Our son Leland is the face of autism in our life. So, what does autism look like? It looks like every other child on and off the spectrum—it looks normal.
As parents with a child with autism, we didn’t even know that our child had autism until someone mentioned it. Of course there are red flags that you are always supposed to looking for, but we missed them. In fact, our son was meeting all his milestones; but then, at some point he slowly regressed. We didn’t seem to notice until I was very much pregnant with our second child and realized Leland wasn’t identifying his needs.
At that time we had noticed that he lost some language. As we did notice this, we called early intervention (birth to three) and had him evaluated. It was then with their help that we saw the red flags for autism that we had missed. Once we got him set up in services; we saw our pediatrician who helped us get him set up for an autism evaluation at LifeScape.
We knew before we went back to hear the results that Leland was going to be somewhere on the spectrum. It was so much easier to walk in that door and know what they were going to say that than to hold false hope in our heart that he wasn’t going to be diagnosed.If Leland is the face of autism for the people around us, autism is lucky to be having such an amazing human being telling the world what it’s all about.It wasn’t an easy journey to acceptance though. I cried a lot. I was mad at God. I even lost my faith in Him for a while. I was angry. I tried to think of different ways in which they could be wrong but what was that doing for my son? Nothing. Having acceptance of our son’s diagnosis was on the best things we could do for him. Once we could accept it we could get him all the best services to help improve his life. Once we knew where we stood, we knew where we needed to go.
Through this journey we’ve been surrounded an amazing group of professionals such as our Occupational Therapist Wendy, (who is possibly Leland’s favorite person ever) and our Speech Therapist Maggie. Both women have offered so much support to our family so far beyond their job definitions. I have also met and become great friends with some really encouraging, strong and amazing mothers who also have children on the spectrum. I think that was a major part of my acceptance. Having these women who I could call and talk to. They understood it and I felt no judgment cast on my child. Surrounding myself with people who understood what I feeling was really huge for me.
For a while, we didn’t really tell anyone about Leland. One day a friend—who also has a child on the spectrum—said to me, “If you don’t tell people then no one will ever understand him. That is not fair to him.” It was huge eye opener for me to start telling people.When my son says: “I love you, goodbye” at night it is a small miracle because he has language! He got it! He understands what I’m saying! He loves me! I know he loves me, but to hear it; well that’s something else!To find that support here I have joined a group on Facebook called Black Hills Autism Connection, where they eventually plan on having informal meetings where we can talk, share ideas and find support in each other. It’s going to be so wonderful and beneficial for families joining us or already on this same journey. I wish we had an outreach like this locally when Leland was diagnosed.
Most parents with children on the spectrum want people to know our children are just like yours. They smile, love and laugh all the same. They are different, but they are not less. They don’t see things the same way we do. They learn different. They are very visual, which is why communication and language are so strongly affected.
My husband and I strive to make sure our autistic child is not treated any less than any other child. We want the world to be a little more aware of what autism is and help us make adjustments to make our children’s world is more comfortable.
At the end of the day we’re not too different from your family (especially if you have a child with ASD). We love our children the same way you do. We’ve been so blessed that we have two happy and healthy children. Autism isn’t what will define my child. It’s a part of who he is. It’s a part of who I am now too. There is so much more to him than a diagnosis. I do not know when he’s going to be able to tell me all his needs, but for now I’m too busy celebrating what he can do. He is my miracle.
Written by Kristy Ebert
Photos provided by Alyssa Crawford Photography