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Time To Grow Up: When Autism Goes Public

She smiled at me, a mixture of pity and kindness in her eyes.

Sourdough was talking jibberish (something that sounded like a mix between a cat’s meow and beeps…I am not even sure how to describe it). He was wearing his over-sized, bright orange, looks like he could be a prisoner picking up trash on the side of the road t-shirt (he ironed on a Camp Half Blood logo from the  Percy Jackson website and it is his favorite).

So…she knew.

As he gets older, it’s becoming more and more apparent that my son has high functioning autism.

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When we first got the diagnosis, it was not obvious. In fact, many people thought we were exaggerating or had just seen an over zealous doctor. For years, most of Sourdough’s behaviors were only obvious at home. Either that, or because he was younger, he just looked like any other kid throwing a tantrum or being silly.

There was actually a time when I said to my husband, “Sometimes I think it would be easier if it were obvious to others. If they knew he had autism, people might judge us less and be nicer to him.”

Be careful what you wish for, I guess.

As we have learned more and more about how to help his sensory system synch up, he feels better. Feeling better means less meltdowns and is, without a doubt, an answer to so much prayer.

Feeling better in his own skin also means he feels good enough to verbally stim, and speak nonstop about his interests to anyone who will listen. As time goes on, he is just more obviously “different”.

A gal who works at the pet store asked me last week if he had Aspergers. A little forward, yes. But also an indication that times are a changing.

It’s not that I am embarrassed by his behavior, I am not. Please allow me to repeat, I am not at all embarrassed.

This is about me not being able to cling to my last little bit of denial anymore.

This denial allowed me to believe he’s not that bad, no one can even really tell except me, maybe the doctor was wrong, maybe I just overreacted!

It’s crazy, I know. But I think this All.The.Time.

With this shift, I am learning to let go of the last little bit of “maybe not”. I am also beginning to read and research and question how best to help him socially and in public situations.

I am grateful for so much progress.

I am relieved that my son is more relaxed and sweet and happy.

And I am struggling.

I am struggling because I am getting a first glimpse of my son as an adult in a world that doesn’t understand him.

He is growing up.

He will be twelve in less than six months.

He will be eighteen in the blink of an eye.

Six years.

I pray I spend them well. I pray I am able to pay attention and not be so tired. I pray I can help him and his little brother and my marriage and my heart survive all of this. I pray I do it with joy.

My son has high functioning autism. This will not change. Ever.

Living with this truth however, is changing me. Forever.


Time to Grow Up_

 

 

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13 Comments

  1. Thank you for your posts. I had someone ask me today at church if my son has autism. I have experienced many of those same stages of confronting my stages of denial TODAY. Your authenticity resonates in my own soul. Again, thank you.

    1. Oh Tracy, thank you so much. I am so grateful for your kind words and encouragement.
      Praying for you and your son right this minute!
      Love,
      Shawna

  2. I just stumbled on your blog.
    My daughter was born 16 weeks ago with CHARGE Syndrome. I can absolutely relate to the feelings of denial and that voice in your head that tells you the doctors got it wrong. I sometimes feel like I’m coming to accept her diagnosis only to be shocked back into reality by some other piece of news.
    So I just wanted to say, I can relate, and you’re not alone. While my little one might not have Autism, I can absolutely relate.

    1. Hi and Welcome!
      Thank you for your kind and supportive words and for sharing your story. I am so grateful.
      Praying for you and your little one right this minute.
      Love,
      Shawna

  3. Although it can be disconcerting when other people recognize autism in your son without your input, it does show that they have some sensitivity to your situation. Yet there is that denial issue. In my own home, I could say to ,myself, “what autism? He’s getting good grades. Maybe the doctors were wrong.” But then there is that pile of IEPs, medical records and medical bills. Extra meetings at school. Well, you know. I am praying for you.

    One thing I started when my kids were in their early teens was taking them out for breakfast on a rotating basis almost every Saturday. It gave me time to listen to each one by themselves in an enjoyable place, and it gave us time to practice restaurant skills.

    1. Hi Ann,
      I love the idea of one on one time serving two purposes. Time to connect and time to practice. I will be implementing that!
      Thank you as always for your honesty and sweet words.
      Love,
      Shawna

  4. When we first got the diagnosis, my father completely disagreed with it–Ethan was NOT autistic, the doctor and psychologist were ridiculous, anyone could see that! But just like your son, the older he gets (he’s almost 13) the more obvious it gets. He’s not “just blind” or even “just blind and developmentally delayed”. It was a bit of a satisfaction, albeit a mixed one, when my father finally admitted the doctor and psychologist AND ME were right.

    I wanted to thank you for writing your blog. No two people have the same journey, especially with autism, but it’s so great to read words that parallel what’s going on over here–especially your thoughts and feelings.

    1. Thank you so much. I am honored to be able to learn so many mommas’ stories and have the strong sense that none of us are alone.
      That, and I totally understand that mixed satisfaction you describe…when we finally received the diagnosis, I felt the same way towards so many people. It’s just part of all of this, I guess.
      Love,
      Shawna

  5. i’m so glad you reblogged this. I’ve been doing the same “well, maybe it’s NOT Autism” and “Maybe he’ll outgrow it” kind of thing…even though I was the one started saying “I think he may be Autistic.” before anyone else. Nice to read that I’m not the only one with those occasional denials.

  6. Oh how I am with you over and over again. I remember the day that our pediatrician and my husband “ganged up on me” and forced my hand at getting a handicapped license plate so I could park more safely with my twins. They were two. One was raring to go and the other still needed a walker or stroller as his CP kept him from the mobility his brother enjoyed. It was a horrifying day. It wasn’t really what people thought, it was my admitting to myself and then “announcing” it to the world that my son was disabled! Now that they are twelve, I’ve had to do that over and over and over again. It is still hard. Recruiting a teenager to help look after him and keep him safe at his first overnight camp was our latest quest. None of the other sixth graders needed one on one supervision. He might not look like it, but he did, or he might just have decided to go swim in that pretty river nearby, that empties into the ocean a mile further. :/. Yes, and we too have Major meltdowns of hitting, cursing, biting and threats to our lives over the comment that he has five minutes till time to brush teeth. :(. Thank you so much for sharing so eloquently what so many of us moms, with kids of all kinds, need to hear.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I am so encouraged by your words and your wisdom. I love your description of what drama can ensue over brushing teeth! Clearly you get this… 🙂
      Praying for you and yours this morning.
      Love,
      Shawna

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