By Malissa Allen
There are so many dates and moments in life that our brain store that we will never forget. These moments for some reason burn into our being like branding irons. I remember when I got my first job, when I graduated High School, college and got married. I remember turning 20, 30, 40, 45, and now almost 50.There are some times that are more painful to remember than others. I will forever remember the time I began to realize my child was different.
My child is different
I lived my entire life to be a mom. That is all I wanted in my life. I got my wish when I turned 39. My precious little boy came bouncing into this world. Even though I had been around plenty of babies, when you are a first time mom fear kicks in like crazy. Everything your baby does and doesn’t do will keep a phone line tied up asking your mom what is “normal?”
Joseph seemed like any other child to me. He crawled, babbled, and was right on target with other babies his age group. He was a healthy, bouncy little boy. I took him in to get his set of immunizations he needed at 2 1/2 years old. The little boy that I took into the Dr. Office that day would never be the same little boy again. I am not writing this to start a war on vaccinations, just to tell the story. He didn’t play like other children or talk like others his age.
He always seemed to be living in his own world focused on whatever it was he was obsessed with at that stage. I was one of those. He had to be around me at all times. His behaviors to others seemed odd or awkward. Nothing hurts more than to hear the whispers from another parent about how “strange” your child is.
I still thought he was perfect. I just thought he was a late bloomer being a boy. I sure never dreamed he was anything other than just a slow learner. I did notice he was way above his age group in intelligence. When other children were playing with each other, my son would be programming my computer. He began reading full books at 3, could spell large words, and had a memory that was at times frightening.
I decided to place him in a program for children his age so that he could be around other children and learn how to play. This was a struggle for him in a horrible way. This didn’t last long all. They referred us to the Children’s Hospital in Arkansas. The day of our evaluation changed my life forever. That is the day autism entered our life. My child , my first born, was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at the age of 3.
My child is different- Part 1
Grief From Having A Special Needs Child- Part 2
The child of your dreams
There was a time you had visions of playing with your child on playdates, swing sets, family outings watching as each milestone is hit just perfectly. You watch your child crawl, walk, talk, win at baseball, football, pick up his date for his first prom and someday be married and have children of his own. Most of these turn out to be only faded visions that were lost when you were told your child has autism.
There is a genuine grief that comes with hearing your child has a life changing disability that will affect every area of who he/she is. What is even harder is when you are told your child will never function as a “normal” child, yet they look just like any other child.
The loss is real, the pain is real, and the grief is very real. The child you had all the hope, dreams and visions of doesn’t exist and somehow you have to let that child go but hold on to the “physical” being of that child. It’s like grieving a death while holding on to a live body. The first phase of this is brutal, very brutal. Every part of your world has to be re-programmed and rethought. 75% of marriages fail when there is a child with autism. Financial struggles become the norm and families become silent and home bodies. Families go from planning trips to Disney World to just making it through a grocery shopping trip until that too becomes a situation where a sitter is needed. After school functions turn into hours of extensive therapy sessions praying for just hearing the words “I Love You” or “Mom”.
A brand new family
There is light at the end of this blessed tunnel. Suddenly the world doesn’t look so bleak when you have learned what it is that makes life easier. You learn what places are easiest to go to and which ones to avoid. As a matter of fact, an amazing thing happens, you become reborn as a parent! Once you come to terms with the child God gave you, you discover the reason why. There is a reason why you were chosen. You just have to look in your child’s eyes and see the answer. Once you accept that child as who they actually are and where they are in the life you have today, you begin to dream brand new dreams, magical dreams.
Baseball still happens, just on different terms. But when he hits a ball, you will feel an excitement like no other mother out there. Plans are based on reality, not on things “that could be or may be”. Either you can or you cannot do them and you learn to accept these things and replace them with others. Birthday parties still happen even if all the kids are playing while your child is walking the fence row by himself humming his favorite song because the party overwhelms him/her.
Well life goes on; you learn to live a new life and love your child with a deeper love and protection than what you ever thought possible. There will be days when you will wonder “what if”, that is normal, but those thoughts won’t linger long. The one thing that I can tell you for a fact is the world these children see, through their innocent, non-judgmental eyes is the world God created for us to see. We should all be so lucky to get to see it so clearly and beautifully as a child with autism does.
I always correct someone now when they tell me how sorry they are that my son has autism. I’m not, he is the happiest, funniest, most joyful, loving little boy I have ever seen, and it’s REAL. For him and his beautiful soul, I am thankful.
As we dream new dreams for them and for our families, these new dreams are much more likely to be based upon reality and therefore are more likely to be attainable.