I’ll be honest. I don’t usually read a whole lot of the anecdotal stories about autism. I do follow some blogs, because I have come to know and respect those bloggers, as far as the internet will allow. And I have a network of friends that have special needs children, and I am even a board member for a special needs group. And yet, over the years, people would recommend books and movies written by those whose lives are touched by autism, and I would put them on my list and never, ever get to them because I live this every day. Why would I choose to spend my free time living someone else’s difficult life? Early on, I joined some internet groups as some kind of surrogate community, which was OK to a point (until I found my own real-life version of a community), but over time, I found them to be judgmental and political, and everyone’s story was just so different… It was overwhelming and confusing to me — I just wanted to figure out what was going on inside The Boy’s head!
I have my hands full with the present, and don’t dwell on the past or the future. But I have been reading “Not Even Worse” by Paul Collins and it is very much a narrative, anecdotal story about his son’s diagnosis and his concurrent research project into the historical case studies of those with autism. And I have literally been unable to put it down.
This book has triggered a flood of memories. And today, as I was reading about their introduction to PECS (picture exchange communication system), I had a flashback to The Boy, pre-diagnosis, in speech therapy because he did not have words like other children. I remember the huge stack of homemade, laminated vocabulary picture cards, and the hours spent practicing them. We still have them — I know because I run across them from time to time and think, “We should really donate these to another child who needs them,” and yet I never do, because in some weird way, I can’t bear to part with them. So much labor and so much love in that box.
And that memory has triggered a sudden realization of how far The Boy has come. He didn’t have many words at age two. At age ten, he has more than most, writing stories and comic books, and spelling at an 11th grade level. He loves word games, riddles, and puzzles, and any joke relying on a play on words. He reads shockingly well, with comprehension, which is not all that common among his autistic peers. His teacher and I have discussed his almost photographic memory of any word he has ever read. And I think…
I wish I could go back to that overwhelmed mom that I was, and give her a hug, and say, “He will amaze you someday. Keep up the good work!” Instead, I will say it to all of you. You, who are working with your children and giving them so much of yourselves so that they can succeed. Keep doing what you are doing — I promise, they will amaze you!
And as for me? I guess I’ll be reading some more…