|Image Source: mychildwithoutlimits.org|
Before my son was born, I read a lot about childbirth and caring for newborns. I had books like the well-known What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and even a Day-by-Day Pregnancy Journal. I was as prepared as any woman could be before she has her first baby (which really isn’t much because all moms know that you’re never as ready as you think you are). In the early months of his life, I continued to read about development, feeding, (the dreaded) “tummy time”, eating solids, “back to sleep”, etc. As he continued to grow and change, my library shifted from the basics of child care to information about language delays, sensory integration disorder, and autism. Undoubtedly, during his early years, I read about autism so that I could eliminate it as a possibility for my baby.
When the doctor finally used the word to describe my four year old son, I was incredulous
angry. Why had he never told me? He had
been my son’s neurologist for nearly 3 years. We had discussed speech therapy,
play groups, and day care. He told me that the way my son turned to look at me,
as if to check in, before starting new tasks was a good indication that perhaps
he did not have autism. I felt as if I had been misled tricked. But I
will never forget his explanation and how his plan of action had helped my son
and our family. He explained that the “diagnosis” didn’t matter because we had
treated the symptoms. Using the word “autism” would not have changed anything
about the fact that we began speech therapy and that we decided it was time to
start day care. The label would have only added to my apprehension as I joined
play groups to allow for more socialization with children his age. He had, in
essence, looked at the symptoms and prescribed treatment for those symptoms.
Because at the time, the symptoms were mild by comparison, we could focus on
getting help for those issues without drowning in the fact that my baby had
autism. And while my brain understood his words, my heart shattered
as I felt the hope I’d clung to for years being ripped from my body. Nonetheless, once I had the diagnosis and cried for what
seemed like days, I felt motivated to become equipped to raise (teach,
help) this boy, my baby. Therefore, once the neurologist confirmed autism as
our reality, I read about autism for different reasons. I could no longer rule
it out, so instead I read to become informed on ways to help him. I read to
understand what was happening to him (because it is happening to him not me).
I read to find comfort in the stories of other mothers like me. I read two of
Jenny McCarthy’s books (Louder than Words
and Mother Warriors) and found
them to be a source of shared experience and understanding (however, lots of helpful
resources can be found in the final pages of Louder than Words).
The more I read, the options available for treating symptoms of autism seemed endless. I came upon terms such as hyperbaric chamber, chelation, gluten free and dairy free, behavior therapy. I was overwhelmed