Making A Way Through Autism
by Michelle Nelson
(Durham, NC, USA)
Success with my child has been a different challenge than for most parents. My oldest child has Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning autism). Raising a special needs child takes a lot of time, sacrifice, money, patience and love.
I was told when my oldest was three years old that he was not “retarded” but that he would probably be in a group home when he reached adulthood. I remember how angry I was at the doctors that told me this but also how angry I was at the disability, Autism. It made me look at my child differently and I hated it.
My son had little language, made no eye contact and obsessed over Thomas the Tank Engine. Thomas was all he cared about. He knew his alphabet before age 2 and could read 25 page books at 3. He did not say “Mommy” until he was 4.
After the diagnoses I made a commitment to beating Autism. I was not going to let it take my child away from me. So began the long hours of speech therapy, social skills classes and working with him at home. I read everything I could about Autism. I went to workshops, conferences and networked with as many people as I could find. I taught myself about IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and hired a lawyer to help me when I was struggling with the schools about his needs and differences.
I am happy to say that my child is 17 now and a junior in high school. He has been mainstreamed in the regular classroom since 3rd grade. He is an honor student and has never made below a “B” ever in school. He is in an appointed Engineering program at his school and plans to go to college. He is a kind young man that gets along with others. He has friends that he chats with online and he is well adjusted and happy. Seeing him today makes me so proud.
Recently I looked at some old videos I had taken of him when he was about 4 years old and so noticeably autistic. I cried when I watched them because for the first time in his life I was able to see past the Autism and see my son again. We have done this together and I am so honored to be his Mother.