Why I Hate When People Say They Hate That Their Child Has Autism

So, The Mighty has asked its readers what their greatest gift has been. I could say the laptop from my parents that I’m typing this on. I could say my awesome phone generously provided by my in-laws. I could say a roof over my head and my family and friends.

While they are all amazing gifts, I have to say the best is my son. Yeah, yeah, I know. You’ve probably all heard that before, but wait. My story is different.

I’ve been through seven miscarriages. Yes, you read that right. Seven. The first one was about 16 weeks along. The other six were before 11 weeks. “Spontaneous abortions” is how doctors refer to them. I hate that term. I didn’t choose to lose those babies. My body did, and it ripped my heart out every.single.time.

It got to the point where my doctor told me I may never be able to carry a child to term.

Until Liam. I found out on my brother’s birthday that I was pregnant. I was scared to
death. I made an appointment to see an OB/GYN. As soon as I told them of my previous miscarriages, I was scheduled to see a high-risk OB/GYN. I had every test under the sun. While we awaited results, I was told to take it easy. At nine weeks I started to bleed and was rushed to the ER.

With my husband and best friend in tow, I waited for what seemed like several hours (when it was merely one). They brought in an ultrasound machine. There I was, feet in stirrups, a doctor, a nurse, a tech, my hubby and best friend at my feet. The doctor was talking all hush hush. I could feel panic start to course through my body. My hubby and my best friend were standing there with their mouths agape. No one was telling me what was going on.

Then I heard one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. I heard his heart beat. It sounded like a train roaring down the tracks. I was sent home on bed rest, and after going over all my testing, they told me I had a clotting disorder. They sent hubby to the pharmacy for aspirin and told me to take it every morning until 32 weeks.

Aspirin! Aspirin saved my pregnancy! I went to a high-risk OB/GYN weekly through my pregnancy.  Hubby rented me a hospital grade doppler so I could check the baby’s heart beat every day. If I wasn’t throwing up, I was chilling out.

When we moved from Alabama back to Pennsylvania, I had to find a new doctor. By
this time I was 20 weeks in. The new high-risk was quite a drive, as we live in a rural area. So I only saw him every other week. Long story short, I delivered around 36 weeks. I became pre-eclamptic and
had to be induced. But other than that, it was a normal delivery, and I had a beautiful baby boy to be thankful for.

He wasn’t a Christmas gift though; he was actually my Mother’s Day gift that year, as I had him just two days before. I bawled like a baby when they put his little body on my chest. I silently thanked God for this miracle.

So now you know my story — or at least part of it. If you follow us on Facebook, you know my boy is autistic, struggles with biploar disorder, SPD, ADHD, OCD, ODD and anxiety. You also know I embrace him and all his quirkiness. This is why!

I don’t care if he’s autistic. I don’t care that he struggles with all these labels. (I mean, I do, but I don’t love him any less.) I care that he is mine.

So when I hear people say they hate that their child is autistic, I get angry. Not because I don’t think you have valid feelings. Let’s face it, your journey is different than mine. I hate it because I know there are other women and men out there who want nothing more than a child to love. We have that. We were given that blessing. Even though our journeys are hard, we still have them. We have something they long to have. We have something to be thankful for.

You see, my greatest gift didn’t come from a store. It isn’t a thing. My greatest gift is my son, and I will always treasure him. Through the good, the bad and the ugly days of autism and bipolar. He
is my Miracle Man.

For all of January, The Mighty is asking its readers this question: If you could go back to the day you (or a loved one) got a diagnosis, what would you tell yourself? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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For Anyone Who Thinks People With Autism Can’t Experience Empathy

You know what they say about those with autism lacking empathy? I’m here to tell you that just isn’t so.

Today, I walked my two sons to school to let my youngest’s teacher know I had to pick him up early. I also had to give money to my oldest’s teacher for a class Christmas Party. I was mentally prepping myself for a meeting later that day, where I’m fairly certain one of my oldest’s teachers was going to tell me all the ways he isn’t measuring up in class.

