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:

HenryButlerWe’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.

Click here for instruction on submitting your story about living with autism. And check back every morning throughout April to read a different story in our Voices of Autism series on Goodyblog.

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  1. by Jersey

    On April 1, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Yes to all of it. xoxox

  2. by BonCeeCe

    On April 1, 2011 at 8:55 am

    Alysia, you are one of the bravest, smartest women I know. Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. by Spectrummy Mummy

    On April 1, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I am proud not just to walk this path, but to do so at the side of you as my friend. Simply beautiful, you speak for every mother.

  4. by Mom2Kaia

    On April 1, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Alysia, you continue to be an inspiration to me. Despite the fact that my daughter is not on the spectrum, the stories you share have helped me to better understand and appreciate her special needs. Thank you!

  5. by Amie

    On April 1, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Beautiful story. I couldn’t have said it better. My son has done the same thing for me. A true blessing.

  6. by Jennie B

    On April 1, 2011 at 11:44 am

    A perfect person to start this off! My son’s story is quite different, but the journey is the same.

  7. by Jenny

    On April 1, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Well done! I have learned many of those things, too.

  8. by Lynn

    On April 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Henry is such a doll I could eat him up! Hurray for walking this path with the likes of Alysia and all of the amazing parents of kids with autism that I’ve met along the way!

  9. by Varda (SquashedMom)

    On April 1, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Alysia, so lovely to see you here. I am so proud of you because I know you were an instrumental force in making this happen. Thank you for showing Parents Magazine what an important constituency we Autism parents are, and how much properly acknowledging April as Autism Awareness Month means to us. Also? I am happy to call you my friend.

  10. by Joy

    On April 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing, your little boy is just adorable! I’m glad you’ve been able to implement supports for him that have helped your whole family. Fantastic!

  11. by Carol Taney

    On April 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Alysia, That was a truly touching and beautiful article. No wonder your mother is so proud…and I know your father would be too. I wish he were here to tell you in person and to know your three wonderful boys. Carol

  12. by Alysia

    On April 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Thank you everyone for your incredibly kind comments. And thank you to Parents Magazine for giving us this space to share our stories. If we reach one struggling mother or father with our story, we’ve done our job.

  13. by Terri

    On April 2, 2011 at 3:17 am

    I am a mother of 3 boys which my middle child was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 3 he then at the age of 5 was diagnosed with aspergers but even before he was ever diagnosed with anything at the age of 18 mouths he was burned. So being a mother with an autisic child isn’t easy but i have learned a lot from him he is a wounderful little boy.

  14. by Cheryl D.

    On April 2, 2011 at 3:26 am

    Great post! Thank you so much for sharing your story and for convincing Parents magazine that our stories should be heard!

  15. by Rachel

    On April 2, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Alysia – what a beautiful telling of your story. Your son IS a gift – to ALL of us!

    We love you!!

  16. by Barbara Manatee

    On April 2, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    I am a teacher for kids with Autism and I am devoting my blog to Autism Awareness Month all through April!

  17. by Amy - Parenting Gone Mad

    On April 5, 2011 at 5:38 am

    Good work guys! Really like the idea of sharing a day to raise awareness.

  18. by Amy

    On April 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I loved yous story, and was especially stricken by one thing you said that was my epiphany about a week ago: I will no longer judge anyone. Ever.
    Reading your piece made me know in my heart that I was not alone – to feel part of a community of people for whom life is a big fat question mark and that there are beautiful days and horrible days – that we all must fight for our children, and advocate for not just our own kids, but all these kids. You are inspiring. Thank you.

  19. by Susan Allen

    On April 10, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Tears….beautiful testimony from a loving mother…period.

  20. by shoe lift girl

    On April 27, 2011 at 4:36 pm

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  21. by Lucas Jiles

    On May 3, 2011 at 3:34 am

    An interesting discussion may be worth remark. I think that you should write more about this particular topic, it might not be considered a taboo topic but usually individuals are not enough to speak on this kind of topics. To another. Cheers

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