Sunday, February 10, 2013

Five years.

On February 17, it’s been five years since my little guy was diagnosed with autism. 

Five crazy years. 

This particular ‘anniversary’ has been really tough for me. I’m not sure if it’s the whole ‘half a decade’ thing or what, but this year is not as easy as the last few. 

So, in an attempt to turn this into a positive… I thought up things that my son has taught me. 

Things I’ve learned in the last five years:

It’s not always easy. I don’t even have to explain that one!

It’s not always hard, either. Believe it or not, between little man and his sister, he is the easy child. As he gets more and more typical, that is slowly changing… but autism does not always mean harder. 

There are a lot of really, really bad stories. That doesn’t mean yours will be bad, too. Read the news stories, and you can easily become terrified. But there are some awesome, wonderful people out there.

Which brings me to my next one… disabilities can really shed some light on the true nature of people. You will meet some of the most amazing, compassionate, caring people ever. And you will meet some heartless ones. It is like a spotlight for people’s character.

Sometimes it hurts really badly. There is nothing worse in this world than seeing your child struggle. We hit rock bottom this past year when I got a note home from the school that explained that my son was ‘at low risk for suicide’ after he told them he wanted to kill himself. It was devastating.

Being the parent of a special child changes you. You learn a lot about yourself and what you want to be like when you have a child that has special needs.

Experts don’t know everything. According to them, he shouldn’t be talking. He should be severely cognitively impaired. His latest IQ test shows him at or above average everywhere. They were wrong.

Never lose hope. The first three years of little man’s life were difficult. There was an incident where he threw a plate at my head and it broke. He would go into rages where I would struggle to protect myself, and end up covered in softball sized bruises from his bites. He would scream for hours on end… and there was no way to console him. Suddenly, at a little over three years old, everything changed. Like a light switch. Things DO get better. They have gotten better for us ever since – with blips of course, but progressively overall better.

Don’t panic. There will be setbacks. They are temporary. Take a deep breath.
Surround yourself with people that are positive. It makes a huge difference when those around you believe in your baby.

Special needs kids are amazing. My son works so hard just to keep up. Take a moment to let this sink in: In 5 years, he has accumulated 7,000 hours of therapies, services and intervention. This does not include the evaluations, doctor’s appointments to rule out scarier things, or doctor’s appointments to deal with autism or mental health issues. He works really, really hard all the time.

Sometimes I try to imagine what my son feels like every day. He knows there are things he is not good at, things that are hard that should come easy. He knows that he is different, that he goes to different classes. He deals with a sensory overload of activity, overwhelming noises and so much input at one time that his little body shuts down because it becomes just too much for him to handle.

But through all that, he knows he is loved. He is accepted just the way he is. He has a mom, dad, sister, grandparents, school, peers, community that adore him for him.

He has a team that believes in him and all he is capable of. That celebrates his unbelievable successes, and sees failure as a need to find a new road to success. They have the same ‘never give up’ attitude that he has. It is a blessing.

With that, I know that we can do anything. He can do anything.

He’s taught me more in his 7 years (5 with a label) than anyone else I’ve ever met.

He’s awesome, what can I say?

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Katie is a parent to two fabulous kiddos: one happens to have autism.


  1. this is a wonderful post: demonstrating the bittersweet nature of living with a child with special needs; sharing the knowledge that the grieving continues in a non-chronological way and that that is ok; exposing the truth of the burden of caring but also the delights; and clearly demonstrating the love and support that is necessary.
    thank you for this post. we approach 3 years in may and in some respects I feel that we haven't moved on from the heart wrenching grief at the moment of diagnosis, but actually, through reading your post, I am reminded that life is continuing, that this is now our normal and it can be beautiful.
    thank you