When I was six months pregnant with my daughter, the teacher in charge of the Child Care at my school came to visit me. She had spent the past 6 months with my son who was then three. She came with pamphlets and tears in her eyes and prefaced her speech with, “I have been praying for months on how to approach you with this.” Her pamphlets talked about autism.
Autism? My first thought was that she was telling me my beautiful child would become Rain Man at some point in the future. How could she be right? My son knew all his letters and numbers at the age of 3. He didn’t
really mind being held or touched and had an amazing vocabulary. None of this was
autism, was it? We had called him a little eccentric but never autistic.
We started a long process of tests given through the school system. He
got tests, we got questionnaires. One question - “Does your child know
the channel and time of his favorite TV program?” What?!?! He doesn’t
watch tv so what does that mean? I thought he wasn’t suppose to watch
and now he’s going to get this question wrong??? Should I lie?? Stuff
like this made me – um – manic.
We moved on to tests from experts as the school tests were inconclusive. We finally got in to TEACCH about a year later. TEACCH works with people in all levels of autism – they are out of the University of North Carolina and are – in my opinion – the world experts! So finally a conclusive diagnosis. Yes, autism. High Functioning, but firmly planted on the spectrum.
To help deal with this idea, we went ahead and started talking about it to LOTS of people. We reached out to our family and friends to help us. Support came from letters and phone calls and close friends and new friends. I discovered in myself a mama-lion-feeling that crawled from my toes and roared out my mouth when I talked to specialists and doctors and teachers.
It has been ten years since that original conversation. Ten years of learning and leaning and crying and cracking up and moving forward. We have come so far as a family and my son has come so far as his own special person in those ten years, but the memories and feelings from those first few weeks of trying to process that information are still amazingly vivid. Yes, and mama lion comes roaring back when needed.
I’d like to share in this blog a few stories and advice and anecdotes I’ve accumulated over the years. It has been quite a roller coaster ride. Actually, just last night I got a phone call from my son’s summer camp that set off that same feeling in my stomach you get from the very first huge roller coaster hill. But, as always, we come back up and my family and I just hang on and try to enjoy the ride.
For more information on the TEACCH program, look through their website at http://www.teacch.com/
~ The Mildly Manic Mom