Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Once Upon a Time: Autism

2003
Once upon a time, there was a mother who was blessed with a wonderful husband, and a houseful of precious children. The mother was very happy and content.  

Once upon a time, there was a mother who envisioned great things for her children. She imagined drivers’ licenses, high school graduations, colleges, careers, weddings and another generation of babies someday.

The mother spent her days caring for her children, watching them play and learn, amazed at their ability to absorb information from their environment. She often described them as little sponges, once upon a time.

But there was one child, the youngest boy, who was different than the rest. He had stopped absorbing information from his environment. The mother watched him regress, stop talking, and distance himself from his siblings, once upon a time.

Once upon a time, there was a mother who lay awake at night worrying and wondering, wishing, hoping and praying.

And the mother was afraid for her son, once upon a time.

Once upon a time, there was a mother who sat in a doctor’s examination room with her young son and heard the word: autism. The doctor asked the mother questions. The mother asked the doctor questions. The mother cried and asked God questions, once upon a time.

A mother's hopes and dreams for her young son’s future were dashed, once upon a time.

Once upon a time, there was a home filled with echoing, spinning, toe walking, irrational fears, a limited diet, erratic sleep patterns and unusual fixations. The same Disney songs and movie clips were rewound and played over and over again.

A mother prayed often, and begged God earnestly for patience, understanding, and wisdom, once upon a time.

Once upon a time, a mother rolled up her sleeves and learned to be more than a mother to her son. The mother became a therapist, a researcher, an advocate, a cheerleader, and a teacher. The mother fought hard to find all the help her son needed.

Once upon a time, there was a mother in a race against time.

The mother went to conferences and classes. She read books and made phone calls. The mother contacted professors, authors and doctors to ask about behaviors, therapies and outcomes. The mother left no stone unturned, once upon a time.

Once upon a time, a mother invited people into her home to help her son, and the boy made huge gains. The mother was optimistic and talked of “recovery”. She set goals for her son, and took data, celebrating every achievement.

Once upon a time, a mother and father emptied savings accounts, mortgaged the house, borrowed money, and did without many things to give their son every opportunity to be the best that he could be.

The mother went to I.E.P. meetings and learned acronyms like I.D.E.A., F.A.P.E. and E.S.Y. She found out about rights and responsibilities, privacy policies, inclusion, and the least restrictive environment. The mother felt overwhelmed, once upon a time.

But there were remarkable teachers, principals, speech pathologists, and one incredible occupational therapist that wowed the mother with their dedication and ability to teach, once upon a time.

2016
Once upon a time, a mother watched her little boy with autism grow into a young man. The young man functioned at a level far below his peers in many areas, but he was happy. The mother understood that her son might never drive a car, but he had learned to ride a bike! The mother knew he would never do calculus, but he was able to add, subtract, and multiply! The mother knew he probably would not date or marry, but he had real friends who liked him for who he was. And the mother was so proud of her son. 

A son taught his mother much more than she had been able to teach him, once upon a time.

Once upon a time, there was a mother who was blessed with a wonderful husband, and a houseful of precious children. The mother was very happy and content.   

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