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The Importance of Hope and High Expectations for Kids With Autism

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When we first received Dominic’s diagnosis of autism at age 2-and-a-half, my first thought was of him as an adult, sorting paperclips into boxes. I thought he would never talk. I knew nothing at all about autism.

I did grow up with a neighbor named Tommy who had intellectual disabilities and he would visit our home frequently. This was the 1970s when those with disabilities were separated in school and many parents were told to institutionalize their children. Looking back, Tommy’s parents went against that thinking. They let him walk around the neighborhood unsupervised. I never asked Tommy if he had autism. We accepted him the way he was.

Speaking of acceptance, it took me about two weeks to come to terms with Dominic’s diagnosis of autism. I think that is very important to do because you really can’t move forward otherwise. After the diagnosis of autism, Dominic subsequently received diagnoses of ADHD, generalized anxiety disorder and complex partial epilepsy. In a lot of ways, when Dominic received his diagnoses, I was actually relieved. Before that, we knew something was going on, but didn’t know what it was.

Dominic turned 16 at the end of July, and soon he will be an adult.  Now that I have been on this autism journey with Dominic for almost 14 years, I can say with complete transparency that he has surpassed many of the expectations I had for him. Dominic’s speech is delayed and most likely always will be. When Dominic was able to say two and three-word sentences, I felt like jumping up and down. This past Friday, Lauren asked Dominic what he wanted for Christmas. He responded back with, “Legos and puzzles.” This was the very first time that he ever told us that. Woohoo!

When you have a child/adult with learning differences and speech delays, when they are able to tell you spontaneously, unscripted and unprompted what they want, you want to shout it from the rooftops! 

Dominic at age 16.

I belong to several Facebook pages that have to do with autism. Earlier this week, on one of my favorite Facebook pages, I saw a post about a 4-year old boy that saw one of his favorite Disney characters and spoke for the first time. Another parent saw that post and said, “thanks for giving me hope!” Since I was so excited that Dominic had told us when he wanted for Christmas, I posted it on their Facebook page. A different mom wrote back to my post saying that she would give anything to hear what Dominic said to us and that her son is 16 as well. I wrote back to that mom and told her I was sending her a virtual hug — and to never give up hope.

Originally published: March 1, 2021
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