What It's Really Like To Raise a Child with Autism

Yes, Ben still wears diapers.

Ben's nose is bleeding, scratched by one of his fingernails. His face is flushed but not wet, because for some reason Ben never sheds tears. But he's hollering, and his nose is running. As I say, "Bye-bye, Ben, I'm going to the car," he rises, only to bolt toward the street. I lurch and reach him before he gets to the crosswalk. Then he goes down again and tries to crawl across the strip of grass into the traffic, still slapping away at his face.

I am breathing heavily, having been a bit frightened when he ran for the street, and I'm wondering why we can't just have one nice, normal day when a trip to a playground can mean simply a trip to the playground. I'm feeling sorry for Ben, because whatever he's going through sure isn't fun for him, and his dad can't do much to help. I now wonder if he thought that his walk along the sidewalk would bring him to the lake. I wonder if his stomach hurts. I wonder if he's feeling worn out yet, like I am.

After more of the same, we finally get back to the playground and our van, and I discover a possible explanation for what has been making him so miserable: Ben could not have been comfortable walking with what he was carrying in his very large diaper.

Yes, Ben still wears diapers.

To be honest, I considered this possibility earlier in our trip, but I didn?t bother to check -- what good would it have done anyway? Since our walk was unplanned, I left the ever-present backpack of wipes, diapers, plastic bags, and spare clothes in the van. And even if I'd had the pack with me, it would not have done much good on a busy sidewalk. I can just imagine the faces of the drivers, or the cops, if they'd gotten an eyeful of that scene.

Though Ben doesn't stop yelping and hollering once we reach the van, at least he "assumes the position" to be stripped, cleaned, and redressed. I try to hand him a bottle, but he pushes it away and says, "Pig, pig!" He wants his little pink rubber pig, which I put into my coat pocket when he began climbing the monkey bars prior to our walk. Has he wanted this all along? Is this why he's been upset? Only Ben knows. He holds the pig, and I go to work.

I spend ten minutes taking care of business, sweat dripping down my nose, arms aching, and a headache approaching. I feel both relieved that our ordeal has ended and fortunate because I know that it could have been worse. Once Ben is dressed and buckled in, I hand him a bottle, which he grabs and sucks in desperation as we pull away. We?re going home. It's over. At least for today.

"Eesinnuh, eesinnuh," Ben blurts out as we begin to drive home. "Eesinnuh, eesinnuh."

Is it a nut? Is it a knot? Is it enough?

Is it ever.

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Copyright © 2003 David Royko. Reprinted with permission from the January 2003 issue of Parents Magazine.

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