I was standing and chatting with a few of the ladies at the elementary school. As we were conversing, I noticed a little boy with what I ass/u/me was cerebral palsy. (I apologize for my lack of knowledge regarding this. Please, forgive me.)  I gave him a smile as he walked by and kept talking to the teachers. Suddenly, the special education teacher says to me, “Mama, be quiet, but come look at this.”  Here is what I saw:

The boy who I’d noticed walking had fallen in front of his classroom door. My oldest son and his fellow classmates were walking to their classroom. My son stopped and said, “Oh man, you fell. Can I help you up? It’s no big deal; we all fall down sometimes. Me? I fall down all the time.” He bent down and scooped the boy up under his arms and helped him up. He and his friends continued on their way to their classroom. He saw me, walked in and gave me a great big ol’ wet kiss on the lips and went on his merry way.

That, my friends, is empathy at its finest. It wasn’t the neurotypical kids who stopped. It was my boy — the one who doesn’t see anything wrong with being different. The one who loves animals, insects, reptiles and all of God’s creatures more than anyone else I know. The one who didn’t know that that is exactly what I needed today more than any other day. This, my friends, is my Christmas gift from my son, and it is perfect.

This post originally appeared on Autism in Our House.

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When My Husband Made a Tire Salesman Cry

Medical bills were mounting. Kids needed glasses, cars needed repairs and the dog needed surgery. On top of that, Christmas was almost upon us, so presents needed to be purchased.

But all of that was forgotten when he overheard the tire salesman warn her she was in dire need of all new tires, as each one was completely bald. She was a young mom with kids in tow who told the salesman she simply didn’t have the money to replace more than one tire on her car. It was a dark and snowy night, and my husband, Brian, was waiting in our local tire shop to have his six truck tires replaced.

He saw a need that he could do something about. You see, this man lives by the motto, “See a need, fill a need.” So Brian did what he does best. He gave what he had. My husband told the salesman that he would like to pay for a tire to be installed, opposite of the one tire this woman was able to purchase. Brian knew that even though it was just a start, this family would be much safer driving the icy roads with a balanced set of two new tires than they would with just one new tire.

The salesman was so taken aback that he immediately choked up. Eyes brimming with tears, he said that he’d never seen anything like it in his entire nine year tenure in the business.

My husband is a naturally humble, generous man who feels rewarded in the giving, not in the receiving in life. So imagine his unexpected surprise when he later discovered the salesman had returned the entire amount spent on the extra tire to his bill. Rather than the seven tires my husband bought, the salesman only charged him for six.

The simple act of one man making the decision to share what he had, rather than worrying about what he would go without, changed things that night.

My husband’s choice changed things for the mom, who felt a little safer driving her children home on the dark, icy streets.

His example changed things for the tire salesman, who was so encouraged by complete strangers taking care of each other that he quietly paid it forward on my husband’s bill.

His influence changed things for our children, who overheard the recounting of events from husband to wife upon his arrival back home.

His choice changed things for me to know that the lives of other people were impacted, all because of one small step of faith.

This post originally appeared on She Lives Free.

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My Son Has Autism. That Doesn’t Define Who He Is.

unnamed (63) My 8-year-old son has autism, but it doesn’t define who or what he is.

He’s brilliant, a perfectionist in many ways; he’s black and white, literal, empathetic, plays it by the rules and he’s simple. He’s unique and has capabilities like no one I’ve ever met. He could recite facts about natural disasters and history that I’ve never even heard of. He remembers events, specific dates, times and what one was wearing at said event. He can read a book so fast I question whether he’s actually reading it or not. But then he’ll recite the context back to you without a problem. He’s true and he’s very honest; he will tell it just like it is.

His brain works in ways mine sadly never will. He doesn’t fit into societies norms, and because of this, his special gifts often go unappreciated. My reason for writing this is not to point out all of my son’s strengths or weaknesses. It’s to point out the importance of early intervention.

My pediatrician told me when my son was 2 and a half that he may never speak clearly — or at all — and he may never succeed in school. The doctor was preparing me for the worst, for textbook autism. What a lot of people don’t know is that the spectrum has widened and the characteristics of autism have changed.

