It’s April which means it’s Autism Awareness Month. Tomorrow marks Autism Awareness Day so we’ll see lots of people wearing blue or the multi-colored Ribbon for Autism. You’ll notice increased coverage on the news as well as articles which is great because education is key. On the calendar it’s just one day, but for us, it’s every day life. It’s hard to believe it’s already been 8 years on this Autism journey.
In reflecting on all that has occurred up to this point on our journey, I can’t help but remember back to right before you were born, before I knew anything about being a mother and well before I ever learned a thing about Autism.
The big day came and you were born! I had never fallen so in love with anyone in my life…at least not like this. I counted 10 fingers, 10 toes, and the Doctor said you were a perfectly healthy baby boy with a set of lungs to prove it! I’d hold you and just stare at you in disbelief. I was in love with you and couldn’t believe you were mine.
I feel like I remember a lot from your first year even with the complete lack of sleep. Sleeping wasn’t your favorite during your first year of life. I had never drank a sip of coffee until the age of 32 but it became a necessity as Mommy tried desperately to juggle her big corporate job and being the best Mom I could be. I’d rush home to see that smile of yours, as your father passed you to me as he headed out the door to work the late shift. It’s crazy to think how we made it through those early years, but we did.
Then you started walking and sitting was no longer an option for me. You never stopped moving, trying to open everything and safety locks were almost an insult to you as you figured out how to open every single one no matter how difficult thje box claimed it would be.
You also loved listening to me read. You would grab a book and sit on my lap and just listen to book after book. You could do that for hours. Then you discovered The Wiggles and unless I didn’t accept watching 4 grown men, a pirate and a dinosaur singing about a red car, I was never watching TV again. So I accepted it and your flawless dance moves (which you get from me, thank you very much) made it so much easier to just sit and watch.
Even when you didn’t have many words, you’d still just sit and listen to me read and soak it all in. You would turn each page and knew exactly when it was time to without me saying a word. Then you took on puzzles and that was amazing to watch. You’d make me look foolish at my attempts to help because I was the one that needed help with them!
I always knew what you needed, or at least I thought I did, but I started realizing that you really didn’t have many words. Some would try to calm my fears that it wasn’t something more than you just “Being a boy”, but deep down I started feeling I needed to look into this more because of some other things I was concerned about.
We spent the next year of life filled with tests, assessments and getting on Doctor’s wait lists, to the day where we finally heard the word. Autism.
I admit I was terrified. I was scared of what this meant for you and your future. I doubted that I could even take on all that I knew would be needed from me to make sure that you would be happy.
The greater part of your life has been filled with hours of therapy, school, advocating for what I know you need and even moving to another city to get you the proper services so that we know we are doing all that we can.
I had to educate myself on Autism and what that means for anyone diagnosed with it. I’ve learned it means many different things for many different people. I’ve thought many times about the day I talk to you about your diagnosis because we still haven’t done that yet. You haven’t asked and I want it to be a point that I believe that you’ll get that Autism does not mean you CANNOT do something. Yes, it means some things may be more difficult and that you process things differently so we just have to work together to figure out how you best process them to live an incredible life. Some things may be more of a struggle because of your Autism diagnosis, but we’ll do this together.
I want you to know that Autism is never an excuse, but an explanation as to why you may need to go about things differently and why you may need to work harder on some things than others. NEVER just assume you cannot do something because of your diagnosis or because someone suggested that it is impossible. I promise you this, there will be things others will have to work harder on, and you’ll breeze through. For instance, I’d love to be able to sing, but it’s best for everyone that I don’t, so I write because that’s a gift, too. You have SO many gifts to offer this world. Autism is something that makes you see and process the world around you differently, but it does not define you or limit you from living a beautiful life. Your attitude will determine whether you live a beautiful life or not. The choice is ALWAYS ours.
So I choose to make my mission to educate others on Autism because you have inspired me to help everyone understand that you are just like any other kid that wants to be accepted and loved for the awesome person that they are. I want to do this for you and so many others so that you always remember to “Embrace your AUsome”. I want to help parents feel like the world understands, accepts and celebrates their children EVERY DAY and not just on April 2nd of every year.
We’ve still got some work ahead of us and I don’t know that our work will ever be completely done so until then always remember these 3 things:
- Keep being YOU. Don’t you dare change.
- Being “Normal” is boring. Stay away from anyone that tells you to “act” that way.
- I am SO proud to be your Mother and thank God every day for the gift of you.