Parenthood has been a bizarre dichotomy and an autism diagnosis intensified that for me. This year, especially right after James was diagnosed, was filled with a lot of crying, feelings of failure, anger, frustration, yelling and thoughts of “why me”? James was newly 3 and I had struggled with so much of his behavior for a solid 18 months but never understood why. I also had a not quite 1 year old and felt like each day my goal was simply to make it to bedtime. I was mad that this diagnosis happened to my family and to my son.
2017 also brought me hope, answers and a new purpose. 2017 was the year I watched my son reach goal after goal in his various therapy services. It was the year my question of whether or not he would ever say something on his own and not a script he had memorized was answered (yes!). 2017 was the year I would realize that an autism diagnosis isn’t the end of the world, it’s just a new world. A world that is there waiting for those who are willing to learn. 2017 showed me that support is all around. My family raised money for Autism Speaks during the Minnesota walk and people I hadn’t talked to in over 15 years donated and offered kind words. We raised almost $4,000 and I was overwhelmed by the amount of people that reached out.
We recently attended the Caring Santa event in Nashville and I was so moved by the entire thing that I started crying when my son was sitting on Santa’s lap. I beamed with pride when he asked Santa for a garbage truck with a conveyor belt. It makes me tear up just writing about it. A year ago, he only repeated phrases he had memorized and made noises for vehicles. A year ago this moment seemed so impossibly out of reach.
I hope the new year continues to bring progress for my son, patience for me and greater understanding and acceptance of autism in the world. I think the most eye opening thing of the entire Caring Santa event was that with the exception of one child, to the untrained eye, you would never know that these children live with autism. This is why autism awareness is so important. Don’t be afraid to speak up to strangers. Offer information. Be the advocate your child deserves to have. If you too had a hard year or a have child who was recently diagnosed, keep your head up. Remember, you have an entire community here to support you.
I hope you have a happy holiday season and a safe and happy New Year.