Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Sweetest Joy

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 words.

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.

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