Autism: Doctors don't always know
Do you have autistic children and frustrating experiences with your doctors? Read this inspirational story.
Saturday, April 14, 2012 - 14:37
MY BOYS: I'm the mom that cheers the loudest. (Photo: Karla Akins)
"What are your hopes for your boys?"
The developmental psychologist sitting across from me crossed her legs, poised her pencil and watched my adopted 4-year-old identical twins running around the room flipping the light switch on and off, biting one another, and banging their heads against the wall.
"I'd like them to be able to read, to be independent and contribute to society."
She shook her head and leaned forward. "That's just pie in the sky thinking and you might as well give it up now. It ain't gonna happen."
I opened my mouth to speak but no words came. Pie in the sky? I decided right then I'd not be coming back to this practitioner. I knew my boys better than she did. I knew that inside those tormented little bodies were boys who could learn, who yearned to interact, who needed someone to believe in them.
Isaiah and Isaac are 17 now. Those who meet them sometimes don't notice the autism. Sometimes they do. Such as the day at the school cafeteria when someone was sitting at the table they usually sit at and they stood there for a while, not knowing what to do, until a teacher noticed and stepped in to help them navigate the situation.
Folks do notice the developmental delays, of course. Their speech isn't easy to understand, and they struggle with school work, but the autism? There's only a glimmer.
Pie in the sky? They read. They ride their own mopeds. They go to the store and purchase bread and milk and whatever else I may send them to the store to get. They order their own meals at restaurants and read the menus. They use smart phones and know how to use more features than I do. They love their Kindle Fire, their dogs and their friends. Most of their friends are adults, but that's OK because they will spend more of their lives as adults than they will as teenagers. They're shy with girls but are very normal in their attraction to them. They enjoy helping their dad in his work.
How did we get here?
I was fortunate enough to know who Temple Grandin was before she became as famous as she is now. And one of the things she wrote in her books is that her mother kept her meaningfully engaged at all times. So I did that. They went everywhere I went: to the store, to church, to the mall. I've navigated more tantrums and melt-downs than a reality show. I didn't let my boys vegetate in front of video games or TV, I didn't make excuses for their behavior and instead worked to improve it, and I kept my expectations high.
Was I sometimes disappointed? Oh yes. Did I ever want to give up? You bet. Was it difficult raising twins with autism and three other children? It's the hardest thing I've ever done. If I had it to do over, would I adopt special needs kids? Yes. They have taught me much more about life and myself than anything else could. I am a better person for being the mother of these boys. They make me good even when it's hard. My character is much deeper and stronger because of them. My compassion has no limits, my empathy no bounds, my pride of their accomplishments no height. I was as proud of them for saying two words in a sentence at the age of 4 as any mother of an Olympic champion.
Oh, and speaking of the Olympics, is there anything as much fun as the Special Olympics? I'm the mom that cheers the loudest and the craziest, and my sons? They're the ones with the gold and silver medals. (Notice the plural there?)
Guess what? The doctors don't always know. They aren't always right.
Besides, I love pie.
I make mine in the sky.
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