In a conversation the other day, my best friend mentioned that her 4-year-old son gives directions to his school when his grandparents take him. “He can give directions?” I asked, amazed. Of course he can, I thought to myself. He’s four!
It’s always been weird for me to hear about the interactive things all of my friend’s kids can do because my oldest son is autistic. He has mild autism, but it’s still autism. My friends talk about how their kids come home from school and chat about what they did that day. Or their kids tell them when they’re hungry or what they want to eat. Their kids answer questions like, “How old are you?” or “What do you want to do today?” My son doesn’t. Their kids go on and on about a show or a movie or nothing in particular. My son doesn’t. Their kids initiate conversations and talk about what they like and how things make them feel. My son doesn’t.
We got the diagnosis about 4 months ago and it wasn’t a big surprise. We were expecting it. Although that certainly didn’t make it easier to hear. Part of me died of heartbreak that day. Watching my son happily flap and hop around the room while the word “autism” stung my ears… My husband and I shed lots of tears that day. We mourned for my son and for his little brother who might never understand him and for the uncertain future ahead of us.
Today autism is part of our family and we are trying to accept it. But I do find myself playing the “what if” game sometimes. What would he be like if he didn’t have autism? What sports would he like? What funny jokes would we share? What kind of big brother would he be? I know it’s useless to think such things, but it seems unavoidable.
I love my son and I’m trying to embrace his autism. Would I change things if I could? Honestly, no. My little guy is a sweetheart. He’s an incredible soul and has an exceptional personality that will take him to great places. He gives hugs and kisses and we even hear “I wuv you” now and then, so there isn’t too much to complain about. And besides, he’s happy when he’s flappy.