When My Son’s Autism Diagnosis Was the Miracle We Needed

When I was in junior high, my dad built a large wood soccer kick board in our backyard. I grew up in rural New Jersey, and we had a good amount of yard space to practice any sport. This board helped me develop the skills I needed in the various sports I played. I vividly remember throwing and catching lacrosse balls with it and playing one-on-one matches with my dad using the board as my goal.

It also was a way to bond with my dad. We spent hours outside together. We would talk about sports and school. He would give me advice, and I would tell him my goals for the future. The simple board helped create a special connection with my dad.

When my son, Max, was born, I was so nervous to be a mom. I loved him with all of my heart and soul, but I didn’t know what I was doing. Parenting was something new, and it was something I didn’t go to school for. I read books on parenting, nursing and having a happy, well-adjusted baby. But when Max started missing basic milestones and was socially behind his peers, I was unable to connect with him and didn’t feel like a good parent. I was failing my child. I wasn’t doing something right. Max would spend hours screaming all day and physically hurt himself. He was unable to communicate. As much as I wanted to understand, I didn’t. I was frustrated, depressed and worried I wasn’t a good mom.

Then a miracle happened. We talked to our pediatrician and discussed the things we had observed with Max. The doctor comforted us and told us there was help. He also told us weren’t bad parents. Instead, he explained we’re the parents of a special child who needs our help to navigate through life. 

At age 2 1/2,  Max was diagnosed with autism. This was a year and a half ago. Since then, I have been gathering the tools to allow me to enter his world. The diagnosis wasn’t the end of the world; it was the beginning of a brand new one. It’s a world I’m so lucky to be a part of. Autism has helped me reach both of my children. It has helped me become a better mother, wife and teacher.

Max has been the best guide in the world. He is a fantastic example of unconditional love, kindness, stubbornness and devotion to his love for life. He still faces challenges, we all do. But at least now he has parents who have the tools to help him be successful. Having two children with autism gives us even more tools because what we have learned works with Max might not work with our youngest son, Dexter. We have to be constantly learning.

Autism isn’t a label for my family. It’s a tool, a guide and a world that connects me to my boys.

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