Nicole Thorson writes a blog entitled Springboard: Jumping off into the deep end of Autism. Her essay sounds a note of hope for autism moms who might be ready to just give up.
The Best Gift
I can't tell you how many christmases, how many birthdays have passed since my son was born 8 years ago, that I didn't wish to hear his voice. Non verbal autism is a hell in itself. Is he sick? Is he hurting? What does he think about rainstorms when he is watching the rivers of water cascade down the picture window? I have spent countless hours of my lifetime trying to engage him with flashcards, sign language, videos, an IPAD. Putting my finger below my lips as I sound out Water....Cookie....Mom....Sometimes I would get a sound, a partial word. Study after study saying speech formation is vital before five years old, and rare are the children who begin to speak after this critical period. My hope slipping away, my heart being ripped out of chest....4 years...5...6.. Only hard work and perseverance (and possibly prayer) could ever give us back something in return. Slowly, slowly, words would come- one by one. Milk. Outside. Pop tart. I thanked the people in our life who worked with him so often it became like reading a script card. Speech was just something we did. Index cards taped to things in my house, waiting for him to get tired enough to crawl into bed so he would allow me to read a story without screaming and attempting to slam the cover shut, as I pointed out the words in the only five books he would tolerate. Goodnight room, Goodnight moon, Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Using my voice to enunciate profoundly, reading until he would turn away, eyes closing in sleep. I tucked him in, kissed him, and left his room night after night, tears running like the water down my window in the rainstorms he was so fond of.
One day, late last year, near the holidays, I was typing out a report for my psychology class in college. My feet were up on the coffee table next to my mocha with a double espresso shot, the snow was blowing furiously outside. Chandler wandered over with a small smile on his face....I stopped working to smile at him, watching him curiously as he stood at the edge of the coffee table, freezing for a moment. Suddenly...I...want...pop tart, in a small little voice came out of his mouth. I dropped my pen, my eyes filling with tears, as I slid off the couch, dropping to my knees to embrace him. Nothing, nothing could be better than this moment. All these years, the best christmas gift...
Six months later, there are now about ten more sentences in his vocabulary, all starting with I want. Could there ever be another moment like this one? Scanning through the newspaper last Monday, I stumble across an article about a mom who wanted a camp for children with autism, and it was now being implemented only a four hour drive my where I live. That may seem a little far to drive for a camping weekend, but for families that have limited options for activities, you will drive to the ends of the earth. I could not register us fast enough. My fingers wouldn't type fast enough to send an email reserving our place. My summers of crumpling the camp registration forms to toss into my garbage can like a basketball, making the shot if I could see it through my tears, were over. Camp Rodgers for children with autism, ANY age, any level of function, falling on the weekend of my birthday in June. The best gift I could ever possibly receive. Horse therapy, art, kayaking... a whole weekend to spend in a beautiful lake paradise, enjoying time with my son. How many more "best gifts" will I get in this lifetime? As I sat there imagining, I realized I already have the best gift God could ever give, and his name is Chandler.