March 31, 2010
BECOME AWARE: April is Autism Awareness Month
Do you see those eyes?
Those long, dark eyelashes?
Do you see that face?
Isn't it beautiful?
That is the face of autism.
April is autism awareness month. And April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day.
Six years ago, I didn't give the word "autism" much thought.
So much has happened in six years.
I am no longer the 28-year-old strumming through the days with my beautiful newborn, so sure that my life was exactly as it was meant to be, so sure that the world would hold great things for me, my son, and his father.
Six years have passed and my life is not what I had envisioned.
More importantly, my son's life is not what I had envisioned.
He still cannot talk. He still struggles to process the language -- the never-ending, too-frequently-demanding language -- that fills his days.
He gets frustrated. Who wouldn't. He did not get a fair ride in life. And, even worse, the past year has been so unfair to him, so confusing and unstable. It has affected him deeply.
Yet, here we are, my boy and I, and his amazing little sister. There is so much love in our home.
Autism has, without question, turned my life in a completely different direction than the one I thought I was travelling six years ago. Along the way, I lost the person I thought would be my partner.
This definitely is not the path I had pictured.
But, wow, look what I have discovered along the way.
Autism has been my teacher.
It is like a roadmap that unfolds slowly, in tiny little pieces, and each unfolding reveals something so essential about what really matters in this life, or at least what really ought to matter.
Autism has taught me that someone does not have to talk to communicate.
That so much can be said with our eyes, if we really take the time to look, to gaze, to listen with our hearts and not just our ears.
That being a mother will be the most difficult, and most precious, job I would ever take on.
That milestones -- amazing, joyous milestones -- are cause for tremendous celebration even when they come nowhere close to those annoying timelines set forth in the "what your baby ought to be doing" list. (You guys know the book. Mine will be for sale at my upcoming garage sale. In fact, I'll be happy to give it away.)
Look again at that face.
That is the face of a gorgeous, six-year-old boy who loves to jump in bounce castles. He loves to snuggle with his mommy and his Gram. He loves to dance with his grandfather. He taught himself to swim. He rode the Shock Wave (think double-loop coaster) for the first time when he was FOUR-years-old and loved every second of it.
He figures out so very much about this world without the benefit of language.
He is the most meaningful thing that has ever happened to me.
He has autism, and he is amazing.