Voices of Autism: ‘Just As Beautiful’

Every day throughout April–Autism Awareness Month–we have featured a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. Today, for the final day of the month, we will be publishing two stories. The first story was written by Cheryl Ryan Chan, mother of Nicky. (The second story will be published in a separate post later today.)

chan-photo2Most stories about autism start out the same: baby born, normal development, toddler suddenly or gradually developmentally delayed. Ours is similar, but it takes a dramatic turn at age 6. It was then that our son began to turn violent and aggressive, toward himself and toward us. At first it was manageable; I could pick him up and carry him out of any situation, get him redirected quickly, or avoid a lot of situations altogether. But those “situations” became more frequent, and our world became smaller every day.  The violence, the aggressions, the stress continued. Nicky had no language, severe social impairment, no cognition. His skills were that of a 9-12 month old. 

We tried everything. Medications, diet and biomedical interventions, vitamin therapies, play therapies, social skills therapies, augmentative communication devices, speech therapy, sign language–we did them all. Some helped, briefly; most did not.

By age 10, our public school was begging us to place Nicky into a special school, where he could get the kind of therapeutic interventions he needed. We were determined to keep him with his peers, who loved him and did everything they could to help him. For us, removing him would be permanent. What if they forgot about him? We said no.

By age 13, there was no doubt that he had to leave the school. His peers had grown afraid of him. He was separated all day. He entered a day program. After a year, even that was not enough. At home, we had become prisoners to Nicky’s every move. Whichever parent he was targeting had to sneak in and out of the house any time Nicky was there. That left the other one, either my husband or myself, alone, trying to avoid causing his wrath or anxiety. Blood smears lined the halls upstairs. Holes in the walls from Nicky putting his head through them were seemingly everywhere. Sometimes it was just easier to let him hit us, so we would stand there as he did, protecting our heads and faces as best we could, until he exhausted himself.

It seemed better than taking that next step to sending him away. That was horrifying. What kind of parents would do that? Then we took him to the Emergency Room and said, “We can’t do this anymore.” We were told that we were doing the best thing we could do as parents, and on that day, we began our journey of healing and strength.

Fast forward four years. Nicky is in a residential school one hour away. He comes home every weekend, and we laugh! We enjoy every minute together! Four years ago we never imagined we would be here, happy, healthy, whole.

I know there are many out there like us, but they are scared and ashamed. That is why we tell our story now–to give others like us permission to talk without shame, to inspire others to speak out. You are not alone.

Not all stories are warm and fuzzy, but ours, as you can see by our picture, is just as beautiful.

To read previous stories in this series, click here.

Add a Comment
Back To GoodyBlog
  1. by Alysia

    On April 30, 2011 at 7:12 am

    Cheryl – you are one of the most amazing women I know and this story proves it. You are a tireless advocate not just for your son, but the whole autism community. You have given your life to help families like mine understand and accept their children. I’m so grateful for your story here and so proud to know you in real life as well. Thank you.

  2. by DragonSlayerMama

    On April 30, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Oh honey, hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. Your pain and your love for your son are palpable. It’s never easy, no matter what decision we make as parents we are always second guessing ourselves. Thank you for having the courage to share your story here.
    And more hugs to you. All the best, Mama. :)

  3. by Diane

    On May 1, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Cheryl,
    Very touching reality story.
    You and your family are very inspiring.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. by Deneen Thongdy

    On July 28, 2011 at 4:47 am

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog. A great read. I’ll certainly be back.

  5. by Joel Maitland

    On September 3, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Hey, you used to write magnificent, but the last few posts have been kinda boring… I miss your great writings. Past several posts are just a bit out of track! come on!

  6. by energia

    On September 7, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Outstanding post, you have pointed out some good points , I as well believe this s a very good website.

  7. by Not Your Daughters Jeans Coupon

    On September 7, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    My partner and i still can’t quite feel that I could possibly be one of those reading the important suggestions found on your website. My family and I are sincerely thankful on your generosity and for offering me the chance to pursue my chosen career path. Thanks for the important information I managed to get from your web page.

  8. by abercrombie & fitch sale

    On September 12, 2011 at 6:01 am

    Looks excellent! Something to help certainly consider. It’s an incredible theme, clear and fresh, we like it! Good contrasty. Easy over the eye. I i’m much impressed from your vision. Clean, simple and incredibly cool-looking. Nice features, too. Thanks!

  9. by Canada Goose coats online store

    On September 14, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Your artical is so simple however retains a little elegance and also grace. And considering the options along with customization you have got enabled, I’m sure it should appeal to many people bloggers. It’s incredibly commendable that you would like to let you, the buyers, to have a very wide number of themes for the blogs. Keep them all coming!

  10. by juicy couture online

    On September 20, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Great document! I’m all for doing this. The article is certainly helpful with me. Reading your own article causes me delighted. At duration, I may learn extra knowledge. Thanks considerably.

  11. by Bialko

    On November 16, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Great write-up, I’m normal visitor of one’s blog, maintain up the excellent operate, and It’s going to be a regular visitor for a long time.

  12. by Mbt Sko dusalg

    On November 17, 2011 at 5:46 am

    Thanks for the thoughts you have discussed here. Furthermore, I believe there are numerous factors which really keep your motor insurance premium lower. One is, to take into consideration buying cars and trucks that are from the good directory of car insurance firms. Cars which have been expensive will be more at risk of being lost. Aside from that insurance policies are also depending on the value of your car or truck, so the costlier it is, then the higher the particular premium you make payment for.

  13. by franklin marshall

    On November 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for the several tips provided on this blog. I have seen that many insurance firms offer clients generous special discounts if they opt to insure more and more cars together. A significant quantity of households possess several cars these days, specially those with more aged teenage young children still living at home, as well as the savings with policies can soon begin. So it pays off to look for a bargain.

  14. by Chinese tablets usa shipping

    On December 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Looking for the best performance android tablet shipped from the USA?