Before you were born, I had a pretty good idea of the path you’d follow. At least early on. All the baby books written by Drs. X, Y, and Z, as well as what I intuitively knew about child development, led me to believe that you’d smile before you laughed, coo before you spoke, sit before you stood, and crawl before you’d walk.
Most of that was spot on. But then there was that moment—that moment when I saw something that confused me. Something that didn’t align with what other moms were bragging on social media about their same age kids doing.
I saw you begin to struggle to maintain eye contact and joint attention. You lost words you had previously mastered, slowly severing your ability to communicate. You stopped running to me when I called your name. You were gradually slipping into a solitary existence.
I initially brushed it off. My child is young. All kids reach developmental milestones at their own pace. It’s nothing to worry about.
Nonetheless, an intuitive stab kept me painfully aware. I sought answers that weren’t readily available. I reached for professional support that said I was jumping to unfounded conclusions. Family members negated my concerns.
My entire support system told me to ignore my gut instinct. I was wrong. Let it go. I was over-thinking things.
At first, I listened. If everyone is giving me the same message, then they must be right. But as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, meltdowns replaced your laughs, aggressions replaced your hugs, and a layer of dust covered your baby book. The daily joys of watching my cuddly toddler explore and learn about the world evaporated. Finally, I said, “Enough is enough!” You deserved more.
Eventually, you were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. That helped us help you! We were able to give you the tools you needed to communicate. We learned that the sights, smells, sounds, and textures of life often overwhelmed you. We adjusted your environment so you would thrive. We uncovered every resource possible to bring you the peace and joy that every child deserves.
I am sorry that I didn’t listen to my initial instinct because that cost you time. Time I could have been advocating for you. Time I could have been educating others about your unique needs. Time we could have been helping you understand the often confusing world in which you live.
Even though we can’t get that time back, we will continue to do all those things moving forward. We will advocate for you until you are one day able to advocate for yourself.
To my child on the Autism Spectrum, the most important thing I want to tell you is that Autism Spectrum Disorder is nothing to be ashamed of. Like the color of your hair or the shape of your tiny nose, it’s one of the things that make you, well you!
And you are loved just the way you are!
If I could snap my fingers and not be autistic, I would not. Autism is part of what I am. – Temple Grandin