Today is National Autism Day. It is amazing to me that autism was almost unheard of just 10 years ago except for people's narrow perception from the movie Rain Man. And now, we have a day and month dedicated to awareness.
But I still think that many people don't truly understand what autism is. Or for that matter what the children look like that are diagnosed with this disease. Could you pick out a child in the grocery store that has autism? How many times have you looked a mother because her child was screaming or throwing a tantrum in the store? I have been on both ends. From thinking that a mother needs to get her child under control, to later being glared at and even asked to leave church because my child could not keep it together. Trust me, you feel the need to run away and punch that person in the face all at once. And then head straight to confession. LOL.
Let me show you what Autism looks like. Meet my sweet son Clay (right) and his friend JC (left). Are they the cutest little 5 y.o. boys you have ever seen?! Both were diagnosed with Autism around the age of 3. They have been in school together since that time and have both grown by leaps and bounds. When they are together, they make you laugh until you cry.
They both have an obsession with legos and Star Wars. Put a new lego catalog in front of them that features star wars sets, and they are in heaven. Where speech use to elude them just a few short years ago, and eye contact was non-existant now comes excited chatter and sparkling eyes describing each star wars character and whether they are on the good side or dark side.
In the fall they will both be transitioning into a mainstream kindergarten class. But this new achievement did not come easily. You may remember that I shared my story of Clay's diagnosis last year during Autism Awareness Month. It feels like a million years ago that he was diagnosed and yet it has flown by. I wish now I had kept track of the countless hours spent doing therapy with him at him, taking him to speech therapy, occupational therapy, etc. But I guess the journey isn't as important as the destination.
Our destination often changes and new goals are set. But we are getting there! My neighbor said to me recently, "are you sure the doctor gave him the right diagnosis?" Yes, I'm sure. But to see him today he is a completely different kid. We still have some hiccups. And will probably continue to face new challenges. But thanks to following my mother's instinct and screaming my head off at our peditrician (it went a little something like this, "Something is not right with my baby, I just know it! He is 2 and he can't talk! I scream his name and he doesn't hear me" Her response, "my brother didn't talk until he was 4, let's wait a year." Mommy instinct kicks into high gear, "NO, YOU WILL GET ON THE PHONE RIGHT NOW AND FIND SOMEONE THAT CAN TEST HIM AND FIND OUT WHAT IS WRONG.") We never went back to that pediatrician. Though my husband gets to see her at work. Oops. Sorry honey. But sometimes the momma lion just has to take care of business.
Point being, mommy instinct and early intervention are key to this epidemic. The earlier you find out (even if you don't want to know) the sooner you can start helping and pull these kids out of their secret world and into ours. And I'm so happy we were able to do that for Clay. I just can't imagine my world without him.