Autism first touched my life in in October 2002 when my beautiful son Rocco was born. With golden blond curls and brilliant blue eyes, he looked like an advertisement for baby food. He was healthy and happy, but as he grew we noticed things weren’t quite right. He didn’t smile like other babies and he wasn’t walking or talking when he should.
The first time a doctor mentioned the term ‘Autism’ to me in
reference to my child; it felt like a cold, swift blow to the stomach. I
sat in the sterile doctor’s office, holding my chubby, cherubic son and
thought, she must be wrong. Not my child.
Time went on, and it became undeniable. Autism was going to be a part
of our life, whether we wanted it or not. We had to gently let go of
those hopes and dreams that every parent has for their child. Our
aspirations for things like college football, getting married, having
children, all painfully, slowly drifted away. And in their wake, left
our hearts broken.
But, in their place, we discovered a simple joy in what he could do.
Because he had to fight much harder to accomplish that which comes easy
to typically developing children, his achievements were that much
sweeter. I will never forget the moment he uttered ‘Cup Mama’, gesturing
to his cup. I was bursting with pride, so much more than when my other
two children first starting speaking. Speech did not come easy to him
like it did for other children. He worked so determinedly for those two
Through the years, we have had heartbreak and indescribable happiness
with him. Of course, some days are so difficult, I’ve prayed to God
for the strength to get through. And then other days, he does something
so incredible that it takes my breath away.
The most amazing thing about my son; is that he is pure in every way.
He has a hard time even grasping the concept of lying. His
unadulterated love for others, his lack of guile and inability to be
deceptive is something the rest of us should all aspire to. He is
surprisingly intuitive with people. He innately just knows when one of
his family members is sad or struggling. Because his hugs are a little
fewer and farther in between, they are the sweetest hugs I know.
He is in middle school now, and this year he will be moving from a
campus with only special needs children, to a typically developing
campus in a special needs class. For years, he has worked tirelessly to
learn the things that are asked of him. To Rocco, he would rather draw
you a picture to communicate. But because we want him to use his words,
he works as hard as he can to do just that. And come the first day of
school, when I walk him into his new classroom, I know that my sense of
pride and joy will be without compare.