A Life-Changing Year

Thursday, October 4, 2012 View Comments Autism Speaks

This is a blog post by Shira Roth, the mother of two boys, Evan (age 4, PDD-NOS) and Noah (age 1.5).

On October 13th we'll be celebrating four years of our amazing and very special Evan. But this October marks another important anniversary for us, too. It will be one year since Evan was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. This was a year filled with frantic researching and then ultimate confidence in the school support team; fear and hope; sadness and joy; denial and acceptance; shame and pride; anxiety and calm. A roller coaster of emotions.

Our younger son, Noah, reached developmental milestones and achievements that had been major struggles for Evan, some of which are still struggles for him as his younger brother quickly makes his own strides. Noah so easily imitated social gestures, while Evan concentrated so hard to wave or nod his head in the appropriate contexts. Noah experimented with words and had a “burst” in language development, of which everyone assured us for years Evan was just on the brink. Things clicked for Noah that took so much effort for Evan, and Noah intuitively knew how to play while Evan had to be taught these skills explicitly.

Do we celebrate Noah's accomplishments like all parents want to do, or do we mourn how hard it's been for Evan? The answer for us was yes to both. It was the definition of “bittersweet.”

It turns out, though, that it has been a year filled with celebrations of both kids' achievements, because almost as soon as Evan's intensive therapy began it was like he had been unlocked. He suddenly had learned how to learn. While Noah's development had been following the steady, constant growth (with some intermittent bursts) of typical children, Evan's had been on a much slower trajectory when it abruptly shot up-- and it hasn't stopped since. Where he used to go through life in his own little bubble of obliviousness, he suddenly became aware of the world around him. And as he quickly started absorbing this world around him, the world got something in return: the amazing, smart, and funny child who only now had become accessible.

The growth and accomplishments of both kids tasted all the sweeter after having experienced how hard they can be to come by. We realize how fortunate we are that the circumstances of Evan's particular diagnosis have allowed for such incredible progress (especially knowing that others may not have the same light at the ends of their tunnels). This journey for Evan is far from complete, and there will still be many bumps in the road for him to face. But for us the year has ended with the replacement of panic, fear, sadness, denial, shame, and anxiety by trust, hope, joy, acceptance, pride, and calm. In fact, as this year comes to a close we're surrounded by a greater feeling of calm than ever before: he's going to be just fine