The look on the lady’s face Is still etched in my mind, I was dropping off my child at the church nursery and in the room was a lady holding back her screaming child away from the door. It must have been at least two years ago, but the look on her face still surfaces at times when I think back through memories of my son.
The child that was screaming was trying to head for the door. You could tell instantly that there was something different with this child as most kids were sitting in their seats staring at the screaming child, probably wondering if his momma was going to spank him. But for me, it wasn’t the way the kid was acting, throwing himself around and screaming. It was the look on his mother’s face while she was holding him trying to keep him from hurting himself or someone else. I’ve been in that place before.
That look haunted me. A look that says she’s done this a few thousand times before. The look that teeters on hope and despair. A look that says she is just bearing it, never knowing if it will ever get better. Autism is a spectrum condition which leaves a mother never knowing what potential there is in her child. They all develop at a different pace. So, therapy is not a guarantee of success. Therapy is simply a tool to utilize. But most of the therapy work is not done in a therapist office. It is done at home and as you go about your life. That’s where this mother was that morning.
Without knowing this woman, (we were visiting a church), I am somewhat confident that I know at least a few of the thoughts going through her head. If it wasn’t for the fact that the best thing I could do at that moment, was to get out of the way and close the door, so the child she was holding back could start the process of calming down- I would have tried to tell her she was doing a great job- for simply being there. I would have told her to hang in there. I would have grabbed my own child and introduced him to the woman and explained to her- I’ve been right where you are. Just don’t stop trying. Keep at it. Be consistent and persistent. If there has been anything our therapist has told me that has stuck with me most, it would be that a child’s best chance for therapy working, is directly related to how much a mother works with her child.
I know it is tiring. Autism never ends. As our therapist also explained that true Autism cannot be cured. At least in our day and time. If it can be cured, then it wasn’t autism to begin with. Autism will affect your child all throughout their life. But, through early intervention and consistent work, many kids (not all kids) will grow up and no one but their mother will probably ever know there was a problem. They might have a few ticks- but for the most part, can be fully functioning adults.
When I think back on all of those horribly bad times. All of the things I gave up, all of the nights I spent crying over him. Those horrible comments people apparently NEEDED to share with me. The looks, the misunderstandings, the therapy sessions, the condescending attitudes, those who actually thought I had him diagnosed to explain away my bad parenting skills. All of those things- They are still worth it. Those things taught me. Those things gave me a reason to try harder. Those things made me tougher to the ugly comments people apparently never cease to have nor cease to give. Those things made me appreciate even more- where he is now. As anytime there is an area he struggles in, I remind myself where He came from and I KNOW I should be thankful rather than feel defeated. Every success is a HUGE success.
I have learned over the years that Autism is NOT something to fear. Autistic kids have so many wonderful qualities. It simply makes them unique. It might require a LOT of work, maybe more than my other kids, but having children was never about myself. It IS work. It requires an incredible amount of self-sacrifice. That is being an adult. That is being a parent. And unlike most other Jobs in this world – it is ALWAYS worth it.
Just to clarify- Our son is higher functioning. The meaning of that has changed over the years- so for us, means within average IQ. (he was tested- not just my own guess). There are so many different variations from Low IQ to very High IQ’s that make every autistic child unique and the difficulties that you experience unique. So my comments are not always reflecting everyone’s different situations, but I do believe each child has wonderful qualities regardless of severity. Sometimes we may have to stretch ourselves to see it but I believe them to be there. And In the hardest of times, it was literally on my knees in prayer over my child that I have found where God meets me. Never stop praying for them.