April is Autism Awareness Month.  From time to time I see a post on Facebook that states “every day is Autism Awareness Day at our house.”  I can relate to that.  Every day IS Autism Awareness Day at our home.  Has been for the past twenty years. Our son was three years old when someone first said “autism” to me.  It wasn’t until he was six that he received his diagnosis.  In part, I believe, because we moved when he was four years old from a rather progressive area to another state without the resources of our previous city.  And, in part, because our son wasn’t that delayed at the time.

Autism has a way of sneaking up on you sometimes.  One day, your child is talking and playing; the next he’s making verbal gibberish and his hearing appears to be selective.  It happened fast.  It was, and still is, baffling, and scary. As our son has grown, the battles have been different with each stage of his development.  Challenges in behavior can appear and disappear without a trace of a clue as to how they got there or where they went.  Sometimes bad behaviors can last years, other times weeks or even just days.  Many times, behaviors that you thought were long gone, reappear just long enough to scare the hell out of you, making you think you’re going back down that rocky road again, only to have them recede back into the shadows as abruptly as they surfaced.

I’m not going to sugar coat things and tell you it’s easy.  It’s not.  Every day can seem like a test of our courage, our strength, our dedication to our son.  But then there are the good days. There is nothing more rewarding than the good days.  Fortunately for us, we have many good days.  We have worked hard for many years.  We have been blessed to have fought and won many battles, to be able to enjoy the fascinating person that our son has always been in spite of the struggles.  A woman I know once told me that I make autism look glamorous.  She meant it as a compliment, but her statement still leaves me dumbfounded.  There is nothing glamorous about autism – not even on the very best day.  I think she was referring to my attitude and how we as a family handle the pressures of daily life with autism.

In actuality, credit belongs to our son. Imagine, if you can, the things that he is bombarded with every day.  His senses make him hyper-aware so he is acutely sensitive to all the sights, sounds, smells and textures of everything around him.  I believe being overwhelmed is physically painful for him, yet he pushes through trips to the grocery store, outings with family and friends, dinners at crowded and noisy restaurants.  There are days when it all proves too much for him, just as we have days when the pressures of life seem too much for us, but he still tries.  He still uses every bit of tolerance he can muster to complete the task, the trip, whatever challenge is in front of him.  That’s more than I can say about many if the neurotypical people I know.  He is amazing!

My son has always been one of my heroes.  He stretches me.  When I simply don’t think I can do any more, when I feel like I cannot possibly rise to the occasion yet another time, I look at him and all he has over come, all while not being able to utter one word of complaint.  From somewhere deep inside, comes the will to try harder, to carry on.  For his example of courage and for his leadership, I am thankful. When times get tough, when my heart hurts and my body aches from trying to keep up with the physical demands of autism, when my mind is fuzzy from lack of sleep and there just aren’t enough hours in the day, because of his example, I press on. We may not win every battle but in the end, our hope is to win the war.

Love truly does conquer all.

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