By Sheila Arkee
He is 5 1/2 years old, tall, smart, inquisitive, and a lover of the outdoors. And I mean, he LOVES the outdoors. I was always an indoors kind of a kid, but I’ve learned to love our frequent jaunts to enjoy Mother Nature.
Andre is always on the go.
And I mean always!
His favorite activities include riding his scooter, arranging his toy car collection, stacking books just so, riding his bike, playing outdoors, and drawing.
Andre was diagnosed with Autism at age 2 1/2, and boy, oh boy, was it a bitter pill for me to swallow. Even though the signs are all there, right in your face, and you know the truth deep in your gut, you don’t want to think it could happen to you. All of a sudden you’ve gone from having a child who is a little bit different to being the parent of a special needs child. For life.
As many parents explain, it’s like going through a mourning period. Years before I ever became pregnant, I read about visiting Holland even though you planned for Italy, and it’s true. You’re on a whole other journey, but you know what? It’s not half bad.
What is Autism anyway?
From the Autism Speaks website:
“Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome….
Autism appears to have its roots in very early brain development. However, the most obvious signs of autism and symptoms of autism tend to emerge between 2 and 3 years of age.”
The first few weeks after Andre’s diagnosis were murky; there was so much to absorb and process, but I am so thankful for the people who helped me navigate those dark waters. There are so many resources availble, and thank GOD for Social Media, which makes it so easy to connect with parents who understand that sometimes you want to cry. In public. That your 5 year old is terrified of public restrooms and you haven’t been able to use one in years. That your child still isn’t fully potty trained. That you dream of being able to hold a basic conversation with your child. That there’s just so much verbal stimming anyone can take.
Three years into our journey, what I know more than ever is the importance of spreading the awareness of exactly what Autism is. No, my child is not a monster, nor is he Rain Man, and he certainly does not need more disciplining from me. What he needs is understanding from the world. And my dream is that one day that will come to pass.
The best thing you can do for a family that deals with Austism? Educate yourself on Autism. Be supportive. Be there.
Andre is my lively, smart, handsome little boy. And I am one very proud mother.
Here’s more about Andre. He’s a pretty cool kid. 🙂
April is Autism Awareness Month, and April 2nd is Light It Up Blue day. On this special day, many landmarks, including the Empire State Building, will be lit up with blue lights, to spread awareness of Autism. 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder … awareness is more important than ever!