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How Carrie Underwood Helped Me Realize My Child With Autism Will Be OK

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Melissa's daughter
Melissa’s daughter

When we were given my daughter Zoey’s diagnoses  — autism, global developmental delay, dyspraxia of speech (Zoey is nonverbal), sensory processing disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) — in August 2014, she was not quite 2 years old. Life in our house has turned into daily therapy. The diagnoses changed how our little family of four operates. This was definitely not the life we planned.

Zoey was hitting every milestone, most of them early. She was walking at 11 months. She was singing and babbling and screaming just to hear her own voice. I watched my beautiful baby grow and learn. Then, at 14 months old, I watched as she “went away.” She stopped babbling, she stopped eating on her own, she stopped playing with her sister, she hid away in other rooms, and I could no longer pick her up and hug and kiss her. I missed her because she was gone. She rocked and banged and screamed, and we had to guess what she wanted or needed.

Frustration, aggression and meltdowns became common, and I felt helpless.

Where did she go? What happened to my baby? She was just here, and now she’s gone. All I kept saying in my head was that autism stole my baby. She was here, and then she was gone. I hated autism for doing this — a secret I kept to myself until now.

My intention is not to offend or upset anyone with that statement; it’s something I’ve carried with me for 10 months. To watch your child throw herself, bite herself, scream out of frustration and watch her scurry away from you when trying to help or console her… well, that’s just not fair.

I was sad and depressed.  I was and still am scared. Having an early diagnosis is good and bad. Good because we got Early Intervention earlier than most, bad because it leaves us with the uncertainty of her future. Will she ever speak? Will she experience the same things her older sister will experience? Boyfriends (not that my husband and I are rushing that… at all) sleep overs, getting her drivers license, graduating high school, college, marriage, children… will she be able to live independently? 

No one can answer those questions for me right now, and I’m scared for Zoey’s future. I’m scared of the mightiest question of them all: What if something happens to me? Will she be OK?

These were my thoughts for 10 months.

Now let me tell you what made me realize everything was going to be OK.

Music is therapy for Zoey; most people may not understand her when she sings, but I do. She can sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” all day. Her calm down “meltdown song” is “I Will See You Again” by Carrie Underwood. I gotta be honest — out of all the songs for her to love, this is the most heartbreaking one for me. Here Zoey is loving a song by a woman singing, “I will see you again, this is not where it ends, I will carry you with me, until I see you again.” Tough lyrics for a mom who blamed autism for stealing her child, for a mom who doesn’t know if she will in fact “see her again.”

For months, this song played on repeat in the car, house and on my phone or tablet. I cried every time. Until I didn’t.

One day, we were driving in the car and the song was on repeat — like always — and then I heard it. I heard her! She was humming along to the song. Weeks went by and that humming turned into sounding out the melody and then finally to her singing the song in her way. Others may not hear it, but I do; it’s in her own way, and it’s beautiful.

I sing along with her, and she smiles and I smile. It’s going to be OK. She’s showing me and singing to me: “I will see her again, this is not where it ends.”

Follow this journey on Melissa’s Facebook page.

Originally published: May 5, 2015
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