After my son was diagnosed with autism, I had to learn to stop comparing him to the other kids we knew. It took a while, but eventually I tossed out the milestones books, and replaced phrases like “should be able to” with phrases like “his own path” and “he’ll get there when he’s ready.”
An intensive one on one early intervention program necessitated leaving Moe’s regular play group, so I had fewer opportunities for direct comparison. Moe then moved directly into an autism preschool class, his peers all occupying the elite portion of the spectrum that allows them to be in this class. So most of the kids I see on a daily basis are also autistic.
I do still keep in touch with friends from the mom’s group. Many of them are good friends, and I see their kids occasionally. Last night we all went out for sushi, and I can honestly say it was the first time since Moe’s diagnosis that I did not have to fight back tears as I heard the stories of what their kids were doing and how they were preparing for kindergarten.
It helps that have a typical two year old as well and can finally relate. Actually, she’s what my husband and I call “hyper-typical.” She breezes past milestones with the greatest of ease. She plays with toys exactly as the toy manufacturers suggest. She doesn’t eat the crayons or play-doh. She speaks at the level of some three and four year olds and plays well with others.
I’ve learned to stop comparing Moe to his little sister as well.
I have recently started to become close with some of the moms from Moe’s class. I have many online connections, but these real life connections are building close friendships I haven’t felt since I left the play group. We chat as we pick up our kids from school, meet for coffee or breakfast, and exchange long emails when our kids have finally gone to bed for the night.
And once again, I find myself comparing. I am filled with such hope when I learn that one kid started talking at age five. Another finally just learned to use the toilet. These things are possible! I read the stories and books, but there’s nothing like hearing from someone you know to make you feel like it is possible.
I also compare the other way. One kid recently showed his mom the word “x-ray” on his iPad after he broke his arm. Another kid is finally speaking in sentences. The list of achievements goes on and on, and I am thrilled for them, but I also think “Moe can’t do that.” And I forget all about what Moe can do, and all that good stuff I learned about getting there when he’s ready.
But Moe has a way of reminding me. Last night, as we were getting ready him ready for bed, Moe started saying “mom” over and over. At first I wasn’t sure. Was he just making random sounds? Was he saying he wanted “more” swinging? And then, as if he knew I doubted him, he looked and pointed right at me.
Moe will point or touch pictures or items to make choices but this was the first time in over two years I can remember him pointing like that. We were so thrilled with this that later that night we asked him to give a kiss to each of us in turn, first Mom, then Dad, then little sister Jelly, which he begrudgingly did, but did nonetheless.
And all of that good stuff that I learned came flooding back. And my heart was filled once again with “on this own path” and “when he’s ready” and lots and lots of hope.
And most importantly, with so much love for my perfect little boy.