my nice, warm, cuddly, blue fleece blanket. I’m so tired.
I saw some pretty blue quilts and sheets advertised in the weekend paper. Let’s face it, my autistic 7-year-old doesn’t really want to go shopping with me. My hubby doesn’t either, for that matter. When we go out shopping, you never can predict who will have a meltdown first – my hubby or my son! I’m so grateful to live in a day and age when I can do some shopping on the internet. Nothing beats shopping in my pajamas! 🙂
If I could hop in a time machine, I think I’d fast forward to a day when my son is prepared for further education, employment, and independent living. I’d sigh with relief and a tear of joy would run down my cheek.
I’d fast forward to a day when parents of children with autism and special needs no longer need to fight for a “free and appropriate public school education.” A day when there are measures in place to enforce the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, for all children in need of special education. A day when enforcement of federal law is no longer the duty of overwhelmed parents. A day when exhausted parents can sleep soundly without worry because the community is standing together in support. “I have a dream…”
Stephen had a life threatening seizure disorder in infancy, and cortical vision impairment (blindness) at 18 months old. By age 2, my son received his 3rd life changing diagnosis – AUTISM. There were still many life changing diagnoses to come, but this one was the hardest to accept. It came as confirmation that Stephen’s neurological condition was even more likely to cause intellectual and developmental disability. The cards were stacked against him, but we weren’t giving up. How could we give up?
My son’s first day of school was one of the longest days of my life. I was so worried, I had left him in the hands of strangers. He wasn’t walking, talking, or feeding himself. He was still eating baby food from jars and pediasure from baby bottles. I watched the clock until it was finally time to pick him up off the bus. It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to be the parent of a child with autism or special needs until you’ve walked a mile in our shoes, or carried your baby to and from the school bus on the first day of school!
My son has improved so much over the years. Early intervention services are key for so many children like him. He started walking at just over 3 years old. He still wears leg braces and crawls up the stairs, but he no longer qualifies for physical therapy services. He still struggles with both gross and fine motor skills and mobility due to low muscle tone and neuro developmental delay. He started feeding himself at age 5, and progressed to solid food at age 7. He still wears a diaper out in public, over night, and in his regular education classes. He’s potty training at home and in his special education class room.
He still holds my hand for safety – on the street, on the sidewalk, in parking lots, and on the stairs. He still squeals with delight when we play peek-a-boo. He’s quite entertained with anything he can prompt you to say without speaking a word. He still thinks my silly songs, with words I make up to his favorite, familiar, childhood tunes are worthy of all the adoration that is given to the stars. He’s no more responsible for the noises he makes in church than he was on the day of his baptism.
Don’t get me wrong, we set our expectations high and we encourage him to be on his best (and quietest) behavior. We know that he won’t learn social skills without practice. So forgive me if we don’t wait outside in the car, where neither of us can hear. Instead we teach our son to listen. We sign to him in ASL and remind him when it’s time to listen, time to sing, and time to go. You really don’t need to turn around while the preacher is preaching and ask me if there’s something wrong with my son. I’ll politely tell you he has autism.
Please don’t embarrass my mother with your disapproving looks. She hasn’t had the years of practice that I’ve had, learning to “turn the other cheek.” I won’t tell you what I’m thinking, or respond with an equal measure of disapproval. No need to apologize for asking (but you should be more capable of listening to the preacher and less distracted than the 7-year-old boy behind you.)
Will you support the family of someone with autism at the store, at school, and in the community? Will you wear blue this month in honor of autism awareness? Will you light it up blue this April?
This post is in response to:
Weekly Writing Challenge: Time Machine | The Daily Post
Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life | The Daily Post
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