Voices of Autism: ‘The Real Holy Grail’

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 Lynn Hudoba, mother of Audrey, 7, and author of the blog Autism Army Mom.

Monday, October 24, 2005, was a beautiful fall day. I was stopped at an intersection not far from my house, when I had a sudden and certain realization. My daughter has autism. A light bulb went off as if I had just realized that I’d forgotten to take a pill, or send a birthday card, or turn off the oven.

The fallout from this was likely to be slightly more life-altering than having a bout of heartburn, snubbing a friend, or even burning my house to the ground, but somehow the initial jolt was a similar sensation.

Everything had been fine just seconds before, and now nothing would ever be the same. Audrey was in the back, flipping through books in her car seat as she always did. Nothing had changed about her in those few seconds but suddenly my perception of her was completely different. She was no longer just a late bloomer or an introvert. She had autism, a neurological disorder from which she might never recover. 

From that moment forward, I proceeded to pass through each stage of grief several times over, sometimes in the course of a single day: denial, pain, anger, bargaining, shock, guilt, depression, and finally acceptance. The Holy Grail of the stages was acceptance. But even that doesn’t sound all that great. OK, I’ve accepted it… now what? What about happiness? What about joy? What about laughter? That’s the real Holy Grail.

It’s been a long journey since that initial mallet-to-the-head moment, but we’ve finally gotten to a phase of something more than just acceptance. And humor has had more than a little to do with what has brought us to where we are today.

Finding humor in our situation seemed at first incongruous and almost forbidden. It’s been prompted by such things as the clueless reaction of an elderly relative who says she always knew that her grandchild was “artistic.” Or a prospective respite worker who showed no shame in confessing that she loved to babysit autistic kids, like the one who licked a doorknob for three straight hours–easiest gig ever! Or something that my daughter does that makes me laugh hysterically and remember that she is still the same kid that she was before a label was slapped on her.

My daughter doesn’t act the same way as a typically developing 7-year-old. Nor can she converse with you as you might expect her to. She can’t ride a bike or make friends like other children her age can. But she is sweet and funny, warm and affectionate, adorable and endlessly endearing. Autism may bring me to my knees on occasion, but Audrey is always there to lift me up, bring a smile to my face, and show me all the joy to be had in this life of ours.

 To read previous stories in this series, click here. For instructions on how to submit your story, click here.

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  1. by Alysia

    On April 19, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Oh Lynn – I loved this. “She is still the same kid that she was before a label was slapped on her.” My son – totally the same way.
    People like you have taught me to see the humor where I thought there was none. I’m so grateful to you for sharing this story and all your other wonderful Audrey stories with us.

  2. by Floortime Lite Mama

    On April 19, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Oh Lynn – I loved what you wrote !
    That is the holy grail indeed
    Happy happy birthday to lovely Audrey

  3. by Jen

    On April 19, 2011 at 8:25 am

    I love this post. Thank you for blogging like you do. You seriously keep me going a lot of the time.

  4. by Spectrummy Mummy

    On April 19, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I was told recently by a friend whose life seems oh-so-perfect that she envied the joy and laughter in mine. I think that perspective is life-changing. Thanks so much for sharing your story here.

  5. by Pam @ One Autism Mom's Notes

    On April 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Lynn, this is a wonderful tribute to Audrey! Thanks so much for sharing her with all of us who read your blog; she makes me smile and laugh out loud as you describe her so beautifully. :)

  6. by Joy

    On April 20, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Great post Lynn! Thank you for sharing, your daughter is adorable!

  7. by Christine Zorn

    On April 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    This is beautiful Lynn! I honestly think having a child with autism has made me more able to truly find and feel happiness. I often overlooked it before. And, yeah…finding humor in situations is a must!

  8. by Christy

    On April 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Great post. I’m glad that you not only find humor in these situations but also take the time to blog about it. You provide much-needed laughs every day.

  9. by Big Daddy

    On April 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Great post. I guess they’re saving the best for 10th from last.

  10. by Aimee

    On April 20, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Your perfect discription of the life changing moment gives me chills and forces me to remember and feel my own moment. I’m glad no one can ever tell me that again, that I never have to realize it for the first time again, but I too will never be able to forget sharp jolt it sent through my whole body…like it was last week and not 8 years ago.

  11. by Karen V.

    On April 20, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    It’s weird how that all of a sudden hit you like that. It’s an amazing transformation we go through when we learn of the diagnosis of our children. When we come out on the other side of the initial “jolt” as you describe it – we have our struggles but supporting each other brings us all together as an amazing and strong community.

    You have the gift to see humor in our daily experiences and share it with us all. Your perspective has done wonders for my outlook. Thanks, Lynn. A beautiful story to share here.

  12. by Cheryl D.

    On April 21, 2011 at 2:47 am

    What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing your story, Lynn!

  13. by Jean@MommyToTwoBoys

    On April 22, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    As usual, I got lost in your words Lynn, and didn’t want the post to end.

    Love your note about the label. I have said to so many other parents looking for support, or in denial, and said, you have concerns, get the eval. The label will NOT change your child. It will be the same little person you know and love, they will just have that label. And gets services, and have a massively huge special ed file, and hours of therapy, and bills up the wazoo…you get the point and I usually leave those last few bits out.

  14. by Delora Saturnio

    On June 16, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Hi! WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait ..

  15. by Tabetha Dinwoodie

    On November 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I haven’t checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)