(Writer’s note: Sometimes I think I write this stuff for myself rather than any so-called ‘audience’ and that’s fine. As I mentioned awhile ago, talking to myself helps insure a solid understanding of what I’m trying to say. After all, if I don’t get it – I can’t imagine that you would.)
I mentioned recently that my 3-year old son has autism and although it’s been difficult for the wife and I, it pales in comparison to the struggles young Matt has had to endure in the two years since his diagnosis.
There were times he cried because he couldn’t express himself in the most simplest of ways. Most days he just seemed “lost” to the world. There were countless occasions he chose, or perhaps was forced, to isolate himself from his twin brother, friends, and others because of his inability to communicate and socialize.
As a parent, it was extremely difficult to watch, knowing there was a wonderful little boy who seemed to be trapped inside his own mind. As his father, I’ll never forget the first time I heard him say “Daddy” only to have another 10+ months go by before I would hear it again. For Matt, I can’t imagine what he thought of it all.
Deep down, though, we knew he wasn’t “lost”. We saw the intelligence. My wife tearfully promised Matt – and perhaps herself as well – that she would pull him through the window and out of the world of autism.
There was the attempt at a gluten-free diet, speech and behavioral therapies, horseback riding, and oddly enough chiropractic care. We also began to eat more organically and reduced Matt’s exposure to chemicals, additives, and toxins.
Sure enough, things began to change. We began to notice that he was “with us” more (a simple phrase my wife coined). For maybe 20 minutes here or an hour there, he was actually interacting with us, looking us in the eye, hearing and listening to us, and answering yes/no questions (usually with a resounding “No”, but that’s fine).
Soon after, albeit slowly, more words started coming out. He was spitting out numbers, letters, animal names, and words that we don’t even use much around the house. I was getting frequent phone calls from my wife, sometimes in tears, about new words he was saying.
And interestingly enough, these weren’t always “new words” we were teaching him or he was learning in school. Words he hadn’t said in months (or even years) were starting to trickle out. We weren’t always sure how much he knew or understood, but we now started to get a good understanding ourselves and let me tell you: he seems to know almost everything! Although he hadn’t been talking this whole time, he was certainly absorbing.
Of course, one minor drawback to all of this is, as Homer Simpson once said, “The sooner kids talk, the sooner they talk back.” Now our sweet, often quiet, little boy had an avenue to let his feelings out and often at the expense of the good manners we’re trying to teach both him and his brother.
Again that’s fine!
It’s now the norm that he’s “with us” and the exception that he occasionally has his “autistic moments”. And although it truly saddens me that some of his childhood is being taken away by autism, I couldn’t be more proud of the little guy as he continues to improve and is now starting to kick autism’s ass.