I have a 5 year old son with Autism, his name is Ryan. He is my youngest child and my only boy, after 3 girls we were ecstatic to change the gender gap in our family. When he was born, he was so perfect, all 10 fingers and toes, perfect little face, perfect little body; I couldn’t imagine that it would ever be any different. As a baby, he was just like any other baby-sleep, eat, pee and poo, giggle a litte and start the cycle all over again. I recall when he was 7 months old sitting in his crib watching TV and saying “Spongebob”, I was so excited, I thought he’s already saying his first words and its a big one too. That was the first time he spoke a word, and the last time he would say another one for almost 3 years.
I always felt guilty that I didn’t see the signs earlier; I had 2 year old twins and a 7 year old and attending an online school full time; but is that really an excuse. He changed after his first birthday, he didn’t want to be held or touched; I thought that was odd that a child wanted nothing to do with his mother. He didn’t want hugged or sang to, he would sit at the end of the hall against a wall and just stare; he seemed so withdrawn, so sad, in his own little world. I thought maybe its just a phase, but one day it hit me and I collapsed on my bed in tears; “I don’t know my son!” I cried to myself. I was so frustrated realizing he didn’t talk, he never seemed to understand a word I said to him and he was always so fixated on the television. We would scream his name to get his attention “Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!” but there was never a response; on occasion he would look over and immediately resume to staring at the television or just looking at the wall…so focused on whatever object was in his sight. The harder I tried to love him, the more he would push me away, he wanted to be alone and I knew that was not typical behavior. I checked online to see if it was normal for an 18 month old not to speak a word or not understand even simple direction; what I found in my search was AUTISM. Everything pointed to Autusm, but I said no it has to be something else. This may sound so stupid or inconciderate, but I was hoping it was hearing loss; I could cope with that, I could learn how to communicate with him properly, anything but Autism. I waited like an idiot thinking maybe, just maybe, he would just snap out of it. I knew it couldn’t be hearing loss, he did respond occasionally to sounds; but finally I had to suck it and do what was best for my child and had his pediatrician exam him. She asked me several questions, and did a few exercises with Ryan and she felt it was a good possiblity he had autism. We were recommended to a behavioral specialist and the University of Kentucky Medical Center, which took months to get into; on June 15, 2009, Dr. S confirmed the diagnosis of Autism. I had no emotions, I knew it in my heart he did, but I finally heard the words, I finally had an explanation for everything, a confirmed diagnosis. Although, the doctor in my opinion was incompetant, there were no testing and examinations; just him going on a survey filled out by me and playing with Ryan for less than 2 minutes, I wasn’t going to deny what was in front of me. We started speech therapy, occupational therapy, and enrolled him in a local preschool per doctor instruction; I always felt that it wasn’t enough, I needed more information, I was given a diagnosis and a “have a nice life” so to speak….was that it? Where is the handbook for raising an autistic child? They give new mothers pamplets or books on how to take care of your newborn, heck, they give you instruction on how to hook up a DVD to a television, your car comes with a manual, even shampoo displays the simplicity of how to wash your hair; but a human life is given to you with special circumstances and your left there questioning “what do I do now”. Maybe I expected too much, you know when you have a baby you can ask a mom or a friend how do you do this or that, but with Autism, no one seems to know. I have discovered that you really have to create your own instruction manual as you go along, you have to be extremely proactive and research everything you can find on it. Who understands best the struggles I have faced and will face with my son, simply put, its other moms and dads with an autistic child(ren). I have found the greatest resource, conciderably more valuable than anything some doctor could ever tell me. I have spoken online and through friends of friends going through an autism diagnosis; and I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned. What’s more, is being able to ask someone if its normal for a child to smear poop all over his room and have 20 other people chime in relating to what you are asking. Your doctors and therapist are important and play a major roll in your childs prognosis, but other parents have been a tremendous resource; whether in person meetings or through online messageboards devoted to Autism.
My little boy is 5 now, just started kindergarten; he has developed conciderably since he was diagnosed 3 years ago, but there is still so much work to be done. He does, however, say words, mostly repeating but he can atleast speak, and understands very simple directions; he loves to play and laugh and enjoys his attention now. I haven’t seen that sad, withdrawn look in a very long time; he still has many quirks, basically destroys everything he touches and does some of the nastist things I’ve ever witnessed in my life, but we are dealing with those things.
So, although those dreams I had for my son are questionable in some ways, I still dream for him and hope for many great things to come in his life. My life, nor his, is over just because he is autistic; we just have a different journey, different goals, and different hopes; its only the beginning still and can only get better from here.
I hope to share more on this page about Autism, and there is so much more. Some will be educational and some will be for me just a place to vent sometimes; but hopefully it can help someone or atleast start up a conversation that can help me, as well as, develop friendships and a network for support. Until then-