Being a mom is the hardest, yet most fulfilling job a woman can have. From the instant her child is born, there is a bond, a certain tug in her heart, a love that can’t be explained in any words. These are the feelings I have felt since my first child was born 9 years ago; I thank God for the blessings he has trusted in my hands on this earth. As a little girl, I often dreamt of my future children; they would be perfect, smart, and beautiful. I got so much more than that in my children; they are everything I could ask for. I always wanted a son, but the first three of my children were girls. After they were born, I was okay with not having a son; I had three healthy girls and never planned to have a fourth child. Imagine my surprise when I got pregnant again, this time with a little boy. He looked just like his sisters, and has continued to bring joy into our family since his birth. His name is Ryan and he’s perfect, fun, loving, and autistic. I would like to share with you my personal gift of being a mom to an autistic child.
Ryan looks like any other 3 year old boy; he likes to run and play and can do just about anything. There are so many things, however, that he can’t do. To a mom, hearing your child call you mommy for the first time brings great pleasure; my son has never said those words to me. When Ryan was 2, I wondered why he was not talking yet; I knew children much younger who were talking like crazy. When I would express my concern, everyone would tell me that he’ll catch up; he will start talking before you know it. Reluctantly, I accepted that explanation and continued on with life; but the more time passed, the more concerned I got.
I recall one evening laying in bed thinking about Ryan; as his mom, why was he so distant from me. He never wanted me to hold him, hug him, or play with him; he seemed to isolate himself from everyone. When it occurred to me that I had no relationship with my youngest child, I cried. I had always felt that he was living in a world to himself, and no one was able to get in. Each day, I would remember some quirky thing Ryan had done, such as; repeat a sound over and over, line his cars in perfect rows, and roll his eyes In the back of his head for several minutes. If we were riding in the car, he would watch every sign we passed, and turn around in his car seat to continue following them. This behavior was alarming to me; meanwhile, more and more questions kept crossing my mind. Why won’t he answer me when I call for him? Why is he banging his head on the wall? Why does he not cry when he’s injured? I became frustrated; we needed answers to these questions because there had to be something wrong. I searched the Internet looking for help with his unusual behavior; it was clear after research, that my child was autistic.
There had to be some other explanation for Ryan’s actions, it just couldn’t be autism, no way. I had denial in every sense of the word; my mind told me it was something else, but in my heart I knew he was autistic. Our pediatrician sent him to a doctor who specializes in Autism, who then confirmed my suspicions.
Since being diagnosed with autism, Ryan must see an occupational and speech therapist twice a week, and attends a headstart program at the local school. Life is pretty hectic around our house with so many therapy appointments, as well as, learning all I can about how I can better help my son. The aggravation I feel as a mother, not knowing how to assist my son, burdens my heart. Progress has been slow thus far, but, I remain hopeful that he will develop and grow in his skills.
I don’t know what lies ahead for Ryan; I just know that I will always love and care for him. I look forward to the day when I can hear him say “Mommy” and he knows exactly what that word means. Being a mom to an autistic child has been challenging, but, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
If you suspect that your child has autism, please see a pediatrician soon. The earlier the diagnosis is for autism, the better the chances are for successful treatment. For more information or support for autism, there is a terrific website you can visit at autismspeaks.org. This site has inclusive information on the signs of autism, diagnosis, treatments, and donations; it has helped me answer so many questions, as well as, talk to other moms with an autistic child.