Eight and a half years ago, a wonderful thing happened. I gave birth to my first and only child, my son Michael. He made quite the entrance into our world, arriving after a twenty six hour labor with an emergency caesarian section in the wee hours of the morning.
The joy I felt at becoming a Mom was unparalleled by anything else I had ever experienced.
I looked at his beautiful little healthy body, his cute little face. He was perfect in every way. I didn’t know then, that three and half years later I would be sitting in a psychologist’s office getting a diagnosis for autism for my son. I also didn’t know that it was only the day it became official. I had been sure that my son had autism way before then, but there were more hurdles to go over before that day, and much to come to terms with.
I remember feeling like I was falling through space with no net to catch me. Would he never talk? Laugh? Live alone? My beautiful little boy was damaged? It couldn’t be. He was a happy baby, so full of life and love. He was so smart in his own way. He was just different. And that was how my husband and I saw him, and continue to see him today. Through various therapies, wonderful community organizations, and two wonderful adapted schools, my little boy today is a talkative, engaging, intelligent little boy. Yes, he struggles with academics, handwriting, fine and gross motor skills like bouncing a ball, but his sense of direction is out of this world. As a matter of fact, we call him our ‘human GPS’. He laughs! And he loves to sing, play piano and guitar. One day we’ll start music lessons when the time is right for him.
The most important thing that my son has taught me though, is that disability is just a word. Sure, he struggles. People with autism have a lot of issues to deal with. Our world is constantly bombarding them with stimuli, scents, and noises that are often hard for them to handle. They react by screaming, covering their ears, or retreating into themselves or leaving the room. But it does not mean that with the right tools, belief, and encouragement, they cannot accomplish great things. I have learned to laugh again, really laugh at the beautiful moments in life, cherish the present, and remember what is truly important because of my son Michael.
Before he came into my life, I took so much for granted. I took people for granted. Not anymore. I now see how much joy one person can bring. Michael brings that joy to me when I see him surprise someone, including myself, by overcoming another obstacle in his way. First it was talking fluently, then swimming, and now bike riding. Soon, I know more will come. He is my little light, my very ‘ability oriented exceptional child’ who is helping me to lead an exceptional and more exemplary life. I have learned ways to cope with my own anxiety, tools for dealing with my past depression and self-esteem issues, to be a strong advocate for Michael. I chose to rise above challenges as my son does every day of his life.
Thank you Michael, for opening my eyes. I look forward each day as you open other people’s eyes to what autism is and isn’t, and what you can achieve when you know you have the support and love of everyone around you.