Gray was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and a few other disorders that go along with it almost three years ago. When he was diagnosed, he was just shy of three years old and pushing his stroller back and forth.
As I looked at his doctor that day, I ran the roller coaster of questions in my head. What was going to happen to my little boy? What had I done? Oh my God, I failed as a mother. I’ve killed my kid. But she never heard these thoughts. All she heard was, “Okay, we have a diagnosis. Where do we go now?”
I couldn’t show this woman, this stranger with a pretty face, how I felt that I had failed. Outwardly, all she saw was a young mother worried about her child. Inside, I was the lowest of the low. I’d hurt my son, by whoever’s fault, for the rest of his life. And I didn’t know where to turn or go. I didn’t even know what questions to ask.
During that car ride home, Gray played with his little wheeled cars. The silent tears fell down my cheeks. It was a two hour ride to home from Jackson, and all I had were my thoughts. How could I tell my three year old that he wasn’t “normal’? That he would be this magnificent man someday, but that he would be different. He would always be a little out of place in an “all the puzzle pieces fit” kind of world. Gray would always brightly color outside of the lines of our little black and white life.
I knew he would need to learn how to fit into the mold that wasn’t quite right, but I hoped that someday he would be able to break that mold. That he would be able to teach people about his world. He would make them a little uncomfortable but always curious to know more about him.
For months, I carried around this guilt and hurt. I couldn’t look at either of my kids in the eyes so much like my own without tears welling up in mine. Until finally, I just gave in and put Gray’s fate into the hands of a higher power.
Nowadays, like any other child, he likes to run, jump, holler, play with his little Matchbox cars, and fight with his little brother. But during other times, it’s almost like a cloud comes over his beautiful blue eyes, and he’s like a completely different boy. He becomes mean, very aggressive, screaming. He will twist and pull his hair hard, can’t focus and will want the comfort of my arms but will scream because it hurts. He doesn’t want to be touched at this time, because even the merest tap will throw him into an even bigger meltdown. And the madder he gets, the more likely it will throw him into a seizure.
With each tear that falls from his eyes, my heart breaks, because he doesn’t understand that he’s unique. He doesn’t understand what having autism can do for him and to him.
Even though he understands being happy and not happy, being angry and not angry, he is still learning properly how to convey his emotions. And when that switch goes off in his head and it just “clicks,” that light comes back into his eyes and he doesn’t forget. He remembers the true essence of the feelings he has. That cloud disappears.
Even though I learn with him, I still struggle to accept his diagnosis and all of the little nuances that come with it. That he loves the feel of cotton T-shirts against his skin, but can’t stand the tags. He loves the feel of wearing shoes, but hates socks. He loves the feel of prickly pine cones beneath his bare feet, but can’t stand to be touched too hard.
This is the beginning of a story that will never end.