Disclaimer: It's 10:20pm and I'm exhausted. This is not going to be my best written post, but I had to share!
Instead of staying up tonight to nurse my new addiction to music via Youtube.com I decided to dive back into the book I was telling you about the other day (yesterday?). Reading Kim Stagliano's journey with three autistic daughters spurred a trip down memory lane for me. Things have been going so well with Isaac lately that the past is becoming a blur. This is a great thing in general, but not very helpful when you are about to be expected to write about autism on a regular basis. I had all but forgotten about ALL of those early signs that something was very off with our child. The red-rashed cheeks, ever-runny nose, aggressiveness and/or inattention to those around him, hyper activity, space staring sessions, loss of speech, etc, etc, etc. It's remarkable how similar her first two years with her girls were to our first two years with Isaac. However, we got lucky. Isaac was two in 2009, not in the 1990s like her first two girls. The information and resources that enabled us to have early intervention with Isaac weren't so easy to come by back in the 90s. She helplessly watched her girls spiral deeper into their autism before finding treatments that would help them.
Reading her words made me recall some of my worst days with Isaac-before we really knew what was going on with him. I remember one day when he was particularly "off". I had recently had a friend of mine who is an autism behavioral specialist give me her honest opinion on his quirks. My mind was reeling with the prospect of the A-word and Isaac's behavior was only making me feel more paranoid and more helpless. On this day he just seemed completely gone. I'd get right in his face, say his name several times and he would just look past me and then start spinning in circles and saying one of his two favorite autism-typical phrases "gottagottagotta" or "tickatickaticka". His behavior was out of control. When Andrew got home from work that day I bombarded him with my concerns-to which his denial and fear could only respond with defensiveness. I ran upstairs, sat on the bed, and cried my eyes out. Andrew came up to check on me. The conversation went a little something like this:
"Why are you crying?"
"Our kid has autism. I know it."
"He does not. Stop."
"Well SOMETHING is wrong. He is not normal! I am home all day with him- I see what he's like. I KNOW something is not right." Sob. Sob. Sob.
"Libby, you aren't a doctor. Just wait and see what Early On says. You're being hysterical."
He was right about one thing; Isaac does not have full blown autism like the Stagliano girls, but he could have. Researchers say that early intervention and bio-medical help can sometimes help reverse or improve a child's severity of autism. Do I believe this is true? Absolutely. It has been so in our case, at least. Kim's first daughter's autism progressed to where she was having seizures- a common thing for people with autism. I remember, pre-diet days, when we were concerned that Isaac might be having mini-seizures. We'd be driving in the car and wouldn't be able to get his attention for minutes on end and he'd just be staring in the same spot, without blinking or moving. I'd even reach back and snap my fingers in his face a couple times or shake his arm before he'd finally respond, but it wasn't like he was responding to me. He would just all of a sudden come out of it. He drooled a lot back then too, and he was done teething. Both things worried me. Everyday that we didn't have an answer was one more day where he got, well, weirder. His A-word was knocking on our door with it's bags packed, ready for an extended stay. Ah, all this stuff I've almost forgotten and a couple chapters in a book puts me right back there.
Fast forward to tonight. I started back cleaning for a friend of mine. She let me bring Isaac along- something she offered in the past, but I always turned down because I couldn't conceive of how I'd get her house clean with him clinging to me and refusing to have anything to do with anyone else. I knew he'd be fine tonight. I quickly got him dressed, packed my supplies, and swept him out the door. This is something that would have never happened 1.5 years ago. Last minute swoop Isaac out the door for a quick run to the store with little to no prior warning or preparation? Nightmare. One big screaming, thrashing nightmare. Transitions were from a circle of Hell that Dante himself couldn't imagine. Leaving the house took the kind of planning usually reserved for military maneuvers. Not so tonight. He walked right up to Melynda's door and greeted her. She told him that they had a kitty and a bunny and he immediately asked where they were. He reciprocally played with Melynda and her daughter the whole time- asking and answering questions, giving hugs, and when it was time to go he said "Bye Krysten. Byebye. See you later/tomorrow." At one point in the night, he and Krysten shared a clementine. I told him to say thank you. He waited a minute and then said, "Thank you. That orange was tasty." WHAT?! Yes, my child said that. Yes, yes he did. And I couldn't be more proud or relieved. In fact, other than some echoalia he seemed like a pretty typical 3 year old boy tonight. And this former youth pastor is not ashamed to say, GOD am I GRATEFUL! I'm grateful for the time in which my son was born, the time in which we happen to live in an area with the resources to help him, and grateful for Kim's book that is making me reflect on some things I might have otherwise chose to forget. Perfect timing.