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by Joan White

Ten years as his mom, yet I can't remember what it was like without him in my life- like he's always been with me somehow.  Sometimes I feel like he and I are the same person- he feels what I feel, and hears my unspoken thoughts and I feel what he's feeling.   I am bowled over by his innocence and sweetness, and my love for him. 

Someone once told me that all free souls search for someone to be born to. Supposedly it's a belief of some religion(s).  If anything of the unknown is true, Christopher picked me.  When I ask him, he says 'yes'.   

Of all the endless number of things that I love about Chris, I think one of my most favorite is the goodness that he brings out of the people whose paths cross his.  I'm fortunate enough to see a side of people that others do not, and that they, themselves, problably wouldn't see of not for Chris.  He brings goodness to the world in this way.  A kind of Christmas time goodness all year long."

I haven't read those words that I scribbled on a wrinkled piece of scrap paper that day for 8 long years. But when I came across a request for a mother's story, I remembered that day and rummaged through a bunch of old papers looking for this old treasure. So much has changed, yet I could still write those same words.

We voted together last week, so I know my son is now a young man..., but we watched Sesame Street together last week too. He is still innocent, yet wise, caring and brave, an inspiration. I couldn't be more proud of the person he is.  

And I am so glad that, I never let his significant limitations prevent him from experiencing the adventures of living.  Even when I knew it could be a disaster, I took those chances with him.  He has risen to so many occasions now that I could never count then all.

Several years ago he and I helicoptered into an Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon.  His fare was free because of his autism- I always ask.  He rode a horse another 2 miles to an unbelievable massive collection of waterfalls where we climbed, swam, jumped into swirling waterfall pools and explored all day.  Riding back to the reservation, he was on the lead horse and hikers were asking him if the falls were close, as hikers often do when passing on a trail.  He said yes, because that's what he says to almost every question posed to him. ;)  I chuckled at his passing as NT.   

He seemed so at home in that canyon, his sun-browned body swaying to the horse's gently movements, my incredible son.  The very next day, away from the relaxed regulations of the Havasupi Indians, he was denied a trail ride at a riding stable because of his autism. I was reminded that not all obstacles can be knocked down, but it's so worth going for it!   

Last year, with a few accomodations, we went trail riding on horseback, white-water rafting in single innertubes, and zip-lined through the rainforest treetops in Costa Rica. My amazing son.

So, if any of you who are reading this have young children and are wondering what the future will bring, I hope you find some comfort in my stories.  I encourage you to show your child the world.  Don't be afraid.  Leap and the net will appear.

We are are happy to have a guest article this month written by a fellow autism mom.  What are the Hallmarks of Autism?  The experts could tell you the answer to this question.  But here is a mom's perspective that shows us how amazing our children are and what "real" life is like for families touched by autism. 

Thanks so much to this mom for sharing!

    The Diagnostic Hallmarks of Autism
         from a Family’s Point of View
                                  by Robin Cruz

Restricted Interests

At age 18 months, Jonathan insisted that I teach him how to read.  When we read books together, he would point to letters and words, one at a time, not moving on until I identified each letter and then enunciated the words.  He was reading Dr. Seuss books by the age of 38 months.  We have over 800 children’s books in our house.

Special Skills

Jon enjoys music immensely. He takes piano lessons and is learning to play Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.  It is truly a joy when he shares his talent with us.  He will tap out a harmony on the piano while he listens to a favorite CD.  He melodically and clearly sings during the instrumental parts of songs.  He will sing along if it is a child’s voice on the recording.  Because he struggles with spoken language so much, these moments make my heart sing.   

Sensory Processing Abnormalities

To Jonathan, the cafeteria at lunchtime is like listening to a rock concert in a garbage dumpster!  Like many children with autism, Jon takes picky eating to an extreme.  His hyper-acute sense of taste, smell, and texture makes eating a real challenge for him, and thus, for our family.  When we went to Disney World when he was 4, I was so worried about sensory overload in the park that I decided to take the stress out of mealtimes for him, so he could focus on coping with everything else. 

We chose a hotel with a small kitchenette, outside of the park.  We picked up our rental car (getting him into the car was a 20 minute ordeal due to the new car smell), and went straight to Target to pick up an electric skillet and some groceries.  I cooked all of Jon’s staples in that skillet perched on a double bed – mostly salmon, grilled cheese sandwiches, and eggs.  Although it was a hassle not to be able to eat a meal in the park, it was worth the effort.  Jon had a wonderful time.  When we told him it was time to get back on the airplane to go home, he said “All done home”.

Social Impairment

Jonathan adores his parents and grandparents.  He loves to have one of us join in something he’s doing.  He actively seeks out our company.  If I sit on a chair or on the floor nearby, he’ll drape himself across my lap.  Of course, we are his caregivers, but it’s also the predictability of interactions with adults.  If only his peers could be so predictable! 

This is not an antisocial child….just a socially incompetent one.  We must be socially aware for him 100% of the time, cluing him in to the social nuances that are so difficult for him to perceive.  Every social encounter is an opportunity.  Most important, however, is the need to build Jon’s self-esteem as a foundation for social risk-taking and a shield against the unkindness of others.

Language Impairment

Because language is such a challenge for Jonathan, he is very visually oriented.  There are visual aids and supports all over our house – an Emotions poster in the playroom, a special calendar in the kitchen, a PECS strip for bathing.  Jon is at his happiest and most cooperative if he can trust that events occur predictably.  



Guest Mom & Dad Article Series 
Each month we are planning on publishing an interesting and  inspirational short article about your experiences with autism.  We'd be interested in hearing from Moms & Dads about your experiences. 

Please send us an inspirational story about your experiences with autism and maybe we will publish it in upcoming issues. Please send stories in either .doc format or embed the story in your email.  Thanks!   Click here for contact information...



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