My eldest son is 8 years old. His favorite toys are Bionacles, and he loves chocolate chip cookies. He’s got an engaging smile and tries to make friends with every kid he sees. He’s a fantastic big brother and runs as fast as he can to me anytime his baby brother or sister is crying, so that I can fix whatever is making them cry. He likes to ride his bike, dance, and wants to become a paramedic so that he can help everyone that’s hurt.
He’s also Autistic. But being Autistic does NOT define who he is, for it is only one part of him. Unfortunately it does make it difficult for him to understand social cues such as jokes, or body language. Nor does he understand why some children are cruel with him, and countless nights have been spent cuddling with him as he cries. Just because he’s Autistic does not mean he doesn’t have feelings, and those feelings are deeply hurt when other people (adults and children alike) are not accepting or kind.
Adults tend to be the harshest with him. They have no patience and judge immediately both him and I. He’s spoilt and I’m not a good mother are the comments I get when he’s having a meltdown in public. While rare now, they do occasionally still happen.
A person with Epilepsy’s brain sends too many signals and a seizure results. A person with Autism’s brain cannot always cope with all of the information it receives from the 5 senses and a meltdown results. I cannot help that his brain gets overloaded at times, all I can do is help him to learn how to cope with so much sensory information being processed by his brain, and that takes time, a great deal of it to learn.
For a long time he couldn’t handle loud noises or large crowds and while we would work on that regularly it took years before he could handle them without a meltdown. And for years I would measure my days by the minutes he was okay between meltdowns. On those days I would cry myself to sleep, hurting so much for this beautiful boy who was so lost within himself that he couldn’t explain what was wrong.
I took him to doctors and my worries were brushed off for almost 5 years I only received patronizing answers about him just being willful, spoilt and that his behaviour was a product of my own poor parenting.
A month before his 6th birthday a doctor finally listened and gave us the official diagnosis. Has it made a great deal of difference? In some ways yes it has. In others no it hasn’t.
In the ways of funding for more activities, programs and behavioral therapy for him, yes it has helped a great deal.
In the way of changing people’s opinions about him, some yes but most often (adults especially) are extremely judgmental and don’t always listen to an explanation after giving their harsh unasked for criticism.
Do I look at my son and wish he was “better” NO! NEVER! For to wish he was “better” is to wish he wasn’t the person he is. He loves more fiercely than any child I know, he’s sweet and thoughtful. He’s insightful about so many things, and overall perfect exactly as he is. It is because of the fact that I truly do see him as fantastic just the way he is that when he chooses to do something that is not considered “socially acceptable” or “the social norm” I don’t tell him not to. I simply let him know how it could be percieved by the general population and reasure him that I love and support him no matter his choices.
MY wish is that the rest of the world could see the shining beauty of his spirit and be in awe of it even a fraction of the amount I am.