One of the hardest parts about being a mother with an Autistic child, is that you never know.
I don’t know that my son will ever be able to talk. When people say “he’ll talk when he’s ready,” it really hurts. He might not talk. He may never be “ready.” Other people say “well I knew so and so who had an Autistic child and they started talking when they were 4.” Ok, that’s great and all, but not all children are the same. Just because they have the same heart wrenching label, does not mean they are alike. He may never be able to tell me when someone has hurt him. He may never be able to tell me why he’s smiling. He may never be able to say “I love you mommy.” With advances in technology, words may be possible through typing, someday. But that day is not today. Today he is only 2, and therefore words are impossible. There are simple gestures for “more” (sign language) when he wants more food, or to play with a toy again. He is learning “help,” (again, in sign language) for when he can’t do something on his own. There’s also “ready, set, go” in sign language, that we are working on. But that’s it. My baby doesn’t cry when he is sad. He doesn’t cry when he gets hurt. He smiles when he’s happy, and that means the world to me. My whole world exists purely for those smiles. Every moment of my day is dedicated to them. Without them, this world would be impossible to withstand. His hand gesturing, which all the professionals say needs to stop, are how he shows he is truly excited about something. I live for them.
I don’t know how people will react when they see him. I don’t know what they will say when I tell them he has Autism. So far, the reactions have been hurtful. There was a little girl that Little Man smiled at. He’s never smiled at a stranger before. My heart flew and a tear came to my eye. He was pounding on a poll when she pranced over (she’s 3). She got in his way and he moved down the line. She followed him. He started hitting the poll again and she got in the way. He laughed and thought it was a game. He moved down the poll again and I nearly cried. It was his very first time initiating play with another child (besides my daughter). The little girl looked at him, crinkled her nose, and ran away. She has not come near him since. It broke my heart. He watched for her everyday, and everyday tries to pound on the poll with her. She stays her distance. I waited two weeks and finally talked to her mother. I told her that my son had really taken a liking to her little girl, and that she was cute and friendly. The lady told me she liked everyone. I explained how he tried to play with her and that it was a really big deal. She told me the girl plays with everyone. I explained that my son doesn’t, and that he has Autism. Her face dropped and she said what they always do, “oh.” She looked at him and said “but he’s so well behaved.” The words were not meant to be hurtful, they were, however, plagued with ignorance. With how prevalent Autism is, you would think that people would know more about it. But you’d be wrong. I wanted to explain to her that it doesn’t mean he’s retarded and that not all children with Autism will need sensory stimulation by banging their heads. But I didn’t. I sighed and said “yeah, you’d never know he has it, just by looking at him.” I haven’t seen her or her little girl since then. Our children share the same hallway at school, so it’s pretty unusual not to see her.
I never know how friends are going to behave, or how potential friends will act. Some friends ignore his Autism and still try to touch him and get in his face, as if he were a “normal” child. I have told them time and again that it upsets him and that they need to stop. Sometimes my friends will offer help, but truthfully have no idea how to help and therefore, don’t help at all. But one thing that has stayed consistent, is that they have stayed away. No one comes over to play. No one goes out to eat. People are always too busy or have other plans. Even people with children that are “special needs” are so busy with their own schedules, that they never have time either. It makes it so that you feel even more alone, more isolated. You feel trapped in this Autistic world of silence. Will it ever get better? I don’t know.
I don’t know if his need for sensory stimulation will lead to him circling in the chair so hard that he pukes. I don’t know if he will ever make friends or if people will ever see him for who he is. I don’t know if all of his “therapies” will ever amount to anything. I don’t know if he will ever speak. I don’t know if he will ever find love or go to college. I don’t know if I will have time to finish my degree or if I’ll have to stay home to home school him. I just don’t know. No mother knows, really. It’s a game we all play. But the stakes are higher here. The choice are life and death. It’s overwhelming. It takes your breath away when you realize you’ve lost another friend to ignorance and indifference. It smashes your heart to see strangers overcome with ignorance and superstition.
But at least he smiles. At least, he giggles when tickled. He accepts my hugs, and offers his own. So no matter what “I don’t know” there are out there, at least I know that he will smile again. That is what keeps me going. That is what gives me strength to get out of bed and face the world and its unknowns.
Smile on Little Man. Mommy is here