When my firstborn was a couple months old, I noticed that he didn't make eye contact with me. In fact, every single time I tried to hold him, he screamed. I'd HEARD that babies liked to be cuddled and fed, but I didn't have a frame of reference for this, being the last-born in my own family. So I assumed my kid was kinda stand-offish and let it go. I laid NEXT to him rather than with him.
My heart broke plenty, as he found greater comfort in his mobile than his mother. But that was just how he was ... right?
By his second birthday, his obsession with the solar system surpassed anything I could have expected a child to understand. He knew the moons of Jupiter -- all 37 of them -- and happily rattled them off to his pediatrician. Who, instead of being amazed and awe-struck, looked horrified and sent me to Early Intervention for screening and therapy. Turned out, my tiny son was autistic.
Because this was so long ago, however, "autism" wasn't on the lips of everyone. No one walked -- or ran -- for a cure. In fact, the only thing people knew about autism was some oblique reference to Rain Man.
As no one knew about it, I didn't spend a lot of time worrying about that diagnosis. I focused instead upon my tiny tot with a beautiful, big brain. Sure, he wasn't quite like other kids, but he was mine, and he was perfect. So what if he had a diagnosis? Hell, I did, too!
The prevalence of autism is on the rise. According to the CDC, an average of 1 in 110 children in the US has an autistic spectrum disorder. So now you say, "My kid is autistic," and everyone knows what you're talking about. It's both good and bad.
Autism gets a bad rap. Certainly there are extreme cases of autism (just like any other disease), but for my kid, it just means that social interactions baffle him and that he's not a cuddly kid. There's a myriad of other things, too, but he's only lightly affected by the disorder.
I know how lucky we are.
I also know that the delicious quirks -- memorizing the moons of Jupiter and refusing to eat things that are colors other than white -- are simply to be enjoyed. They're quirky and adorable.
He's taught me to accept people as they are, not as you want them to be. That's a valuable lesson. He's also reminded me that people are bound to be different than your expectations and that, well, that is okay. We should all be able to see the world in the mystical ways he does. He reminds me to stop and look at patterns on garbage cans rather than the garbage can itself. It really IS the little things.
And he reminds me, time and again, that being normal is overrated.
That, in itself, is a priceless lesson.
What are priceless lessons your child has taught you?
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