Ten years ago, we welcomed a healthy, beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed baby boy. He was everything we wanted and expected, maybe even more… I understood what “Love at first sight” meant. My husband and I couldn’t wish for anything more!
As new parents, we did everything we knew and could. We fully committed on knowing our new baby: nursing, milk bottles, baby food, crawling, first words, smiling every time he recognized us, and eventually walking. Everything seemed text book. Everything looked the way it was supposed to be. EVERY book showed us our baby boy was growing up “normal”… granted he was stubborn sometimes. He was also his grandparents favorite.
Everything was OK… until it wasn’t.
Our first clue came when we saw him with kids or cousins around the same age. All of them were developing and growing… like every other kid. We thought, “OK, he/she goes to stimulation classes; he is a boy, girls do things faster; he is spoiled… lets just wait, his time will come”.
Then he stopped talking. The few words he said, suddenly disappeared.
He could stay sitting on the floor, staring at an empty wall. He would sit waving from time to time his little chubby hands. He became inseparable from his true, only friend: Thomas the Train. We almost got rid of our blender because our Chris couldn’t stand that awful noise coming from it.
We could see our son vanishing, losing him right in front of our eyes. And we couldn’t do anything to stop it.
One day, we got a call from school. The teachers recommended to have him checked, to have his hearing tested, because he didn’t respond to his name or followed instructions. He wouldn’t sit or participate in class. He wouldn’t play with his classmates.
I remember being in my boss’ office. She was letting me know that they totally supported us. That they would do anything to help us, “Don’t worry Siry, everything will be OK, you will get through this”.
I’d been a teacher long enough to know “something” wasn’t right. Something didn’t fit. Something was different in him. But fear, or maybe even shame, and hope that one day he would wake up, that he would be like everybody else, delayed a complete evaluation.
I remember telling my husband: “I’m so scared, but I do want to know what it is. I want a name for whatever we are facing. Maybe we’ll just come home knowing it was nothing”.
That was the first time I heard it. Or at least, the first time I faced it. What did it mean? What do we do? How do we treat him? Why him? Did I do something? How do I “fix” it?? I had these and a thousand more questions that I couldn’t answer then… I can’t answer some yet.
It has been 6 years now. Six years of changing schools, therapies, evaluations, teaching both my sons our reality. Searching for a school where both kids could attend. Mexico is still learning about Autism, things we searched for online, were not available here.
Therapies, therapists, schools, treatments, teachers, friends. Everything changed. Some are now gone, some have stayed. God doesn’t change or leave. Family hasn’t left. Support and acceptance is our strength.
We faced something unknown, and though it took time to deal with it, we are getting through it. The feeling of loss families with Special Needs children face, takes time to heal. During this time, you realize that the only thing you have left is faith. Holding on to God’s hand and never letting go. Holding to those friends that stayed, who asked no questions and had no awkward looks. Holding on to those new friends, who are fighting next to you, battling the same as you, those who you have an unexplainable connection, empathy and understanding. All of this is what makes you strong.
I’m a regular Mom. I have nothing special in me. I get frustrated, yell, and get tired at every single tantrum my son decides to show in the middle of the store. I get angry at myself for being so tired of driving around the city to every class and therapy. I cry and pray to God to give me strength to see His plan.
I’m a regular a Mom, with every single flaw and strength you have. I was just given a different deck of cards.
I share my story, not to make you feel sorry for me or my kid. No! Never! I’m so proud of him. But as a Mom, it is so hard to fight other people. The lack of understanding and empathy other people show makes me so sad. I talk about this so that we can teach our “regular” kids that there are no differences among us. So that we can teach empathy and patience, to teach them to stop calling names and ourselves to stop labeling children.
I write this so we can all be more loving to one another.
If you, reading this and are also fighting this fight: I’m with you! I get it! I pray for you! It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to be angry. But dry those tears cause they won’t let you see the wonders we hold in our hands. We can shape our society by sharing our stories. There is nothing to have shame about.
This path is showing to have faith, to wait in Him, to let go.
I’ve learned to celebrate challenges and accomplishments of my autistic son, but to also celebrate every “first time” with our second son. It has taught us that the doors God opens, nobody can close them. We’ve learned that people that walk away, they leave because they have fulfilled their purpose in our lives… even though it hurts to watch them leave.
It is teaching us that a helping hand, word of courage, a hug, sometimes comes from the person you least expect it from.
Our path is not over yet, it has just started.
Autism doesn’t define me, my family, and it certainly doesn’t define my son.
Chris is: loving, caring, smart, kind, sometimes stubborn, Nintendo expert, his brother’s keeper. He hates waking up for school but will rise with the sun to conquer that Mario’s Galaxy. He loves his teachers, adores his dad, loves me more than anything. He looks up to my brothers and is best friends with his favorite cousin, Valentina.
Autism doesn’t define him, it is just a small part of who he is.
-We love you Chris, we love you Santi. You light up my life blue.-