Voices of Autism: ‘Beauty in the Little Things’
April is Autism Awareness Month. Every day throughout the month, we will be featuring a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. The first in the series was written by Alysia Butler, mother of Henry, 5, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in December 2009 at age 3 1/2:
We’ve known our son was different almost from the moment he was born. I have two other boys, and Henry is our middle child. Nothing we did as parents worked with him. He wouldn’t sleep, he didn’t eat, and he didn’t respond to any direction or have any concept of the world around him. We started with occupational therapy through early intervention, but it wasn’t enough. We weren’t connecting with him, and he wasn’t connecting with us. We had a teacher tell us at a private preschool that there wasn’t anything wrong with him, he was just a badly behaved little boy. As parents, we were at the end of our rope.
An autism diagnosis never entered our head before this: Our son is verbal and social and can maintain eye contact. All of our preconceived notions of autism went out the window with his diagnosis. But now… now we understand him. We can help him. In the 16 months since his diagnosis, he’s been flourishing in his new preschool with the appropriate supports and services. His brothers, once so frustrated by Henry’s behaviors, are now starting to understand him as well. We are on this journey as a family–learning together, loving together, and getting our son help together. We are breaking through the stigma attached to autism by sharing our story.
And for me? I’ve learned that patience is more than a virtue. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced over and over again. I no longer judge anyone. Ever. My son has shown me the beauty in the little things: to slow down for a walk to pick up an acorn or to take the long way home to hear the end of a song.
He’s introduced me to some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. People who I want to have as friends and who understand and accept us for us.
I now celebrate the accomplishments in our own time, not because some book told us when it was supposed to happen, and I try to use the words “child-appropriate,” instead of “age-appropriate.”
I have learned that there’s nothing better than a hug out of love.
He’s shown me that the most important job we can have as a parent is to be our child’s best advocate. To speak for them when they cannot. And to fight to the end to get them the help they need.
Finally, he has made me a better wife, mother, and friend. I would not be the person I am today had this gift not entered my life five years ago.Add a Comment