We met you before we had a diagnosis. You came to our house and worked with our son on what we thought were just delays and sensitivities. Upon seeing some of your first sessions with him, I questioned your methods and your ability to help him. I remember you sitting outside with him on a sunny day and trying to get him to finger paint. I remember him screaming and nearly hitting his head on the brick patio. I wondered why it was important for him to be able to finger paint. But the more I watched you and listened to you, the more I learned about the skills he was gaining to function in this world.
I remember he was over a year old, and he still would not pick up food to feed himself. Once you finally taught him that, you went on to teach him, at nearly 2 years old, how to bite off pieces of food so his sandwiches would not have to be cut up. You taught him to drink out of more than one color of sippy cup, and eventually we were finally able to give him a different color without a forty minute meltdown.
While working with him, you saw me at my worst. I didn’t know you well and often would open the door with tears streaming down my face from utter exhaustion and frustration. You always encouraged me and lent a listening ear when I needed to vent. You always offered new ideas and different methods we could try to help him overcome some of his most challenging behaviors and delays. You walked into what often looked like a disaster zone of a house and never batted an eye. You occasionally let my oldest son participate in the therapy session too, so I could lay down for 30 minutes after another sleepless night. While we were working through some of our darkest days and longest nights, you showed up every Thursday and gave us progress and hope.
You were there when we finally got his autism diagnosis and helped me work through the emotions that came with it. We took comfort in the fact that we’d already started interventions and were already seeing a positive response to therapy.
Most important, you cared for him. You were as excited and as proud as me when my son would make strides or reach a new milestone. You taught me how to help him and how to continue to develop skills and make transitions easier, for which I am eternally grateful.
We had to move away from you, but there are reminders of your work every day. When he uses a spoon to eat, he quietly reminds himself “Don’t flip.” Whenever he sees little Chef Boyardee containers of ravioli he says, “Amy gave it.” When he’s stressed or overwhelmed with his environment, he asks me to count on him (using the joint compressions you taught me to calm him down). Whenever he sees a textured therapy ball, he remembers you and excitedly talks all about your blue “spiky ball.” The little boy who was terrified of baths and hated water touching his head now showers regularly and loves it. The little boy who was perplexed by playground equipment can now climb, jump and swing with the best of them. The little boy who could not go out in public without throwing himself on the store floor or running away, now goes shopping with me all the time and holds my hand as we walk to the car.
We still have challenges, we still have a long road ahead, but because you cared we feel equipped for the journey. Thank you.
This post originally appeared on From the Bowels of Motherhood.
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