My doctor says my son is a miracle. I believe he is a product of a lot of hard work, dedication, tutoring, therapy and love. My son loves hugs and cuddles. He loves praise. His feelings can get hurt. He’s gentle and he loves his younger siblings and has lots of friends. There are things he doesn’t like to do and that he struggles with daily. Yes, we still struggle, and we have bad days. I know everyone’s case is different, but I urge parents to get their kids help early. It made a difference for us. You have to be your child’s advocate and fight for what you believe because no one else is going to. I fought for Jack, and I believe it made a difference.

He’s perfect. He’s mine, and I wouldn’t change him for the world.

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Moments Like This Make Me Forget the Fear I Had When We Got the Down Syndrome Diagnosis

CRdadBeachprofile2 For many new parents of a child with Down Syndrome, it’s far too easy to focus on the diagnosis and the challenges. It’s far to difficult to imagine the wonderfully rewarding and simple everyday stuff that actually makes up the bulk of our lives.

But over time, the looming enormity of the diagnosis begins to give way to the unveiling of the character, personality, quirks and needs of the child behind the label. Your emphasis on the big, bad diagnosis and fears of the known/unknown are slowly replaced, until finally you get back to where you were supposed to be: thinking of your child as a child, not as a disabled child. You learn more and more about the uniqueness and capabilities of the real child and care less and less about the larger world’s stereotypes and emphasis on perceived disability over actual ability.

So, with that in mind, even though in 1994 I couldn’t have imagined it any better, here’s a bit of what happened yesterday…

Connor, who will turn 6 in July, started my day off on a bright and sweet note by saying to me, with a charitably reassuring tone, “Daddy, you are so handsome! You are a handsome boy!” Now, he said this to me even though I’m neither, and I had a mean case of bed head, was bleary-eyed and unshaven, and had a bandage covering a scrape on my nose. He kept saying, “I’m sorry, Daddy, let me kiss!” offering to peck my nose.

During breakfast he recapped his school day, when he’d been class leader in his a.m. kindergarten class. The leader has a variety of responsibilities: reading the daily plan out loud, counting the boys and girls in attendance, checking the weather outside and setting the weather wheel display appropriately, leading the class in the Pledge of Allegiance and then leading the line of kids to and from the playground. I asked how many friends were in class, and he told me “Eleven boys, eight girls. Nineteen friends!” And then he put his hand over his heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance for me, something he’s done for months now. It amazes me and brings me to tears each time.

Later, we were doing yard work, turning over and mulching the garden beds. We were having a great time inspecting worms, whistling back at the birds, spreading mulch and generally getting pretty dirty. At one point he said, “My hands are yucky! Dad, show me your hands!” I did and he said, “Hey, you’ve got yucky hands, too!” So we laughed at our yucky, yucky hands and kept an eye out for more big, fat worms to pick up and let tickle our palms.

In the evening, as dinner wound down and it was time to go up for a bath, my tired and self-satisfied boy slid down from his chair, grabbed his dessert bowl and spoon to take over to the sink (unprompted!), turned, stopped in front of me, got that glint in his eye and said slowly, clearly and dramatically, “Daddy…you…are…my…best…friend!”

CRBTmighty It was a wonderful day to be a dad, to be his dad.

It’s in such stunningly simple and precious moments like those that the pain and significance of many past fears and struggles simply melt away. We don’t know what lies ahead for us, but the power and promise of that kind of love keeps me going even when I feel overwhelmed by self-doubts about my abilities to be the kind of man and father he needs and deserves.

New parents — and particularly new dads — need to realize that while they can’t make the Down syndrome go away, there’s still an infinite amount of good they can do in their child’s life. There’s tremendous success and deep satisfaction to be found in helping their child realize his or her own potential. There’s no achievement in work or business that will ever match the pride and joy I feel when Connor achieves something new.

While I still may struggle a bit to redefine my measures of success in this world, this society, this life, one thing I know for sure is that I’m making a difference in his life, and it’s the most important thing I have ever done or ever will.

The Mighty is asking its readers this question: If you could go back to the day you (or a loved one) got a diagnosis, what would you tell yourself? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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