Autism robbed me of my son.
I have never spoken those words.
But I have heard them.
I recently read a blog post that mentioned the writer's frustration with those words. I wish I could remember which blog it was, but I honestly cannot. There are so many wonderfully written special needs blogs that I can get lost in them for hours if I am not careful. So many of them make me pause to reflect on things that are dear to me, as well as things that are extremely difficult to think about.
And so it was with this particular post ....
Is it wrong for autism-parents to say that the disorder robbed us of our sons and daughters?
I have heard a dear friend of mine say it.
I have heard another dear friend comment on how uncomfortable the words make her feel.
I must admit -- and this is probably going to make me a little unpopular with some folks -- that my first reaction to the post was to wonder if the writer's child was hanging out on that "high functioning" end of the spectrum or if he/she was chillin' with the kiddos closer to my son's place -- you know, the kids whose autism is never, ever in doubt.
Oh boy. There it is.
I am probably going to be shunned by parents who think I just trivialized their worries concerning their children.
I do not mean to. Honestly.
I know that all parents have sincere, agonizing worries when their children struggle with communication and social skills enough to legitimately be placed on the autism spectrum.
But in all honestly, the sentiment that the writer takes issue with -- the idea that autism robbed a parent of a son or daughter -- is much easier to understand when you picture a child who is unable to utter a single word ... a child who is incapable of engaging in any meaningful conversation with anyone ... a child who cannot begin to understand the purpose of play ... a child who struggles with the meaning behind not only words, but even gestures.
I don't ever recall thinking that autism "robbed me of my son." I am a very literal person, and I think the words don't make perfect sense to me because I believe Daniel always has had autism -- from the time he entered the world. And, so, my thinking goes: how could autism rob me of a child when my child has always been autistic -- when autism has always been a part of him, and I have never stopped loving him as a son from the day he was born?
But don't get me wrong.
I do believe autism robs.
And robs and robs and robs.
It definitely robbed my son. It robbed him of so many things that I can't even begin to really think about them -- because to think about them would be to return to days when I was so lost in grief that I almost lost myself.
It robbed me, too, as his mother, and it robbed his dad as a father.
It robbed me as a wife. And it robbed Daniel's dad as a husband.
It robbed Olivia as a sister.
And it robbed Daniel's grandparents.
Autism robbed me of an opportunity to know my son in the way I should have been able to.
And it robs Daniel every day of the ability to show the world just how much is going on inside that mysterious mind in his beautiful head.
So would I say that autism robbed me of my child? No, I would not.
But I take no issue with those who feel that way, only to say that I hope all parents who struggle with autism find a way to laugh each day, to rejoice in "small" accomplishments, and to find their way back to what matters most when they find themselves slipping into despair.