When my son was 3, I was told that he would eventually be placed into some type of home for the mentally disabled. The only job that he would have would be a repetitious one, such as working on an assembly line. There was no hope given by the ‘professionals’ that he would ever amount to anything.
Getting the diagnosis that he was Autistic was one thing, but following that up with “be prepared to place him in a home when he gets older”, absolutely crushed me. I left that day completely distraught, saddened that my son would never accomplish anything. This beautiful little boy whom I loved so dearly, would never live on his own. He would never get married, nor would he have children. That’s what they said, so that’s what I believed. After all, they were ‘professionals’.
My son started pre-school at the age of 3 and a therapist visited our home on a regular basis. Together, we all worked with him to learn his colors, numbers and letters. Mainly we worked on his social skills and his behavior. He had very poor social skills. From the moment he could crawl, he refused to be held by anyone. So for him to sit in a room and pay attention to someone was nearly impossible.
He didn’t speak, nor could he effectively communicate with his actions. His inability to communicate caused him to throw terrible tantrums constantly. He would scream, tear things apart and kick you if you tried to calm him. In all honesty, he was miserable to be around most of the time. That’s a horrible thing to say, but it’s true. To make matters worse, I was practically raising him on my own.
His father would keep him on the weekends, but he was in denial that there was anything wrong with him. I don’t blame him for being that way. He just didn’t want to believe it. Even so, he was a good dad. He still is. But because of his denial, the job was placed solely on me. It was tough, to say the least.
Although I worked with him continually on improving (or gaining) skills, in the back of my mind sat the words of the ‘professionals”, that he would never accomplish anything. Because of that, there were many times where I just wanted to give up and throw in the towel.
From his painting the walls with ‘brown crayons’, ripping things apart, tearing up the carpet and the wall paper, along with his constant tantrums – I was drained. Raising him, was physically and mentally exhausting. If he wasn’t going to accomplish anything, then what was the point of it all? I had dreams of running away to the mountains and never turning back.
Then there was the other part of me, the larger part, that refused to quit. The love for my son kept pushing me along. Day by day, step by step. There had to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I was determined that my son would overcome all those obstacles that towered before him. He deserved a good life and I wasn’t going to stop until he got there, no matter how hard the journey was.
For years we worked, we fought, we struggled, we got angry and I cried. He never cried. Even when punished, he never cried. He laughed. That made discipline worthless. So, we struggled some more. Then one day, he said “Mom”. He was 7. I had waited all those years to hear him call my name and when he did, it was such a beautiful sound. It was then that I knew that the hope was not lost.
He could speak simple words and 3 word phrases, but until the single word “Mom” proceeded from his mouth, none of his other words ever seemed to have real meaning. Not even to him. From that day forward, the wall began chipping away little by little to reveal the boy that was hidden within. Over the next few months, he would say words that I had know idea he knew. He would do things that I had never seen him do before.
Throughout all those years of teaching him, I never realized that he was learning anything. However, as he began emerging from his little world, he shared with me the things he had learned while being ‘stuck’ in there. I had know idea. I always felt like I was teaching a brick wall. In a sense I was, but what I didn’t know was that the lessons were quietly seeping through the cracks.
From there, he began reaching milestone after milestone. He’s 14 now. He can speak in full sentences, although they may not always be complete. He can read and write. He’s able to do simple math, including multiplication and division. He’s very creative, especially when it comes to digital graphics and art.
Not only is he smart, but he’s got the greatest sense of humor. He’s also very polite, giving, loving and sincere. He doesn’t put on a facade for anyone. What you see is what you get and with him, you get a lot. He’s an amazing young man.
Will he ever get married and have kids? I don’t know, but I know he wants to. So, I believe he will.
Maybe he won’t drive a nice fancy car. He may not drive at all. Maybe he won’t own a house. He may live in an independent group home one day. He may not be a rocket scientist. Or, maybe he will. He is a geek after all and he sure does love science.
Whoever said that he has to do any of these things in order to be successful? Not everyone’s meaning of success is the same. The dictionary states that success is “the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted”. By that definition he’s already obtained success and a great deal of it at that. This is only the beginning for him.
My son makes me proud every day. He is my hero.
“Don’t limit yourself to someone else’s opinion of your capabilities. Be you. Dream, plan, execute!” ~ Steve Maraboli