In January of 2012, we sat in the doctor’s office and heard what we had suspected about our then five-year-old son. After three or four months of testing, meeting with the doctor, and answering questions about him, our son was diagnosed with Asperger’s.
As we were waiting to hear what his diagnosis was, I did my own research and came to the same conclusion. It was the only thing that made any sense. My biggest fear going into that appointment was not that he would tell me what was wrong with my son, it was that he would tell me nothing was wrong because I knew in my heart something was.
Asperger’s. Autism. High functioning Autism. A different type of life. Special needs. ABA. Fits. Misunderstandings. Love.
On this day, April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day, I wanted to write to my son. He is 14 now, and we have come so far since that day in 2012, but I know that we have a long way to go.
I wrote this letter to him when he was 11, right before we started into the teen years.
To my little boy,
First of all, I have to tell you how much I love you. I still remember the day you were born, right in the middle of your Dad’s deployment. I remember they gave you to me and we had to wait for them to move us to the recovery room. And when it was time to do that, they wheeled us there on the bed, and I felt like a queen in a parade, holding my new bundle.
That day, that night, I had no idea what our journey of mother and son would take us. Would you be like your older brother? Would you be like me? Like your dad?
As you grew, I watched you closely. I was concerned about speech delays, which your brother struggled with. But you didn’t seem to have any issues there. You started talking, and I thought everything was going along the way things should.
Then we moved to Tennessee, and as you grew from a young toddler to a preschooler, my mommy heart started to worry. I began to notice how hard playing with other kids was. Sometimes you destroyed the castles they had built out of blocks. Sometimes you yelled at them. Sometimes you hit. And when we asked you why you told us it was because they were doing it wrong.
I wondered what I was doing wrong as a parent. I wondered what else I should be doing.
Then I told myself all kids could hit at that age. Preschoolers aren’t exactly known for their sharing abilities. I told myself that you were having a difficult time because you had never been to daycare before, that you were just not used to being around so many kids. We had playdates, but I didn’t leave you as often back then.
As you started at a regular preschool, I knew in my heart something wasn’t quite right. I knew you were struggling there. But why? Why were you always getting in trouble? What was going on?
That’s when we decided we needed to figure out what was going on. Your regular doctor didn’t think anything was going on at first, but I pushed. I had to. I needed answers. And then that day in January, we got them.
Asperger’s. That is what you had. That was what you would be dealing with. That is what would make you you.
We started with ABA, and they helped us so very much. You started kindergarten and with that all types of new challenges. You didn’t want to go to school; you didn’t see why you had to be there.
But we worked hard, so hard. The years went by, and as they did, I got to watch you grow. Before, when the bus came to pick you up, you would resist. Now, you run out there on your own.
This isn’t to say we don’t still have challenges, we do. But what once was an everyday struggle, changed to once a week and these days more like a once a month of that type of struggle. As I look back over the years, I know you are going to be okay because we have come so far already.
I know that school is hard for you, but I also know that you can do school. You can get through it, and you can make it work for you.
I know that making friends is hard for you too, but I also see that you want to reach out and that you will find your people too. I know you will.
I am so thankful you and your older brother are best friends. I hope that you can have that with your younger brother someday too. Your brothers will always be there for you, they have your back, and they want the best for you too.
I love seeing you excited and happy about something. Sometimes that is Disneyland, other times it is when you figure out how to get through a video game or when we stop and check out the cats at the pet store.
I know that you have your dad’s sense of humor. Sometimes this is hard to see, through the everyday struggles, but it is there.
I know sometimes life is harder for you than it should be for an 11-year-old.
On those days I wish I could grab you up and take you away from all the hard things life brings. But the truth is, you need to work through them. But as you do, you know you will always have me by your side. I will always be there to listen and to help you get through it, whatever the struggle might be.
I am not sure what life will be like for you as an adult. I am not sure what will be hard for you and what won’t be a challenge anymore. I do know that you will go on and do great things. I know this.
I am so proud of how far you have come. You work hard to make your way in this world, even when you don’t understand it. Even when it doesn’t make any sense to you.
Always remember that your Dad and I love you and will always be there for you. To walk with you through this life, and be there to help when we can.
Love to you forever,