Our autism journey is not something that is unique. In fact, it is probably a journey similar to thousands of families worldwide. We have a four year old non verbal little boy named Jackson. Our journey began when Jackson was about six months old, and his father began noticing signs of autism. No eye contact, no involvement with his siblings, slow to meet milestones even though he was a preemie. I denied the signs of course and thought it was something he would “grow out of''. Children change so quickly at that age, I assumed he would change…as time went on, he didn’t.
At age two, Jackson was officially diagnosed with autism sensory disorder. It took me a couple of months to accept this reality, but in those months, I did all the things I was told I needed to do for Jackson. We started his early intervention, he jumped into head start, we had wonderful childcare at Root for Kids, and slowly but surely Jackson’s behaviors began to make sense…the way he crawled, the lack of communication, the floor licking and head banging, the horrible meltdowns, the bursts of laughter, the struggle for us in not meeting his needs. So we continued on, day by day, and slowly but surely things began to change and things got better.
In this timeframe Jackson’s father and I split up and eventually I remarried. And our little family is blessed to have Glen, my new husband, who is a fierce advocate for autism and an understanding step parent who loves and cares for Jackson like he is his own. Between Jackson’s father, Glen and I, grandparents, Jackson’s brothers, his nanny and the support of our autism community, we have our ups and downs, but most days we are a cohesive unit of love and support. It really does take a village…
Jackson graduated from early intervention and is currently attending his third year of preschool. He thrives in the structured environment and is slowly learning to play with others. He is still nonverbal but knows and says a few words here and there. I think he understands more than any of us comprehend. Even if he does only eat grilled cheese sandwiches and bread.
A turning point in our journey began a little over a year ago, when the realization dawned that Jackson doesn't need to adapt and conform to us, the way we are used to teaching and learning, we need to adapt to how Jackson learns and understands, so he can thrive. Once we adapted this mindset our lives changed. Meltdowns only happen occasionally now and we have become very attune to what he needs. In return, we have learned to see him and the world around us in a whole new light. Each milestone, however small, is a reason to celebrate and appreciate. And we feel the more support, more awareness and more acceptance we can bring to those with autism spectrum disorder, the better off the world will be. Every day we “Walk with Autism” and we are better for it.