Last week I wrote about the beginning of my journey. I was overwhelmed with the sweet comments. As well as overcome with the concerned comments. Although there are some really hard, sad memories, there are wonderful and beautiful ones too. Thank you for giving me a safe place to share my story.
Pushing the stroller with my newborn baby girl while Josh was chasing after our rambunctious two year old boy, I casually asked my sister-in-law about her job. She had recently started working for a company doing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). She worked with children with autism.
Me: So what are the kids like that you work with?
SIL: They are sweet kids. Challenging. Some talk. Some don’t. They have behaviors.
Me: I’m curious because I’m wondering about J. I’m worried about him.
SIL: Oh no, the kids I work with are nothing like J.
We continued our walk through the mall. But the thought wouldn’t go away. ‘What if? No…couldn’t be….but WHAT IF??’
We went home and I apprehensively hopped on the computer. The internet (on dial-up, mind you) landed me on a page with six different categories. “Symptoms of autism.” As I scrolled down the screen, I gasped. J fell into all six categories. My head started spinning. ‘NO. NO. NO. Not our J.’ I ran to Josh and told him what I had found. His initial reaction was, ‘No. Our son does not have autism.’
*Note: Autism is now a buzz word. Everyone knows someone who has autism. It’s an epidemic. But at the time (9 years ago) that we discovered that J fell into the big umbrella of symptoms, we knew very little about it. Our point of reference was Rain Man. And even though Dustin Hoffman did a brilliant job of portraying a savant with autism, I will forever be correcting people on their assumptions of autism based on his performance. Most people with autism are not like Rain Man.
Although up to this point in my life I had experienced some hard times, nothing could have prepared me for the feeling of living in a complete nightmare that day. I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t stop crying. My head felt like it was going to explode. And my heart felt like it had shattered into a million little pieces.
J’s life flashed before my eyes. He would never really talk. Never have friends. Never go to a “regular” school. Never move out of the house. Never marry. Never have kids.
In the mean time, Josh encouraged me to set up an appointment to have J’s hearing tested. We needed to rule out every other option before determining that J indeed had autism. We immediately found out that his hearing was A-ok. Which was both a relief and terrifying at the same time.
At this point, shocked and in a daze, without an official diagnosis, I engulfed myself in reading books about autism. Surely there had to be a way to fix this………….