|Hunter age 18 months and Sadie age 5|
The following is a short essay I was asked to write for a book coming out about disabilities--(more on that later)
“Just throw the leaves over the fence” I told my husband after he asked what to do with them.
He and the kids had been raking and playing in the leaves outside for most of the morning while I tended to our newborn baby inside. In my exasperation, I failed to explain in detail to my husband that what I really meant was to throw the leaves in the dumpster on the other side of the fence.
Instead, because of his undiagnosed disability-which would later be classified as an Autism Spectrum Disorder-he took my words literally and dumped the leaves in huge piles lining the other side of the fence; while being completely oblivious to the ominous gray dumpster just several feet behind him.
Our entire married life has been filled with these sorts of events but it wasn’t until the birth of our last child that we clued in to Autism as being the culprit.
Our youngest boy was not meeting his developmental milestones. He did not have eye contact, did not mimic us, had no interest in social games and he preferred to be left alone. Noises and lights bothered him and he began having auditory induced seizures. By 12 months, when the hand flapping manifested, I knew he was autistic.
Thus began the beginnings of our Autistic life. I poured over books and did countless hours of internet searching. I was on a quest to heal my boy. In time I became fully aware that autism was a spectrum, and that not only did it affect my husband and our youngest son, but also our other two boys, and eventually eight years later, I would learn our only daughter would be diagnosed as being on the spectrum.
The signs were all there, but denial became a part of our home as well as all of the other steps of the grieving process: depression, anger, guilt, bargaining, and acceptance. I revisit each one often and without warning. I don’t think those feelings will ever go away, especially when I am reminded of how different my children are when we go to family functions, schools, church, activities, etc. It is a slap in the face and it stings.
During these past few years I have learned and am still learning to take it one day at a time and sometimes I have to dial it back even more and take it hour by hour or minute by minute. Autism can be cruel and unfair. Our children are intelligent enough to know they are different than their peers, so as they experience the teenage years, dealing with autism shifts from the physical challenges to more social, hormonal and emotional challenges.
Our faith plays a big role in how we survive these tough times. I know there is a purpose for these trials and I also know we are blessed by enduring to the end.