It appears to be Autism Awareness Month again! It’s been a full year since we first had the A- word thrust into our lives at our son’s 18 month well visit. Since we were told that we could not be certain of our son’s future – whether he’d be independent or social or capable or existing on the same plane as the rest of us. Never mind the shit parents tend to wonder about their kids’ futures – whether their child will be pretty or smart or a complete asshole.
Not having an idea formed of what autism was, we suddenly found ourselves faced with the presence of a 1 and a half year old child who was at risk of not developing. I mean, we weren’t at the doctor’s office because Tristan had troubles – they screened him with routine questions during a well visit. We were aware that Tristan was different; in fact, we suspected that he was at risk of being different and that is one of the reasons I wanted to document his growth and development before he was even born.
I remember when Tristan was just shy of a year old, I could not teach him basic verbal commands that kids seem interested in learning. The only thing he would “do on command” was to splash water. He would not high-five, although he’d been taught to do it a few times. He would not point, wave, or try to say a word on command. He didn’t seem to understand English that much. But we weren’t speaking any other language to him. He wasn’t against being social and around people unless they tried to feed him.
So: we were told that our son had “autism” of “unknown severity, since he’s so young.”
After his diagnosis, we immediately began Early Intervention services.
It’s been a year since that point. Tristan is two and a half years old and has had such a head start in life because we have had such focused instruction for him. He fits very few of the negative stereotypes of autism on a daily basis, and he fits some of the fun ones. He engages with people and has fun with them, although he is shy and aloof. He interacts with children his own age and plays meaningfully alongside them and sometimes even with them, taking turns. He loves to show off how well he can talk and is putting several words together now and even requesting things. His self-stimulation does not get in the way of purposeful play. He is very attached to us and to his therapists. He learns from imitation. He doesn’t put shit in his mouth that other kids his own age don’t, except for the shoulder of his shirt. He’s kind of patient for a two year old. He’s a freaking two year old who can read and count – never mind knowing the precursors like the alphabet and what “10” means.
In other words, we were treated to the glory that is knowing your child with autism has a sharp, present mind and wants to reach out and learn. Far before most people suspect their child with autism has any problem, agewise. One year after he received his diagnosis, we have hope and dreams for his future instead of the destruction of same.
Because he has this diagnosis, he will receive help with his weak areas rather than the same middle finger kids like him received in my generation. Because he has this diagnosis, I received a lot of help with a very active child who wore me to the ground on a daily basis with his constant need for supervision – and now he does NOT need such constant supervision. Because he has this diagnosis, his educational opportunities will be personalized and broader in scope.
I don’t find that scary at all. What I do find scary is families who delay or refuse therapies or evaluation because they are in denial somehow. How is refusing to help your child, for fear of a label, going to give your child the assistance in developing skills to cope with the world?
Oh yeah – the “cure autism” bullshit is about as respectful to people with autism as “cure homosexuality” bullshit is to gay people. Whether you say “autistic person” or “person with autism” is irrelevant. Just saying.