Before I get blown up with hate mail, this article isn’t what you expect, if you are going to base it on the title alone. Take the time to read it all the way through before commenting. I do plan to tell you why having an autistic kid sucks, and it’s not what you think!
A little background first
I am the mother of a 15-year-old autistic teenager. When he was born, I knew at about the 6-month mark something was wrong, terribly wrong. He was born 4 weeks premature at a whopping 7lbs 1oz with undeveloped lungs. He spent 10 days in NICU, mostly hooked to a respirator. The doctors expected him to have a lot longer hospital stay, but he showed them who’s boss.
He was sent home on a heart monitor and medication for acid reflux (severe acid reflux at that! Hello projectile vomiting.) Additionally, he had to sleep on his stomach on a mattress that was tilted at a 45-degree angle while he was held up by a harness.
He was gaining weight and appeared to be otherwise healthy, then he hit 6-months. He refused to eat anything solid (such as baby food) and started losing weight. He was also behind in development (and had been). The doctors kept telling me not to worry, that it was due to the fact that he was born prematurely. My mother’s intuition determined that was a lie, but no one would listen to me.
We went through Early Childhood Intervention, Nutritionists, etc… At one point the only thing we could get him to eat that was solid, was thick baby cereal when he was about 16 months old. In order for him to gain weight the nutritionist had us add vegetable oil to that infant cereal and have him drink as many pedisure’s a day as possible in addition to the formula.
Fast forward about a year and we had moved to Savannah, Georgia. I took him in for a checkup and the doctor said, “Ma’am I believe your child is autistic”. I started crying; finally, someone listened. Turns out that doctor had an autistic child himself and recognized all the signs. We were given referrals to a bunch of different specialists and he finally had a diagnosis.
I can list out all of the “symptoms” that led me to believe he was autistic at such a young age, but I am not going to do that here as that is another post all in itself.
Without further ado, the Top 5 reasons why it
sucks is a blessing to have an autistic child:
- He’s smarter than me! No lie, this kid is like a walking encyclopedia!!! Want to debate politics, he will do that with you too (and probably win!)
- He’s very matter of fact! No beating around the bush with this kid, because he will call you out on it. He just doesn’t have time for that, so you best just get to the point and make it quick.
- He has no filter. I don’t mean he curses (he knows better), what I mean is that you ask him a question, you best be prepared for that answer y’all! There’s a reason whenever I try on clothes, I ask him how I look. He will tell me in a heartbeat if I look fat or the clothes just look like crap on me (and then proceed to tell me to put on something different.)
- He’s extremely creative. More creative than me, in fact! He made his own board game complete with instructions from SCRATCH! Oh, and have I mentioned he has already written screenplays? He wants to be a movie director when he grows up (and has wanted to since he was about 6 and could tell me that’s what he wanted to do.) He also made a cardboard ATM-type machine WITH working parts! Unfortunately, it didn’t miraculously spit out any money at me =(
- He has taught me to appreciate the small things in life. You will never know how much you take for granted until you raise a child with a “disability”. For the record, I don’t like using the word disability when describing any child, hence the quotes. For anyone who has raised a child that is not what society deems “normal” knows exactly what I mean! Anyway, he has taught me to appreciate all the little things, even simple things that the rest of us take for granted. Things like riding a bike, eating a variety of foods, talking, smiling, admiring the beauty of what surrounds us, even interacting with someone other than a parent or sibling.
- BONUS! He can out hike me! Like seriously, he could hike on forever even carrying his own gear (he is required to carry his own gear when we hike or backpack). I swear he is like the energizer bunny! He can just keep going and going and never stop to rest!
He has had to jump a lot of hurdles in his life, to get to where he is today. With every simple little milestone, I rejoice. From him making friends and interacting with other kids his age, to finally being able to tolerate the texture of certain foods. Even horsing around with his friends and spraining his ankle has caused me to rejoice! Not because he hurt himself, obviously, but because he was doing what “normal” boys do. Crazy huh?
I am thankful for all 4 of my kids, but my youngest has taught me so much about enjoying life! It isn’t always sunshine and roses; lord only knows what all we have been through to get to where we are today. He is now 15 and still has little “quirks” from time to time where he needs gentle reminders, but otherwise, his autism is almost unnoticeable. Every day I am thankful God chose me to be his Mom!
He is a freshman this year in High School. His first day of high school he was excited (yet nervous) and took it on like a champ. I, however, cried like a freaking baby (after he left, of course)! Seeing him walk to the school so confident, even though I knew deep down he was terrified, was awe-inspiring!
I see so many mom’s freak out when their child is diagnosed with autism. They think their world has ended; that they will not have a “normal” child. You’re right, you won’t have a “normal” child, you will have an exceptional child that will be the biggest blessing you have ever received. You will learn to grow as a person yourself. They will teach you to re-think and re-imagine. They will have you pop the bubble that society has deemed “normal”. Everyone is different, and everyone is unique.
From the time my son got his diagnosis, I was always optimistic. I have never allowed anyone to tell him that he can’t do something because he is autistic. In fact, in the past when we would hear that, I would look at my son and simply say, “it is time to prove them wrong”.
So before you think your dreams for this “perfect” child will never happen when you receive that diagnosis, remember your life (and theirs) is just beginning. Your child will mimic you and your attitude towards the diagnosis. They only know what YOU teach them!
Oh and for anyone wondering, yes he loves hiking and spending time outdoors. He isn’t too happy about me leaving his Junior year of High School to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail without him! No worries, I plan to take him as soon as he gets a break from high school and then college. Who knows, maybe he will be a triple crowner! Until that happens, he enjoys hiking with me anywhere I will take him. His latest accomplishment is hiking to the top of Black Elk Peak this past July (highest point in the U.S. east of the Rockies).