I'll tell you when it happened. It happened in between the therapy appointments, the evaluations, the worrying, the additional worrying, and the doctors visits. It happened in waiting rooms and therapy gyms. It happened in special education classrooms. It happened in the company of therapists, special education teachers, para-pros, and doctors. It happened in support groups. It happened in seminars. It happened on our living room floor during those hours and hours of Floortime.
And here we are. We have before us a beautiful little boy of almost 4 who has made great progress with all of the everything that we do each day.
Yet he's still autistic. He still has special needs. Two years into his diagnosis (he was diagnosed at exactly 24 months), he is still in intensive therapy. In fact, we've increased the amount of speech he receives in school, and we've increased the amount of private speech and OT over the past 2 years.
And he still has special needs. He's still autistic. He always will be...and that's okay.
It's okay! Really, truly okay. I won't lie; parenting my kid isn't a piece of cake, but it is worth it every minute of every day. Meltdown filled or not. Verbal or not. Struggling or not. It's okay.
We move forward under that banner that says "This is okay. My son is wonderful just as he is." It's a good place to be - a better place than we've been before - and my hope is that raising Jack in a house of acceptance will help him love the wonderful, unique, and individual person that he is.
We've also learned to stop and enjoy life. We've learned to not get bogged down in the everyday details of raising a child with special needs. Sure, we still have all of those therapy sessions, doctor's appointments, evaluations, paperwork, and IEP meetings to contend with each and every day, but we also don't feel like we're running a race anymore. It's no longer the thought that we must cram so much in before a certain point. Instead, we know that our boy will grow and develop at his pace - a pace that is uniquely Jack - while supported by the teachers, therapists, and his parents who love him so.
The 4-year old before me is one of the hardest working, most inspirational people I have ever met. In his barely 4 years of living, he has done something that most people cannot claim - he has touched lives. People who have never met him can read about his life and smile, cry, sympathize, laugh, and feel like they are not alone. What a gift he gives! Jack - at times - brings out the worst in humanity, but far more often than not he brings out the best. There are people who I went to high school or college with who read about Jack and gain awareness about autism. Awareness, where there once was none.
All of this because of one little boy.
And so it is with the utmost joy that I can say Happy Birthday to my sweet angel. It is my privilege to be your mother and to walk this journey with you. I will always be at your side, supporting you with each step in whatever way you may need me. You have already made such an impact on your world, and for that I am so incredibly proud. I am blessed to get to share your life with you.
Jeanie is a former engineer turned stay-at-home wife and mom to an amazing 3.5-year old little boy on the autism spectrum. After her only child was diagnosed at 24 months with autism and an alphabet soup of special needs, she began to write about life parenting a very young child with special needs with honesty, optimism, and as always, a touch of humor.