Voices of Autism: Milestones
Every day throughout April–Autism Awareness Month–we will be featuring a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. Today’s story was written by Pam Byrne, mother of Alex, 19, and author of the blog One Autism Mom‘s Notes:
Last summer, as I was reorganizing some drawers and closets, I ran across my son Alex’s baby book. I hadn’t looked at it for years and had forgotten how carefully I had recorded the events of his first year, describing his first trips, Christmas, birthday, and other events in detail. During those first 12 months, Alex met his major developmental motor milestones within the normal range. According to my notes, Alex first turned over at two-and-a-half months, sat up alone at seven months, began to crawl at eight-and-a-half months, and took his first step around his first birthday.
What is more revealing, however, is to note the blanks I have left in his baby book: “Mother was first recognized at age___, ” Father was first recognized at age ___,” “That little hand first reached for ___ at age ___,” and “The very first word spoken was ___, and it was said at age ___.” Now I realize that these were all red flags pointing to autism, but I kept waiting, hoping to fill in the blanks.
I have heard from other mothers of children with autism that they, like me, could no longer write in their children’s baby books once they suspected something was wrong. After getting a diagnosis of autism, some put their baby books away, as I did, partly because we were too busy helping our children get better, but partly because we were overwhelmed by uncertainty as to what the future might hold for those babies.
Near the end of the baby book, I found a brief narrative that I wrote a few years after Alex was diagnosed with autism, summarizing what had transpired during those years I left spaces blank. I wrote the following explanation for what had happened to Alex: ”At age 4, Alex was diagnosed with hyperlexia, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by precocious reading skills. (Alex began reading at age 3) and delayed language and social skills. He began speech therapy at age 4 years, three months, and he began occupational therapy for delayed fine motor skills and sensory defensiveness at age 4 years, 10 months.”
The objectivity in this description belies the range of emotions I have felt through the years in dealing with autism. Had I known what I know now when I wrote that paragraph, I could have faced the future with far less fear and even greater hope. Whenever I consider what the future holds for Alex, I remember that he eventually learned to recognize my husband and me, reach for things he wanted, and speak thousands of words. While Alex masters skills on his on his own time table, God teaches us patience. With anticipation and faith, we wait for the next milestone to be met and celebrate how far he has already come.